After the Election: November 13, 2016
Pentecost XXVI November 13, 2016 Christ Lutheran Church
Malachi 4:1-2a Psalm 98 2nd Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19
Did you know that rats were ticklish? Scientists in Berlin did experiments on rats and found out that they love to be tickled in the same spots that we are ticklish in and they follow the hand that tickled them for more tickling and jump up and down, which they call a Freudensprung, giggling, but merely on a higher frequency than we can hear. They’re ticklish under their hind feet and their sides, but not their front feet. But they’re ticklish only in a good mood and when they are playful. When they are in a bad mood they are not ticklish. Isn’t that just like us?
I did not know how to preach today, so I thought I would start with that. I went up to the seminary for worship on Wednesday and many were crying. The young woman pastor who was doing the Eucharist broke down crying in the middle of it and had to take some time before she could continue. From a history-making, woman in the White House, it went to a president elect who is an insult to them.
A saying of my father’s went, Immer heiter, Gott hilft weiter. “Be of good cheer. God will still help us here.” I read the New York Times each morning and I read all the thoughts about why people voted one way or the other. I was careful to read why people voted for the president elect. Some White enclaves in the rust belt are desperate and see many of their people dying, OD’ing on oxycodone or other pain medication. All the factories with their good jobs closed leaving them a very bleak future. So if you see the outcome of the election as a fault, then for some we have to look beneath the fault and see a need.
On the PBS News Hour Mark Shields said that the supporters of the president elect took him seriously but did not take what he said literally, while his opponents did not take him seriously but took what he said literally. Words, however, have an incredible impact on people. In the Epistle of James we are told to tame our tongues, because the tongue is a fire and how great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire. He also writes, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” So we have to listen to one another to overcome our divisions.
But make no mistake, we may be going into a dark chapter of American history. I will not be political in this sermon. After reading all the news, I reread the prophet Malachi, the name meaning “My messenger.” You heard the Prophet Malachi read by Malichi, (the son of our pastor). And I read 2nd Thessalonians through. There is too much in them for this brief sermon.
The gist of scripture, however, is that God will judge us if we do not protect the stranger in our midst, because Abraham was a wandering Aramean, stranger in a strange land. They were required to recite these words as a confession. Believe it or not, Aram is now called Syria and some translations say Abraham was a wandering Syrian, a stranger in a strange land. Let me quote the verses from Deuteronomy:
For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.…
Now legality can be an issue for immigration, but God is not mocked, and God will watch out for the most vulnerable in the land, whom governments are called to protect against the powerful. When they are scapegoated for the sake of power, we are getting into some bad faith that activates hate. Faith becomes active in love; bad faith in hate.
Now some of us White folks are left behind, but blaming women, immigrants, refugees, people of the Moslem faith, Black people, LGBT people is as wrong as it is divisive.
There is even a new division in our country, because being Republican and being Democrat has become a new tribalism. We have to be American first and if we cannot muster that strength to relate to each other, then we have to call upon God to give us the strength. Being Christian makes us brothers and sisters, whose relationship with each other makes civil and reasoned argumentation possible. In my family of origin, we have Republicans and Democrats but that does not stop us from loving and supporting each other as brothers and sisters. Being Christian comes first. One Republican in the family said, “When I die, I want the Democrats on the left side of my grave and the Republicans on the right side so they have nothing to do with each other.” She was joking, of course.
Now something else about division. I finally learned how Hitler’s antisemitism figured into his aggrandizement of power as a dictator. Jews had to be turned in and deported to concentration camps and many had Jews in their families. Anyone with Jewish blood could be turned in and neighbors were to turn in neighbors. Jochen Klepper, a Lutheran hymn-writer, and his wife had adopted a Jewish daughter. When the Gestapo came to their door to take the daughter away, they had all committed suicide. German and Jewish “us and them” divided all the grass-roots power at the bottom, so it all went to the top, providing Hitler with absolute power. According to Lord Acton famous saying, “Power tends to corrupt, but absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Racism with its “us and them” division of our society, decreases grass roots power and makes more power go to the top. A people completely divided then finds itself to be helpless in the face of unjust power.
There are over 400 Native American at Standing Rock who have been arrested. They are standing up against putting the oil pipeline under their section of the Missouri River. It was supposed to go under the river near Bismarck, but that is a dense population center, so they decided to do it in Indian territory. The police write the number of the law they have broken on the bodies of the Native Americans, on their arms, with permanent markers. Have you seen Jews whose arms still bear the numbers they received in NAZI concentration camps? That is not cool.
Now we call the space we worship in a “sanctuary.” But we have to become real and declare it a sanctuary. Meeting Ellen Graves up at the seminary, she asked me to tell you that she is ministering in a Spanish speaking congregation in LA and there are many undocumented members of the congregation, who are afraid that deportation is going to tear up their families and their lives. Let us be a sanctuary. We have to be true to the Word of God. Let’s not be afraid to resist injustice.
You know Martin Niemöller’s famous saying:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
So when they come for the undocumented, we have to speak out and stand up for them. Should bigots try to take down our rainbow flag, we have to stand up for gays and Lesbians, for our LGBT brothers and sisters among us. Right now many of the most vulnerable among us are very frightened.
The Greek Passion is a powerful book written by Nikos Kazantzakis, the same author who wrote Zorba the Greek. In the Greek Passion, a village does a passion play for Holy Week and villagers are chosen to play Jesus, Peter, Judas, Mary, and all the disciples. While they are rehearsing, a disaster in a neighboring village turns those villagers into refugees the flood into the village getting ready for the passion play. The villagers turn on the refugees violently in order to drive them away. The fellows playing Jesus and Peter and John and the others, caught up in their roles, stand up for the refugees and what had been play-acting, becomes for-real as the villagers turn on the actors as well as the refugees. It becomes a passion story, a Greek Passion. We could experience something like that, if we become a real sanctuary, a Christ Lutheran passion, standing up for those to be deported.
So like old Martin Luther said, our conscience is captive to the Word of God, and here we stand in a sanctuary, we can do no other, so help us God. What a privilege to be part of the proud State of California, with Gerry Brown, who studied in a Jesuit seminary, now our governor. Hopefully, like New York has said it would be, all of California could also declare itself a sanctuary.
Do not be led astray, Jesus reminds us, even if times become more apocalyptic. We need not fear. Jesus said every hair on our heads is counted. Today we even know that every cell in one of our hairs contains our whole DNA blue print. Should we have to endure persecution, God will be with us and save us. And do you know, standing and enduring persecution in order to stand in the Word of God, will make us gain our souls. A commentary said that meant we will jump up like those tickled rats, jump for joy, because it will make us become our true selves, our real selves, genuine Christians. To suffer for the sake of righteousness and to suffer standing against injustice, is like the resistance electricity needs to turn into light. So let us shine. Let us shine! Let Christ Lutheran Church be a candle to light up El Cerrito! Thanks be to God! Amen.
 James 3: 5 and 8.
 James 1:19.
 Deuteronomy 10:17-19.
 The Holocaust Encyclopedia: https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007392