How & Why?

faith-matters

Contributing Writer
Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY

By the time you read this it will have happened, but as I sit here writing I cannot help but think about what I am going to say to the congregation I serve on Sunday. We’re a mixed bag at Hope Lutheran Church. It’s part of what makes what we have work so well, but it also means that when I stand before them on Sunday people are going to be all over the map. Donald Trump is the next president of the United States, and that’s a reality that means some of my people will be crushed, others elated, and a vast majority crossing their fingers wishing they knew what to expect or how to feel.

And I don’t know what I am going to say to them. And I’m certain that anything I did say could hardly hope to help everyone. So I think I am going to try a different approach. Rather than rub their backs and tell them everything is going to be okay, or give high-fives and celebrate an anti-establishment win, or shrug my shoulders with the bewildered and anxious, instead I am simply going to ask that each of us make space for the other. Because I think that’s the problem with our system in the first place. We treat politics like there’s only room for one-way of looking at the world. Even now I’m watching my friends on the left lash out on the right while the right responds by calling those hurting and afraid ‘cry babies.’ There’s no tolerance for people with differing perspectives on either side. So it’s time to make space for the other.

And what that means to me is that peaceful protests crying: How? and Why? are permitted, and maybe even necessary. Let them happen. Did you know 100 of the 150 psalms in the Bible are laments? They are cries from people to God saying, how? and why? They are part of living on a planet crippled by sin, and part of how God brings justice and peace. But they are not the only psalms. There are also plenty of psalms about thanksgiving. Which means people who are grateful for an anti-establishment and republican win (who are not automatically racist/sexist/homophobic by the way) are entitled to express their thanksgiving as well. And we need to express these things in the presence of one another, so that we can hear the worries and the hope each of us carry, and in the end maybe even be reminded again of all that we still share.

The world does not end with the 2016 US Presidential Election, but Jesus did promise that sooner or later the craziness of this world would come to an end as the “new Jerusalem” would come to us like a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). God—not Hillary or Trump—is the one who is going to restore the brokenness of this world, but until he does he’s given us a very important task: keep the faith. Jesus said in the gospel a lot of churches read the Sunday after the election that you’ll hear of wars and natural disasters and food shortage and you yourself will be persecuted. When you do, keep the faith. And that’s still our job. Regardless of who’s in office, Christ is still on the throne.

Like I said, I’m certain nothing I could say would help everyone. And I too feel powerless and uncertain at times in the face of our modern political discourse that across the board alienates, attacks, and feeds anxiety. But I’ve never set my hope in American politics. To quote a famous hymn, “my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and his righteousness.” So as for me, I’ll keep the faith. And as for reconciliation, I’m making space for others.

Luke 21:5-19

5When some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and gifts dedicated to God, he said, 6“As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down.” 7They asked him, “Teacher, when will this be, and what will be the sign that this is about to take place?” 8And he said, “Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is near!’ Do not go after them. 9“When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but the end will not follow immediately.” 10Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; 11there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and plagues; and there will be dreadful portents and great signs from heaven. 12“But before all this occurs, they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name. 13This will give you an opportunity to testify. 14So make up your minds not to prepare your defense in advance; 15for I will give you words and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict. 16You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17You will be hated by all because of my name. 18But not a hair of your head will perish. 19By your endurance you will gain your souls.

For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.