The Twenty-sixth Sunday after Pentecost: November 13, 2016
Preacher: The Rev. Leigh Mackintosh, Associate Rector of St. Michael’s Church
I do not know what it is to be a Muslim American in this country. To be afraid to show my faith; afraid to wear a cross or my collar on the street because I might be persecuted. To be singled out as a terrorist, rejected as a faithful citizen of the United States because of what I believe.
But I do know what it is to be a gay Christian. To feel like my faith, my sexuality, my marriage are opposing values in the eyes of the people. To be singled out, judged, rejected as a faithful member of the Body of Christ because of how I love.
I do not know what it is to be a racial minority in this country. To be oppressed, harassed, and abused because of the color of my body. But I do know what it is to be a woman oppressed, harassed, and abused because of the nature of my body. And I know the privilege I carry because I am white and the guilt that comes with such knowledge and power.
I do not know what it is to be an immigrant or refugee, denied sanctuary or deported because of where I was born or because I lack desirable skills. To work in a society that exploits me and refuses to acknowledge my valuable contributions. But I do know what it is to be denied equal rights under the law, to feel like an outcast in the place where I was born. To work in a society that holds double standards.
I do not know what it is to have special needs or disabilities. To be ridiculed or judged because of what I cannot do. But I do know that we are all made in the image of God and that it is who we are and not what we do (or cannot do) that reveals the face of God in the world.
I do not know what it is to live in poverty or be without healthcare. To feel like my financial needs are invisible and ignored. But I do know what it is like to live with the burdens of student loans and to provide for my family on a single part-time salary. To be ashamed of my financial need as a highly educated, talented person because I’m not supposed to be poor.
I do not know what it feels like to be so desperate for change that I compromise my values and the rights of others in order to survive. But I do know many of us feel divided among our friends and in our families over this election. And I know that who we vote for does not represent the fullness of our thoughts and values.
This election has brought out the worst in our humanity. It has revealed the truth about the deep wounds of this nation—wounds rooted in forces of fear, hate, and violence. Forces that threaten to hurt and kill and divide; that encourage bigotry, intolerance, and brutality in the name of white supremacy.
Jesus words ring true today,
“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. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes, famines and plagues; dreadful portents and great signs from heaven.”
Many of us live in fear that this is the beginning of the end—the end of democracy, diplomacy, dignity, decency and all we hold dear. In the coming days, weeks, months, and years there are many things that remain uncertain, unknown. We have much to fear. Such fears are not foreign to our world or to our faith. The stories of our tradition remind us that the prophet Isaiah, the people of Israel and even Jesus, the Son of God struggled with these same forces of fear, hate, and violence.
Take a look at the back of the church. There in his wounds we see the worst of our fears, all our hatred and divisions etched across his body. All our suffering, all our pain across the ages nailed to the cross.
So when you feel afraid, angry, ashamed, abandoned, and alone, when you feel like no one knows or understands—look to him. He knows.
But his story, like our story does not end in suffering and death. For even in this time of trial, we are witnessing God’s power and presence stirring among us. We are opening our doors and gathering to pray with our community. We are reading the Bible in public (and even New Yorkers think this is a good idea). We are joining with our Jewish and Muslim neighbors to support and listen to each other. We are proclaiming messages of hope and solidarity on social media and wearing safety pins to show that we respect the dignity and freedom of every human being as a beloved child of God. We are openly naming the evils that separate us one from the other and working to listen and heal the wounds of this nation.
The stories of our faith teach us to trust God and live even in the midst of fear, to trust God and love even when others hate or persecute us, to trust God and work towards peace and reconciliation even in the midst of violence.
To trust God that we will be saved from the time of trial and delivered from evil and death.
In times of trial, God’s power and presence stirs among us as it did long ago. For it was a poor, unmarried woman of color who brought God into this world to dwell among us as one of us. It was a Middle Eastern refugee family who raised a boy who would one day rise up to save the world through love. It was an oppressed, persecuted religious community who taught a man how to pray and preach the Good News of the Gospel to the world. (And we are still hearing his message today!) It was friends who betrayed him, religious leaders and crowds who despised and rejected him, a powerful, privileged government who remained complicit that led to Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, but also to his glorious resurrection and our healing and salvation.
His cross, like our cross ends not in suffering and death but in the light and hope of resurrection. His journey, like our journey moves us out of darkness into light, out of evil into righteousness, out of death into life. But the way of the cross, the journey towards healing, reconciliation, and transformation is a long one.
How do we walk this long road?
We do this together. For we are not alone. Generations of brave men and women living and dead have walked this road before us. They have fought long and hard to nobly advance us to where we are today. Their sacrifice and service has blessed us beyond what we could ever ask or imagine. In many ways, they reveal a vision of God’s kingdom on earth.
But this glimpse of God’s reign remains incomplete. There are still voices crying out in the wilderness, still those in our nation and our world who need to be clothed, fed, healed, heard, and set free. We have come to a turning point.
Now is the time to test whether we can endure these fiery trials or whether we will fall as a house divided. Though our journey ahead may be long and arduous, though there may be setbacks on the way, walking together with God, journeying together towards that cross we know that fighting for what is right is always worth it.
Now is the time to listen and love one another. To be with each other and allow everyone to be heard.
Now is the time to look out for one another—especially the stranger, the poor, the outcast, the widow, the orphan. To foster a spirit of inclusion; to uphold the truth that we are all stronger together. To bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort those who mourn, proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners.
Now is the time to learn from one another. To work together and celebrate our diversity. To learn from the wisdom and experience across our country. To share in the work of building and dwelling; of planting and eating.
Now is the time to live life to the fullest. To seize the day and hold onto joy even in the midst of disappointment and sorrow.
Now is the time to lift up our voices and pray. Pray for guidance on how we might live into God’s vision of a world reconciled in peace where wolf and lamb and lion feed together. Pray for God’s presence and protection that we might cast out the evil that feeds upon the forces of fear, hate, and division. Pray for God’s strength and grace that we might live each day a little less in fear and a little more in the light and hope of the resurrection.
Now is the time, now it is for us the living to rise up as one nation under God to dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work, the great task that remains before us.  To resolve that their lives were not given in vain—that the reign of God shall not perish from the earth.
 Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, (1863): “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”