What do we say? In days like these, days when it feels like (as REM sang and Jim reminds us in the title of our liturgy), when we fear it could be “the end of the world as we know it”.
Author Toni Morrison has this to say: “Forcing a nation to use force is easy when the citizenry is rife with discontent, experiencing feelings of a powerlessness that can be easily soothed by violence. And when the political discourse is shredded by an unreason and hatred so deep that vulgar abuse seems normal, disaffection rules. Our debates, for the most part, are examples unworthy of a playground: name-calling, verbal slaps, gossip, giggles, all while the swings and slides of governance remain empty.” Those words were published in March of 2015.
A little bit more than 1 1/2 years later. Here we are. Perhaps you, like me, question whether we really need to rehash/rehearse the events of this week. But as a student of history, I know how easily facts can be forgotten, stories can be silenced. A minority of voters electing a president—a man, a businessman, who not only has never served in any elected office, but who has filed for multiple bankruptcies, and is under investigation—a man whose words and tweets are full of lies, filled with fear, racism, sexism, homophobia, and are fueling actions of hate around our country.
But now we hear calls of unity, to get along, move on, to fall in line: and I respond with these words entitled: Lady Liberty to Uncle Sam
Lady Liberty to Uncle Sam
Don’t confuse my silence with compliance.
The darkened muscle of my blood-starved heart
Will never regenerate.
Forgive me if it takes me longer.
My heart works harder.
Because of your injury.
The black spot of hatred
if ever you care to look beyond yourself.
C’mon baby, let’s work it out.
I’m still waiting on forgotten arteries.
to deliver air so that I can breathe.
Sure, I live.
And I will function pleasantly and normally.
Despite the darkened muscle of my blood-starved heart.
I didn’t write those words; my husband Brad composed that earlier this week. Because in days like these, when it feels like it’s the end of the world as we know it, our grief, our disappointment and fear need to be expressed (not in violence) but in speaking the truth.
In that same article I mentioned just a moment ago, Toni Morrison recounts an even earlier experience. She writes:
Christmas, the day after, in 2004, following the presidential re-election of George W. Bush.
I am staring out of the window in an extremely dark mood, feeling helpless. Then a friend, a fellow artist, calls to wish me happy holidays. He asks, “How are you?” And instead of “Oh, fine—and you?”, I blurt out the truth: “Not well. Not only am I depressed, I can’t seem to work, to write; it’s as though I am paralyzed, unable to write anything more in the novel I’ve begun. I’ve never felt this way before, but the election….” I am about to explain with further detail when he interrupts, shouting: “No! No, no, no! This is precisely the time when artists go to work—not when everything is fine, but in times of dread. That’s our job!”
A job, that in our 2nd reading, Paul reminds us to do. Sure Paul is talking about working, but what is it to work. It is to contribute not only to the economy, but more importantly to the community. Evidently, Paul made tents. He earned some living, and share life, a new life, not just making a living, but living in and for new world. With the Spirit of God building up the body of Christ and co-creating God’s world. Paul made tents; Brad wrote a poem. But that is not enough. Just because the election is over, but we still don’t know what comes next.
For the followers of Jesus, the end was near. Jesus himself would be handed over by one he would call brother. Jesus knows what it is to be arrested, questioned, to be interrogated, to be on trial. For many in our nation, if this is a sign of The End, it sure has been going on for an awfully long time. On Wednesday evening Beth and I ate dinner with a handful of youth at the LGBT Center. These African-American teens talked about the anger and fear, fear of a what they called a Purge. Sure they might have been joking, but often our fears and truth is spoken in humor. I think it was so important that we, church-people were sitting with them, perhaps more powerful than our words was our presence.
When it’s the end of the world as we know it. You and me we, in whatever way we can—through art, through compassion, through protest we bear witness to the truth and we also bear witness to the God who hasn’t packed up and moved somewhere up and away—like to Canada. In Isaiah’s words the Spirit reveals a vision of God’s promised world. In Jesus that World breaks in, sneaks in. We speak of it, we sing of it, we taste and get a sip of it this morning. Could it be that is Jesus inspiring, in-spiriting us Jesus. Jesus putting salvation’s words in our mouths.
So many sermon’s have ended in poems. I thought I would end this with one as well. But you know, God’s Word doesn’t end, when I say Amen. Amen isn’t ancient Greek or Aramaic for THE END. It is instead a relieved whisper of YES, an emboldened Spirit filled shout of YES. So, writers keep writing, painters keep painting, singers keep singing, teachers keep teaching, workers keep working, dreamers keep dreaming, bakers keep baking, cooks keep cooking, poets and artist, keep poeting and arting as we join Jesus in making a new world because God promises “it’s end of the world as we know it”. Amen.