Our readings this morning in Isaiah and in the Gospel of Luke appear to be sounding a warning. Look out! The times they are a-changing!
But let’s remember that these readings appear every three years and were not designated specifically for today as a response to this presidential election or the times we live in. We are not to read into them more than they are. They are the end of a three year cycle of Bible readings which all combined give us a portrait of what it means to be a people of God and how we are to live as a beloved community, the kingdom of God come near. .
Isaiah is a prophet who lived about 2600 years ago. Isaiah lived during a time of great turmoil for the Hebrew people. The people were divided and cynical about their future. There was hardship and their lives were difficult.
Into this state of despair, Isaiah reminds the people that God is with them. God will turn their heartache into grace, their challenges into new life. Isaiah prophesy’s “Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox… They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.”
The Gospel of Luke is similarly doom and gloom with a hint of hope. Luke is speaking of events that happened in his world, in his day: war, disease, destruction, earthquakes – all of which preceded the ultimate tragedy – the destruction of the temple by Roman soldiers in the year 70. The temple was where God resided and the Romans pillaged it, tore it down and took the beautiful artifacts and paraded them through Rome.
Luke wrote this Gospel about twenty years after the destruction of the temple. And the message of the Gospel of Luke, with its fabulous parables and stories, is to remind us that God is active in the world and in our lives. The incarnation, the birth of God in the life of Jesus, the love of God manifest in human flesh, is a sign for us that God will act in and through human beings. God acted in and through Jesus. God acted in and through the early Christian communities. God acts in and through us, hoping to bring us together, to restore peace, to build the beloved community.
Somehow God always finds a way to do this.
Because ultimately God desires that chaos be transformed into order and that sorrow be transformed into wisdom. God seeks to console us in our despair and fill us with peace. But God does not accomplish the transformation alone; we must be active participants with God in the transformational process. That’s incarnational love.
So, whether you are someone who is pleased with the outcome of the election or whether you are someone who is grieving and fearful, remember our primary value as Christians is to respect the dignity of every human being by loving God, love self, and loving others.
Love begins with God and how we treat each other. How we respond to challenges is only a reflection of how fully mature we are in our faith and how capable we are of living our values. Those who are pleased with the outcome of this election have hope that there will be a restoration of order, which brings them comfort. But, there are real people in the world today who fear for their lives as an outcome of the election. The fear and despair feels real, and maybe the risk is real too. Black children and transgender children are dying by suicide because living in this world now feels too risky. Children in schools right here in our area are terrified of deportation. Women wearing hijab's are being attacked. If you are a woman who has been abused, this election may have opened wounds, resurfacing the violence that was inflicted and leaving women literally shaking and ill from fear.
In the words of Leonard Cohen, may he rest in peace, let us remember that “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah.”
All of this points to a huge division in how we live out our values and the unconscious impact of systemic racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and homophobia.
We in this church claim to be open, welcome, and affirming, we say that we are a community centered church that feeds people in mind, body, and spirit. So now the rubber hits the road because if this is really a value for us, a belief we stand behind, then we need to be a safe harbor for everyone. We need to be love, broken, real, solid, in solidarity, for the safety of everyone. As Anne Lamott tweeted recently, “Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent and the valuable, it builds incrementally, to renewal and resurrection.” Love is not a victory, it’s hard work that never ends, regardless of how cold or broken life may be.
In a few minutes we are going to baptize two babies into the body of Christ. The Christian values in our baptismal covenant charge us to respect the dignity of every human being every day all the time. For me this means resisting the temptation to name call, to not say things that demean another person, don’t diagnose others, do not blame others, take responsibility for myself, for my actions, thoughts, and words. I can disagree with something a person says or does without diminishing them as person…loving God, self, and neighbor.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that by our endurance, we will gain our souls. Let us endure to lift up others. Let us endure to be a safe place. Let us endure to be a beloved community, the kingdom of God now. May we not be afraid to take risks, let us endure. May we be a place of hope, let us endure in love. May we be the beloved community built on God’s transforming grace. May we, broken as we are, be love. Hallelujah.
a reflection on the readings for Proper 28C: Isaiah 65:17-25; Luke 21:5-19