My fifteen year old son Desmond is not impressed; in fact he is sadly cynical about the political process in the United States of America, the nation his adoptive parents brought him to from his native nation, South Africa, back in 2002. I believe that frustration and cynicism oppress a lot of Americans.
The other morning I asked myself, when I was fifteen years old, what was the political tenor of our country? I thought about it for a moment and mumbled, “Oh my goodness!” I entered my fifteenth year on June 9, 1968. As in 1968! America was teetering on the edge of chaos. Sixty-six days before I blew out my birthday candles, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee. Four days prior to my birthday, a 24 year old Palestinian/Jordanian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan gunned down the charismatic US Senator and candidate for President Robert “Bobbie” Kennedy. Rioting rocked over 150 cities across America. The Democratic Convention teetered on the edge of collapse. Wow.
Our contemporary political climate is poisonous. Anger and stress seethe. Things are not as violent as they were in 1968, but it is a scary time. I recommend a three-point plan for the month of November:
PRAY. VOTE. PRAY.
PRAY WITH US on the evening of November 7 at 7:00 p.m. in the lounge. That is the night before the election. I will lead a service of worship, song, and prayer for our country on Election Day and beyond. This will be a non-partisan service. When it comes to my political predilections as a pastor, I follow in the footsteps of one of my mentors who served my hometown church in the ‘70’s. When asked for whom he would vote, Dr. George Parkinson smiled mischievously and said, “I am voting for the best candidate….and I’m sure you are, too.”
CAST YOUR VOTE on Tuesday, November 8. I believe that the disciples of Jesus are called to take part in the political process by voting, at the very least. True, Jesus did not aspire to political office. He ran away when people wanted to make him king (John 6:15: Perceiving that (the crowds) were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.) Jesus had no desire for political leadership. My kingship is not of this world. He said to Pontus Pilate before he was condemned to crucifixion. John 18:36.)
Yet, Jesus did say to his enemies and disciples (Matthew 22:21: Render therefore the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
The Apostle Paul urged the early church to Let every person be subject to the governing authorities….they are instituted by God…respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due. (from Romans 13.) By the way, the sanctuary will be open on election day from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, for prayer and meditation.
LEFT UP PRAYERS OF THANKSGIVING. On the evening before Thanksgiving, Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. in the Gathering Place, we will have an of giving thanks. Again, it will be a casual, not-very-long service of scripture reading, prayer, and music. The election will be over, the nation will begin to hesitantly move forward, but I expect the anxiety of the election process to linger. We will remember the urgings of the Apostle Paul: Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication – WITH THANKSGIVING – let your requests be known to God. (Philippians 4:4).
I believe there is one thing we can all agree on. These are unsettling and unsettled days. Lean on that most lovely of all Psalms (Psalm 23): let the Lord be our Shepherd and we will not want. We will be made to lie down in green pastures and led beside still waters. Our souls will be restored.
May the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.