10 November 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
After a long, contentious and often painful election process, we have voted in new leaders at both the local and national levels, including a new president-elect. Most of us cared deeply about this election and so we find ourselves experiencing powerful emotions in these “days after”. Among us there is shock, delight, despair, or numbness, depending on how we voted.
As I sort through all my reactions, I find myself hearing Martin Luther asking us this question, “What is God calling you to do?” After the shock, the grief or the euphoria subsides, what constitutes right action?
One of our callings, said Luther, is that we hold the office of “citizen”, called to work for the health, well-being and justice of our entire community. That is particularly true in our government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” However, along with the many specific issues that we must address as a nation, such as employment and the environment, there is a deeper, fundamental ingredient that we must restore. We are being called to rebuild trust and a sense of community within our cities and country.
The election process made clear that our nation is seriously torn apart in so many ways. Many people feel forgotten, disrespected and ignored by others. Clearly, workers in the Rust Belt have felt ignored, as do families in small towns throughout America facing soaring unemployment and drug addiction. At the same time, young black men feel dismissed as they are routinely cut down as criminals because of the color of their skin. American Muslims fear for their future, as do LGBTQ people, and young, single mothers who have been abused and abandoned by their husbands. Instead of “one nation, under God”, we are becoming strangers and enemies to each other, divided into warring groups.
In the midst of all that, I believe that God is calling us to extend the kind of hospitality and care that Christ offers us. In our current public setting of conflict and debate, such hospitality brings people…all people… together around the table for respectful dialogue, problem-solving and healing, so that all might taste God’s full blessing.
Often times, showing hospitality to someone who thinks differently than we do is the most difficult kind of hospitality to offer. However, in our country today we are faced with the stark choice of either continuing to insult and shout at each other or following Christ’s way of recognizing each other as sisters and brothers. We will still need to work out our complicated, national problems and disagreements, but we will do so as family rather than enemy.
Thankfully, the Spirit of Christ lives within us and among us to empower us in this calling. With Jesus we are able to say,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Therefore, I am moved to hope that the current turmoil may help us us deepen our ability to live as a just, democratic nation.
In your prayers this coming week, I offer again this prayer for your use in public worship or private devotion. May God bless us and keep us in the days ahead.
God, our refuge and strength, you have bound us together in a common life. Bring peace, wisdom and unity to our nation, as we face internal division and anger. In all our conflicts, help us to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, to listen for your voice amid competing claims, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ELW p. 76 modified
Bishop Rick Jaech