I am afraid

The sermon time today will be contemplative. We will hear the scripture read slowly and chant “Bless the lord my soul,” at least 4 times, then hold silence. We will do this after each scripture reading. We do this today, because we need to feel the presence of God- I need to feel the presence of God with you today.

Friends, before we get to contemplative sermon portion of today’s service, I want to be very honest with you, that I am afraid. I have prayed on this, and I believe God calls me to be honest with you, to be authentic, to be exactly where I am, so that you can be exactly where you are, and that does not need to be the same place. I share with you that I am afraid, not because I think this is the appropriate way to feel, but because as the spiritual leader of this church, it would be a disservice for all of us for me to do anything different than tell the truth. It is a particular gift of feminist leadership to regard feelings, sensitivities and emotional radar as important information- not the ultimate truth or final answer, but as legitimate players. Claiming our feelings allows for mutuality and eliminates the idea that we have to be of one mind in order to be one body. We claim today that our diversity of responses and awareness of them, strengthen our body.

I am devastated after this election- and not just because my candidate lost. As a woman called to leadership myself, to see the first female candidate lose to the person who was elected, and what he seems to represent, feels like a tragic paradigm shift from the way I thought the world was going. Evangelical Christians voted for him at a scale of 84%; and many evangelical Christians, including some of my family members, do not believe a woman can be a head of a household, head of a church, and certainly not head of the nation. This is very painful.

Also, as a woman in a relationship with another woman, who is born of parents who immigrated to this country, our family is scared. And there is no promise, with the potential of a new member of the Supreme Court, that my relationship will be recognized and legitimized legally in the future. This is sad and scary.

As a white woman, I am direly concerned about racism in our country. We would have anti-racist, bridge-building work to do no matter who we elected. But the empowered leadership now is endorsed by the KKK. This is not a small thing. This is not something to position hope neatly next to. Immigrants, people of color, Muslims are all differently in danger and their lives are at stake. As a mostly white congregation, this is something we need to keep reminding ourselves. Racism is America’s original sin, and I want to hold on to the feelings of pain and disappointment I have today, to commit myself to you today to be dedicated to anti-racist work. When we start feeling safe again and the stock market evens out and the economy gets better, we will still have anti-racist work to do.

The harassment and discrimination that have happened this week since the election have been morally offensive and hard to stomach. Muslim mother’s telling their daughters not to wear a hijab to school so they won’t be harassed, Michigan middle-schoolers chanting “Build the wall,” during lunch time while Latino students crying. Swastikas graffiti in upstate New York. The Klan showing up in North Carolina in celebration of the presidential elect’s victory. Queer couples getting death threats and left ransom notes that their marriage, and their lives, are meaningless. This is happening and we need to stay awake. This election has held a mirror up to our country, and we desperately need to feel the presence of God.

I share this with you not to make you scared and not to take away your hope, but to invite you to stay awake, to stay with the pain, even and especially when it is not yours. I am open to things unfolding differently than it looks like they may, but I will only believe it when I see it. Until then, I believe that pain, anxiety, fear, are all things that God uses to fuel revolutionary love, which is exactly what our world needs now. To recognize the reality of the world does not take away our peace, our hope or our love.

I know we are all having varied responses this week, and I want to lift up that fact that God loves us exactly where we are, and won’t leave us there. Do you hear me, that these are my own feelings, and I respect that you might be feeling differently- and that is what makes our community strong? There are a lot of reaction police out there right now, telling us how to feel. But this is what I have needed to hear this week- that there is no right way to behave or feel right now- and I really want you to hear that too- that it is our task to stand fully in our own truth, and to respect each other, and to honor each other as beloved children of God, just as we are.

This church has been around for nearly 350 years. We have seen the ebbs and flows of leadership, and we have always reached into our past in order to understand our present and our future. In no way does this trivialize the importance of the present. But it girds us with strength. Today I wanted to invite us into an ancient ritual practice of hearing scripture and chanting after. I do not want to rush you to hope. I do not want to induce fear in your hearts. I want you to hear God speaking to you right where you are, just as you are. This is what I need today; to read scripture slowly, in community, to be drenched in the presence and love of God, as a salve to our souls.

Because we have not elected a savior, because we already have one in Jesus, we remember Jesus as someone who upheld the scriptures, who followed in a line of Prophets, who encouraged us to protect those who are most vulnerable, to love our neighbors, to love our God and our enemies. We remember Jesus who came to earth in order to show us that God meets us just where we are, in the midst of the dramas and sufferings of life, and that goodness and beauty and love always overcome hate and injustice and death. Jesus taught us to come fully alive, not to expect the leaders of our government to become our saviors, but to embody the love we want to see in the world; the kind of love that resists hate, discrimination, ugliness; the kind of love that build bridges to the realm of God.

So let us listen to the scripture together, let us remember each other as the ones who interpret, the ones who lead, the ministers of love, called to be love in the world, emboldened by our past. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of all of our hearts, be acceptable to you, oh God, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

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