Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of the one who was, who is, and the one coming, the blessed Holy Trinity.
Even though I’m publishing this publicly (well, to the dozen or so people who find it), this is really a letter to the people I serve and love at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. Since we live in Iowa, which has the first caucus in the nation, we have all been involved in/subjected to/annoyed by the presidential election process for longer than anyone. If you are like me, I was looking forward to it being over.
With the election now two days behind us, I realize that there really is no “over.” Yesterday, the range of emotions and responses to the outcome was broad; the feelings deep in the heart. Tears, cries of anger and victory, anxiety, fear, shock, confusion, even terror were all part of what folks shared with me yesterday as I listened, read, and shared in their struggles. Some of what people shared was understandable, some of it surprised me. The biggest question from both sides of this contest seemed to be, “What now?” The election is over, but we all seem to be standing looking at a Grand Canyon sized divide between so many of us. What now, indeed?
I am not an expert on much of anything. I am called to lead and love this congregation and serve the wider church. I think I know some stuff about those things. So, what does this division in the land and the change we all sense mean for us, as brothers and sisters in Christ here in this place and time? That is something I can think about.
First, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8 NRSV) The election does not change the Lordship of Christ over the cosmos or this nation. God’s purposes can be resisted for a time; God’s justice and rule is as of yet incomplete and until its consummation evil and sin happen. However, as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Eventually, by gracious persistence and inescapable love, God’s will shall come to pass, no matter who the president may be. If you are excited by the prospects of the change that has taken place, God will judge the results in time. If you despair the change, God’s promises of hope are sure. God’s been around longer than the nations, the parties and the candidates. When all these have gone to dust, God will remain.
Second, the election results and the leadership in power do not change our mission or our vision one iota. We are still a congregation committed to “share God’s love” and to be the “open arms of Christ” to one another and the world. Our beliefs and values will guide our actions quite independent of the political winds of a given day or year. Certainly, Mr. Trump’s election and the swing of all the facets of government to the control of one party will change the political, social, and cultural landscape. Given the ruling party’s history on matters that impact the poor and the hungry; in light of promises to exclude other faiths and be less welcoming to the resident aliens in our midst; in response to any lack of dignity, respect, or justice that may be shown to people of color, women and those who are at the margins of our society, carrying out our mission and vision may need altered tactics, a louder voice, deeper commitment, and sleeves rolled up farther than before. That said, our identity and purpose will not be changed or deterred.
Third, we will be a place of healing and reconciliation in a land of deep divides. No matter who you voted for and how strongly you feel about the whole thing, this is a place where we will live with our differences, not just as an act of tolerance, but in love. The time for flinging insults about the candidates is past. If your candidate won, don’t gloat and have compassion for those who are confused and angry. If your candidate lost, don’t blame and respect the choice of your neighbors. It is time to move ahead. We all complain about the partisan nature of our politics like it comes from somewhere else. It comes from us. We need to change if the climate is to change and the politics is to become healthy. So, I’m saying, in the name of Jesus, when it comes to the snarky comments, the finger pointing, and smug celebrations or judgment, knock it off. That stuff doesn’t play here in the church or between us as brothers and sisters. It’s not who we are as a community. Don’t get pulled into endless social media diatribes, if you have social media relationships with people who stoke the fires of division and suck your soul dry, you can block or unfriend them for your own spiritual health.
Finally, remember this: rest in Christ, pray in the Spirit, share fellowship rooted in love. The Body of Christ has been fed to the lions, burned at the stake, persecuted and torn, but it has never been overcome. You can take that to the bank. We got this, people.
© 2016 Timothy V. Olson, all rights reserved.