Harrowing Of Hell
November 8, 2020

God Will Be God

The Rev. Doyt L. Conn, Jr.

It has been quite an exciting few days (if you want to call it that). For some of us there is hope, for some of us there is consternation. Indeed, we all have a different view of what the future will hold going forward, even if we claim to be part of the same political party.

We know this because many of us have lived long enough to know that life rarely works out exactly as we expect it to. And so, I want to remind those of you who are disappointed with this election… it will not be as bad as you think. And for those of you who are pleased with this election… it will not be as great as you think.

I know that, just as you know that, because, well, we’ve seen enough of life.  And because we know this, I want to remind you that to gloat or to lash out is to both place false hope on what this Government will do, and also to risk injuring relationships. 

As the Christians, we know that in the Kingdom of God, where relationship is primary, God is still God, and God will still be God tomorrow, and the day after that God will still be God as well. Those are the words Desmond Tutu spoke to the nation of South Africa after the election of Nelson Mandela… He said: “And tomorrow, God will still be God.”

St. Augustine said it this way: “We will not rest until we rest in the Lord.” He probably got those words from Psalm 62 which we hear today. ”For God alone my soul in silence waits; from God comes my salvation. God alone is my rock and my salvation; my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.” And it goes on: ”Put your trust in God always, O people; pour out your heart, for God is our refuge. Those of high decree are but a fleeting breath, even those of low estate cannot be trusted. On the scales they are lighter than of breath, all of them together. God has spoken once, twice I have heard it, that power belongs to God. Steadfast love is yours, O Lord, for you to repay everyone according to their deeds.” (Ps 62 para).

Brothers and Sisters, I would like you to consider cutting out Psalm 62 and putting it on your desk. And then I invite you to read it every day, between now and Christmas. Maybe even transcribe it. Re-write it. Seek to memorize it. Take it into your heart. 

As we, in this nation, continue to navigate the messy aftermath of this election, let’s take into our hearts the reality, the bigger reality, that God is still God. Remembering that we will not rest until we rest in the Lord. Remembering that our souls in silence wait, so put your trust in God; for God is still God.

I also want you to remember, that whoever you are, whatever your political affiliation, whatever your mood this day, you have a place at Epiphany. Epiphany is your backstop. It is the building that sits on top of the rock that is Jesus Christ. No one thinks that how you voted outweighs the reality that you are made by God, made well by God, and completely beloved by God.

Yes, it’s important that we participate in the governance of this country, but our participation is important, insofar as it forms our character. Because we live on this earth not to be governors of nations, but to be children of God, seeking to grow up in the ways of Jesus Christ.

We are sojourners, pilgrims, not made for this world, but made for eternal purpose; imagined forth out of a space before time, in which, God gave us our name. And then God waited, and waited, and waited until right now to put you into the world. There is nothing accidental about your life. There is nothing accidental about your participation in this election.

Know this however, the point of your life is not the vote you cast. The point of your life is how you act as a Christian in the aftermath of this election. And so, I’ve asked you to memorize Psalm 62. And I’ve reminded you that relationship is primary…That is one of our tropes, isn’t it? That in the Kingdom of God relationship is primary. We believe that because we believe in a Trinitarian God, a God of relationship, a God of love, a God who loves you, and who loves our neighbor as well.

But what I want to challenge us around in the aftermath of this election is a greater blessing, a greater gift, in that I believe this presidential election may have revealed something unique in each one of our lives. Because God’s working on us. God is forming a character. God never misses an opportunity, even in messes like this, or maybe most often in messes like this, to call us to our best selves.   

The word I’m going throw out there is idolatry. It is old-fashioned and simply means that thing that we prioritize over God. Political elections are super spreaders of idolatry; because of the passion the issues provoke; because of the winner/loser paradigm they set up; because of the drama.

So, the question I’ll start with is: what is the issue that drove you in the election cycle? Was it security? Was it the economy? Was it character? Was it healthcare? Was it taxes? Was it abortion? Was it the courts? Was it education? What was it? Write it down. Write it on a post-it note and then (drumroll please) put that post-it note on the front of your Bible.

And then open the Bible, and go to the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and take that word, and place it into the teachings and parables of Jesus. Don’t go Old Testament on me. Don’t seek a withering quote from the Psalms. Go to Jesus, and place the priority of your issue (ideology) in his mouth, and listen to hear what he says.

I’ll tell you a story. I heard it recently from a sermon our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry gave. He had been on sabbatical, and, though he wasn’t planning to, he found himself reading the Christian arguments for and against slavery.

Turns out, there was a lot written on the subject, because, as you know, there were Christians on both sides of the argument. One group in favor of slavery, and the other, the abolitionist, against children of God being held against their will.

What Bishop Curry discovered was that none of the arguments in favor of slavery ever quoted Jesus. None of them ever used Jesus examples to make their case. On the other hand, the only examples the abolitionists used were from Jesus.

So, flip back to the front of your Bible, and take a look at your key cause there on the post-it note, and ask yourself: how Jesus would present and/or defend this issue? And if it is hard to round that square, then you might find yourself up against an idolatry that has wormed its way to the front of the line in your minds-eye. 

On the other hand, if the issue is one that is magnified in its glory when set in the mouth of Jesus, then indeed, the issue isn’t idolatry, but rather a Kingdom of God foot path… so, keep walking.

Nothing wrong with politics. As you know I’m fan of democracy because it is about freedom to choose; but I am also a fan of these insane elections because they give us a chance to grow up in Jesus Christ. The passions provoked give us focus that we can redirect back upon ourselves to see if we are indeed seeking first the Kingdom of God, or seeking first the kingdom of ourselves.

So, I invite you to find the word that gets your blood all boiling, and unpack it; it could be the thing you’re in favor of like capitalism or socialism or taxes; or it could the thing you despise, like capitalism or socialism or taxes, but I encourage you to go there.

It may be hard work, I know, because you have to scrape away all the superficial points of policy; and then stir in your personal history, and your context, and your temperament; and then you will come to that place where your kingdom bumps up   against the Kingdom of God. And when you get there, ask the questions: What would Jesus do? How would Jesus respond to my concern around this particular topic? What questions would Jesus ask? What parables would Jesus tell?

Don’t miss the opportunity to be transformed by this crazy election. Don’t miss the opportunity to become more fully who God created you to be. After all we are the Jesus people.  We have a teacher who can help us call out of our idolatry and put our legitimate concerns into the context of the Kingdom of God.

I believe that this election is a great gift to all of us, in that it surfaced for each one of us our personal kingdom concerns, and then has invited us to see these concerns within the larger framework of the Kingdom of God. It is my hope that you go there, for to go there is to find redemption, and grace, and unity in the wake of this season of political tumult.

I do believe that the high level of personal investment in this election has given us the divine blessing of confronting the issues (idolatries) that we have put in line in front of Jesus. And the good news is the invitation to turn around, and seek first, again, the Kingdom of God. For God is still God.

It is not the outcome of this election that soothes the soul; it is God…for God alone my soul in silence waits,  God is my salvation. It is God who is the sturdy rock. It is God who we come to Epiphany to worship. God is God today; God will be God tomorrow; and God will be God the day after.

Jesus is our personal invitation into the Kingdom of God. I am so hopeful for you, for this church, for the people to God, that we are given this oddly cathartic blessing that draws up out of us that in which we have put false hope in; and in its place we put the life and teaching and love of Jesus Christ. He is our rock, and our salvation today, tomorrow, and forever more.