I’m going to talk about politics now. I know that many of you don’t want me to. It’s been a long campaign season, we’ve been surrounded by the presidential election for almost two years and you may have come here this morning trying to get away from it. Too often politics creates rifts, dividing us from each other. For some of us, the results of this election have been difficult to understand and accept. For some of us, the results of this election are what we hoped for. It would be easier for me to avoid talking about politics, to ignore what happened this week, and to preach on something else.
I’d rather not talk about politics today. But if I did that, I believe that I’d be more like Jonah running away from God’s call than like Isaiah saying “Here I am. Send me.” We need to do this. We need to discuss the divisions that have been highlighted, name the sorrows and fears that have risen up, and pray that our prideful sin will not get in the way of our healing.
But, like Isaiah, I have unclean lips. I am imperfect. I will probably say something that will make someone angry. I will probably say something that you think I shouldn’t have said. I will probably not say something that I should. I will say too much. I won’t say enough. I hope that I will be forgiven for that. When we open ourselves up to God, like Isaiah did, God touches our lips and removes our corruption and pardons our sin.
Will you please pray with me?
May the words from my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. For you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.
I’ve been through a few elections in my life; some of you have been through a few more than I have. Even though every election brings with it winners and losers, the results of the 2016 presidential election have brought with it levels of fear and despair and division that I don’t believe I have ever seen before.
I know that not everyone here feels that despair or that fear. I know that there are some of us who are happy with the results, some who aren’t affected, some who don’t understand the fear. But I believe that we are called as Christians to seek to understand each other. And we are called to walk with the dispossessed and disadvantaged, we are called to bring good news to the oppressed and to bind up the brokenhearted, whether or not we identify with their fear.
Even though much of the fear is focused on the president-elect and those who surround him, I do not know what the next presidential administration will look like. The only information that we have is what the candidates said during the campaign and their past statements and actions. Many of these statements have been used by others to justify hate and violence towards people of color, women, immigrants, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community. Whether or not this is what the candidates intended, this has been the impact of their words.
There have been literally thousands of reports of hate crimes committed in the name of the President-elect. Stories of Nazi flags being flown, graffiti with swastikas and slogans like “Make America White again,” At York Tech High School in PA white students walked down the hall chanting “white power” while holding Donald Trump signs; in Queens, NY, an African-American woman on a bus was asked by a group of young girls “Aren’t you supposed to be in the back of the bus now?;” a gay man in NYC reported being told to “enjoy the concentration camps;” many stories about Muslim women having their headscarves ripped from their heads, photos and videos of hateful signs, graffiti and actions, of racial, ethnic, sexist, and homophobic slurs are filling Facebook feeds including two Babson College students who were recorded riding around the campus of Wellesley shouting sexist and racist comments at the students there.
Unfortunately, these accounts go on and on and on.
These may not be the actions that the candidates intended, but this is the impact of their words.
And people are afraid. African-Americans, women, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender folks, Latinas, Asians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus.
People who look different than I do.
I could ignore all of this. As a straight, cisgender, white, Christian male, I could simply look away. I could make excuses and go on with my life, never acknowledging the pain that surrounds me.
Or I can choose to hear God’s voice calling.
Most of the hateful rhetoric and actions happening now don’t affect me but they do affect my fellow children of God.
As a Christian, I have chosen to follow Jesus. Jesus studied, followed, and counted himself among the line of Hebrew prophets. Prophets like Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Micah, and Ezekiel, and Joel. Prophets who spoke out against oppression and hate, who spoke the truth to power, and who pleaded for us to change our ways to follow God’s path towards a peaceable kingdom of love, equality, and justice for all of God’s people because they recognized that the alternative was hell on Earth.
I know that we did not all vote the same way. I know that not everyone in this room is experiencing fear. But there are some in our church who are afraid. There are some in our community who are worried about their future. There are millions of our fellow children of God in our country who do not feel safe.
As Christians – no matter who we voted for – we are called to support them. As people called to be members of the body of Christ, we are called to recognize that when even one of us suffers we all feel the pain. As followers of Christ, we are called to walk with the outcast and oppressed.
How do we do that?
Our first step is to make ourselves known. Show ourselves as visible supporters to someone who feels attacked or oppressed.
I spoke a few weeks ago about my experience wearing a clergy collar while walking around in Boston. I became visible in a way I don’t usual experience. It was a way to let people know that I am available for support. I’m planning on wearing my collar more often now as a sign that I am a safe person. Putting on this collar reminds me that I am a servant of God and makes it all but impossible for me to run away from God’s call. I hope that this also gives me the courage to intervene if I ever see someone being bullied or harassed.
I realize that wearing a clerical collar may not be an option for everyone.
As attacks on Muslims increased following the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, supportive non-Muslims began to wear a safety pin on their lapels as a sign that they were a safe person in any situation that Muslims faced. Many in America are now wearing safety pins as the same show of support.
If you choose to wear a safety pin or make some other show of support, it’s important to take that decision seriously. If we choose to put ourselves out there, are we truly willing to intervene? To place ourselves in uncomfortable or possibly dangerous situations? It’s an honest question and one that we need to ask ourselves.
We often feel like Isaiah. When faced with God’s call, our initial reaction is “Woe is me, I have unclean lips, I’m not good enough to serve God.” God offers ways to get over that. It’s often difficult, it can sting and burn like charcoal on our lips. But God’s healing, redemptive love can get us through and give us the courage and strength we need to serve.
After gathering the courage to show support, it’s important to have a plan for when situations arise. If you see someone being harassed or bullied, show you support. Stand or sit by their side. If the assault is verbal, talk to the victim about benign subjects – the weather, a favorite TV show, music on the radio. Take the attacker’s power away by ignoring them. You or someone nearby may want to record the conflict if possible. When the attacker leaves, stay with the victim. Fear and anxiety usually increase as adrenaline wear off. Let them choose what happens next; they may or may not want the police involved.
If we are willing to stand up against oppression in the face of conflict, we also need to work to cut off hate and discrimination at the roots. We must work to expose the racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism that permeates our society and our structures. Our politicians, law enforcement, educators, health care workers, clergy – everyone must face up to our own prejudices and dismantle the structures that have been in place for generations.
And we must look at our own privileges and have open and honest conversations about our the prejudices and stereotypes that we hold. Our student minister Pete Graham is planning to hold a series of sacred conversations beginning in January that will allow us to recognize the advantages that many of us have and to discuss how we can do better.
As Christ’s gathered church we need to remember that we are in this together. We cannot turn on each other, seeking to blame or put down those with whom we disagree. We need to seek to understand as much as we want to be understood. We need to sit down and talk, together as a church, together as members of the body of Christ. Seeking the truth in love, we can find what unites us as followers of Christ and as Americans and we can work towards solutions that will lead us to equality and justice; towards the realm of God that we are called to co-create with the Holy One.
Isaiah was terrified when he came face to face with the call of God. But faced with his fear he fell humbly at God’s feet and received the gift of divine cleansing and courage. Empowered by the Divine, Isaiah was able to answer God’s call of “Whom shall I send?” with a resounding “Here I am, send me.”
If you believe that God is calling you to heal the divisions in our world, say “Here I am.”
If you are willing to stand up against bullying and hate, say “Here I am.”
If you are willing to stand up against homophobia and transphobia, say “Here I am.”
If you are willing to stand up for people of color, people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, people of all religions and no religion, say “Here I am.”
If you are willing to listen for God’s voice in your life through prayer and to do your best to follow Christ’s lead, say “Here I am, send me.”
Even as it seems that our world is crumbling around us, God is teaching us to build.
Love will raise the broken stones of our country. Love will overcome fear and hate. Light will overcome the darkness.
If we are willing to be sent, God will teach us how to build on the solid rock of justice.
The master builder will give us the plans, guide our hands, and save our land.
With your help, we will overcome politics that divide, we will bring good news to the oppressed and lift up the broken hearted, we will stand up for and we will achieve God’s justice. We will do it by answering the call of the Divine – “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Repeat it after me one more time “Here I am. Send me.”