Many are asking at this moment, “What will Marble do in response to the recent presidential election?” Since we serve a broad constituency at our church, that question is being posed from persons who were displeased with the outcome and also from people who were encouraged by it. “What will we do to combat a hostile takeover by the far right?,” some are asking. Others are asking with the same passion, “What will we do to give our newly elected President a fair chance and to support the American process?” All the persons asking those questions are valued, as is their freedom to believe in distinctively individual ways.
As Pastor of a church like ours, I realize I cannot please everyone with my responses. Currently, the divide is too deep and the passions are too strong for any pastoral voice to magically bring peace and calm to an environment of uncertainty and fear. Healing will take time. And prayer. And an openness to the other. Some semblance of unity will come only when it is clear that everyone has a place at the table and that we are determined to reach certain venues of compromise (though not on moral principles) where we can exist, or at least co-exist, as “one nation under God.” That, by the way, is how our democracy has survived and operated following every election in our history.
So, what will we do at Marble? As Christians, we will take action (as we always have). We will make our voices heard in corporate and individual ways. Let me briefly explore that with you (though the length of a blog does not allow that to be done in a thorough or exhaustive way).
Corporately, The Collegiate Churches of NY (and Marble as part of that body) will stand up for and speak out about the various issues we think are sacred and just. We have done that historically no matter who is in office nor what party they represent. In truth, we have always sought to be something other than partisan. We will continue to do so because our allegiance is to something far more important than Republican or Democratic agendas. Our allegiance is to God, and God divinely calls us to help create a society based on mercy, justice, and love. So, that’s what we will do. Many of us clergy within the system are already in conversation with leaders and emerging leaders on both sides of the aisle. And that brings me to what we can do individually.
As an individual, I am personally in conversation with Democratic strategists, with a key member of Mr. Trump’s transition team, and with three U.S. Senators (Democrat and Republican). I am clearly expressing to all of them the values we at Marble hold dear and why we think they represent the values of the majority of Americans. I am composing blogs for such media outlets as The Huffington Post and others. I encourage all of you to do the same. Make your voices heard, whatever your commitments may be. But, whereas we can all lift our voices according to our consciences on a variety of issues, I also think it is often wise to choose one passion to be your primary focus. There are many, all valid, from which to choose. For me at this point, my urgent cause (not “only,” but “urgent”) is the environment. That is an issue which affects all persons (Republicans, Democrats, old, young, every race, every religion, both genders, every sexual orientation, every person of every nation). It has historically been non-partisan. To me environmentalism is a spiritual mandate, as the very first chapter of the very first book of the Bible starts with the clear command that we take proper care of God’s Creation. We have failed woefully in doing so for many years, and the climate is reminding us of the consequences. So, I am being particularly vocal about that topic. You may have another passion altogether. Stand up and speak out for it. And ask yourself as you prepare to do so: “Am I taking this stance because my political party favors it, or am I doing so because I am convinced it is consistent with the principles taught and lived by Jesus?” If that latter consideration is what drives you, then you will operate from a stronger motivation.
Some are asking me if Worship (including sermons) will become “issue-driven.” Again, those inquiries are coming from people on both sides of the political spectrum. My answer is that Worship must always be faith-driven... but our faith influences what we do about issues. We’re going to continue doing on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings what we’ve been doing for almost 400 years. We’re going to talk about scripture, about a creative and benevolent God who intersects with individuals, about the Rabbi named Jesus whose life revealed what that God is like, about discipleship (what that God through Christ calls us to be like), about what it means to be a Community of Faith, and about how Christianity helps us make sense of life. We’re going to talk about the key seasons of Christianity (Advent, Lent, Pentecost, etc.) and why we observe them. And, we’re going to be sensitive to the variety of emotions people bring with them into this sacred place – emotions ranging from utter desperation to unbounded hope, from grief to gladness, from despair to dreams, and how all those people desire to find some personal message, word of comfort, or inspiration from God when they get here. That, first and foremost, is why people come to church. Meanwhile, all the biblical faith principles we consider will inevitably have an impact on how you interpret contemporary issues and what actions you take about them. Unless someone appoints our congregation as an official arm of government with decision-making capacity, I will not tell you how to think, vote, or act. But, I will tell you what the Bible says about how we are meant to deal with one another, and I believe those biblical lessons will lead you to speak the right words and take the right actions. Meanwhile, the Mission Outreach arm of this church will remain steadfast in healing human hurts and advocating for those whose voices are not adequately heard.
The season of Advent is upon us. During it, like the Hebrew people from the days of Isaiah and Elijah, we pray for the arrival of a Prince of Peace. And like New Testament Christians living in the tensions they experienced on a daily basis, we will pray, “Maranatha: Lord, come!” Advent tells us that God hears those prayers and sends our Deliverer. “Unto you is born in the City of David, a Savior...!” That is the hope of all who believe. So, we boldly step into this new season to Worship and walk with the One who comes to Bethlehem and to us.