I am going to do two things this morning that I very seldom do.  First, I am not going to preach on any of the assigned readings for today, and secondly, I am going to talk about politics.  Now don’t worry, I’m not going to address details, just the big picture.  I’m going to do so using these verses from last Sunday’s Epistle reading from Colossians 3: But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. 9Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”  Thus far our text.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.

What would you have left if you were able to get rid of “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language” from our recent political Conventions?  Or if everyone involved with those Conventions followed Paul’s instruction to “not lie to one another”?   You know what you would have left, don’t you?  Nothing but commercials.  And, harkening back to last week’s sermon and Jesus’ teaching that “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions,” if we got rid of lying we would have very few commercials.

In spite of hearing Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “Have no fear, little flock...”, in my heart of hearts I must confess that I struggle at times with a very real fear.  When I hold my grandkids, I am filled with great joy and gratitude.  But deep down below the surface I fear that we are making such a mess of things in our nation and in our world that they very well might not have the opportunities to live as good and safe of a life as I have had.  I hope and pray I am wrong.

I’m going to share with you a free verse poem I wrote write after 9/11.  I have shared it before, but it is something that has been ringing in my ears recently… especially during the week I spent earlier this summer with our group on the Pine Ridge Reservation, as well as in recent weeks as I’ve tried to watch the Conventions.  It’s called “A Treaty”…

As the pages of history turn, only partially, before my eyes,

I begin to see a bit more clearly a truth.

Even brief glimpses reveal a common theme-- one that I,

like many before and alongside of me, would rather deny: the truth of man's inhumanity to man.

 

White kills black. Black kills white. White kills white and black kills black.

The shades and levels of melanin may vary, but the heart of the matter remains:

Man's inhumanity to man.

 

Nation against tribe. Tribe against nation.  Nation against nation and tribe against tribe.

Religion against religion.

Titles, beliefs and language may vary, but the heart of the matter remains: Man's inhumanity to man.

 

And yet, after dark page and darker page, a few words from a few pages cast forth light:

"Love your enemies."  "Pray for those who persecute you."  "Turn the other cheek."

"Give to the one who would take your coat your cloak as well."  "Forgive seventy times seven."

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down their life..."

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing."

This is indeed a more excellent way!

 

War is hell.

War, at best, is a necessary evil to be honorably undertaken by some to defend others from

Man's inhumanity to man.

 

But without forgiveness, without grace, the memory of dastardly deeds,

and the never-balanced scales of retribution will lead to one thing,

and one thing only remains: Man's inhumanity to man.

 

Forgiveness is the only balm.  Death, I believe, can be more honorable than revenge,

and at times more honorable than defense.

Grace is the lasting answer, the only foundation upon which a lasting treaty may be built.

 

Yes. Yes. Yes. It is far better to light a candle than to simply curse the darkness...

 

This morning it is my intention to light a candle, but first I must curse the darkness a bit more.

There is more than one kind of terrorism.  The violent acts of terror that are occurring all over God’s earth are dreadful.  So is the ongoing terrorism that is so prevalent right here on our own soil, a terrorism that’s rampant across our nation.  I’m talking about the terrorism of words.

The old saying that I learned and used as a child was wrong: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can devastate me.”  It’s bad enough when the political pundits practice “anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language… and deceit.”  What’s really sad and dangerous is how easily we as God’s children on both sides of the political aisle get caught up in the process.

A friend recently challenged me on this concept of “man’s inhumanity to man.”  His point was that the real issue is man’s inhumanity to God, for every human being is a child of God, a child created in the very image of God.  In all of us that image has been terribly blurred by the reality of sin, and in some that image seems to have been completely buried under evil. 

But Jesus, the Son of God, in whom and through whom we have grace, the forgiveness of our sins, and new life as children of God, taught that we are to love our enemies, to not pay so much attention to the speck in their eyes as to miss the large beam in our own eyes, to turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give the extra cloak.  We are to see Jesus in everyone around us, and to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-empowered children of God whose lives are marked by the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithful, generosity, and self-control.

Those fruits are not just to mark our lives when we are gathered together for worship and service, but all areas of our daily lives, including the political realm.  Those of us who are Lutheran Christians would do well to remember Luther’s Explanation to the 8th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  What does this mean?  We are to fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, or lie about our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain his actions in the kindest way.”

This is the candle I desire to light in the midst of the great darkness.  As children of God, we must learn to love.  We must learn the way of grace.  While the United States of America, by virtue of our Constitution, has never officially been a Christian nation, our history has been greatly influenced (mostly for the good) by the presence of Christians from its very beginning. 

But if we truly want America to change course, and if we want healing to spread throughout the world, the only hope is for Christians to more faithfully live in the way of Christ. 

And while some would say that that means a restoration of morality, I would say that it really means a restoration of things like love, compassion, kindness, gentleness, generosity, and true a spirit of servanthood.  Good morals are to flow from that foundation.  Legalistic, loveless morality is not the answer.  Healing brought through grace that brings a transformation of lives from the inside out is what is most needed.

Remember, you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!”   My hope and my prayer is that this renewing transformation might come upon us and upon our lives as a ripple in the middle of a pond spreading out and increasing in power and intensity until it becomes a tidal wave of healing and of change.  I pray that we might carry this into the political arena, calling upon all Christians to join us in resisting the terrorism of words, and to insist that anger and malice and deceit give way to mutual respect, and to a manner of  dealing with our inevitable differences and conflicts in ways that do not demonize our fellow citizens, fellow human beings, fellow children of God. 

May God fill us with His Spirit, and grow within us the gifts of that Spirit.  Amen.

   November 2018   
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