given on November 2, 2008
Well, the election is here. Pretty soon we will know what this country really feels about change. Here we are in our own New Beginnings in our own church, but it is a time of new beginnings worldwide. As Christians we must stand up and live, as we believe. This week we are called upon to make some pretty tough decisions and then to accept the changes the country has chosen.
I rather dread the next three days at school. We have had about three months of continual discussion over the presidential race. We have very strong opinions being loudly shared around the table. I have read news articles about the campaign, watched debates, and discussed the world’s reaction to this election. I admit that I have enjoyed it to a certain extent, but in three days I am going to have a day of “I told you so” and gloating while others are going to be groaning and whining and saying, “just wait and see.” I am sure it will not be a pleasant day.
Among the members of this congregation, I know there several who will spend the next few days consumed with the election because they work the elections. (I hope we all keep them in prayer as I am sure they are going to have disgruntled voters and long, long days that will wear them out.) They are living the American responsibilities we all have, and they are living their Christian responsibilities, too. They are serving, and I expect they are serving with prayer running silently through their thoughts all day.
Therefore, what better time is there than today to review the social principles of our church? We have reviewed the natural world, the nurturing world, and the social community. Today we are focused on the new beginnings, which start with a national vote; so today we are looking at the world community and the political social principles. We are living in a troubled world, so Jesus’ words of confidence are needed. We are tasked to serve as disciples, so Jesus’ instructions apply to us, too.
In John 16, Jesus tries to prepare the disciples for being on their own. He uses so much figurative language that the disciples are sitting there all confused and uncertain. Fortunately, Jesus is aware of this confusion and drops the figurative language. There is no time left, he has spent several years teaching, healing, and sharing God’s word with the disciples, he simply must make sure that the disciples understand their mission:
Then Jesus’ disciples said, “Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”
“You believe at last?” Jesus answered. “But a time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.”
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:29-33)
This week I firmly believe we all know that we are not alone and God is with us even as we make tough decisions. As we go to vote, we are taking our personal beliefs, our traditions, but maybe most importantly we are taking our faith with us.
Looking at the social principles, I think we can walk into the voting sites and know that we are using our Christian beliefs to make sound decisions. This year the vote we Americans make affect the world community. We are no longer making decisions just for a geographic region called the United States.
Consider this from the social principle, the World Community:
“God’s world is one world. The unity now being thrust upon us by technological revolution has far outrun our moral and spiritual capacity to achieve a stable world. The enforced unity of humanity, increasingly evident on all levels of life, presents the Church as well as all people with problems that will not wait for answer: injustice, war, exploitation, privilege, population, international ecological crisis, proliferation of arsenals of nuclear weapons, development of transnational business organizations that operate beyond the effective control of any governmental structure, and the increase of tyranny in all its forms.”
Whew! That is an enormous, overwhelming and even daunting list of concerns. We are no longer an isolated country with neighbors; we are the living in a world community.
Obviously the decisions we make do count. Whenever the students say they just won’t vote because it won’t make a difference, I am discouraged. I cannot imagine feeling so excluded from the world that I do not believe I count. As a Christian, I know I count. God loves me despite all my human flaws; as an American, I know I count because I can vote.
Jesus told his disciples they no longer need him to ask Jesus for help talking to God. Going back to the scriptures in John, Jesus said:
“Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God…” (John 16:25-27)
As an American I value my ability to speak by voting. As a Christian, I take my faith with me to make the decisions with God’s direction. Reading through the social principles has helped me remain focused on God while listening to all the rhetoric of the campaign ads and news reports. It is not easy because the “technological revolution” easily overwhelms me, but remember our social principles are aware of that influence, too. The United Methodist Church acknowledges how the entire world joins us in our very own living rooms any time of the day or night with the push of a button. The social principles are clear reminders of how to put our faith into action in this global community.
This week, we need to review the social principle for the political community, too. The introduction is simple:
“While our allegiance to God takes precedence over our allegiance in any state, we acknowledge the vital function of government as a principal vehicle for the ordering of society. Because we know ourselves to be responsible to God for social and political life, we declare the following relative to governments:
- Basic freedoms and human rights,
- Political responsibility,
- Church and state relations,
- Freedom of information,
- Education,Civil obedience and civil disobedience,
- The death penalty,
- Criminal and restorative justice, and
- Military service.
Each one of those subtitles is addressed with a more thorough statement, as are the subtitles under the world community section. Obviously we have no way of discussing each of them today, so checking out the website is one example how the technology revolution can keep us grounded in our faith.
When Paul was caring Jesus’ message to the communities around the Mediterranean, he only had his voice and his hand. We are charged with carrying Jesus’ message even today and we are going to do that as we vote, as we live out our beliefs right here in our communities, and now, as we reach across all geographic barriers with technology, we can carry that message even farther. We are indeed part of a worldwide community and each decision we make such as those we do this week when we vote must be made with prayer. We have the guidance of the United Methodist Church through the social principles, but we have the guidance of God directly through prayer.
We need not fear the new beginnings that develop when a vote makes a decision. We need to take the decisions and make them the new beginnings for God’s work. I challenge each one of you, as you go to vote, to take God with you. Pray that the decisions we make are ones that will support the social principles of our church. Pray that when the decisions are finalized we practice Christian love no matter what happens. Pray that our country and the world works toward peace and good will for all.
Dear Heavenly Father,
New beginnings bring hope. New beginnings create excitement and enthusiasm. A new beginning is Jesus’ message of faith. New beginnings start with you at the center of our life. New beginnings mean forgiveness and grace. This week we go to the polls to make a decision for a new beginning politically. We ask your guidance as we make our personal choices and strive to carry our faith into action even by voting. Then, Lord, help us accept a country’s decision for a new beginning, too. May we remember that this truly is your world. –Amen