After the Election:
We Stand with the Last, the Lost and the Least
A Sermon on Remembrance Sunday
The Rev. David R. Anderson
Saint Luke’s Parish, Darien, Connecticut
November 13, 2016
This day—All Souls or Remembrance Sunday—brings to conclusion the fall celebration of All Saints with all its brightness and joy that leads to All Souls with its somber and solemn remembrance of the dead. Usually this day is, for me, the clear reminder that fall has fallen and winter is coming. The church chooses just this moment of encroaching darkness to declare that, as John said in the prologue to his gospel, “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”
And I have anticipated this day for some time since I lost my father in late August, and my grandniece at the tender age of seventeen just twelve days ago. I am grateful like so many of you for a place and a time to name my loved ones who now rest in the eternal Presence.
But I could not stand here today and speak only of the faithful departed. Because just five days ago the election season that would not end, did—and in a way that shocked the world. I feel I must address the tenor of these days.
We can disagree heartily about all the big issues—TPP and NAFTA, immigration policy, taxes, foreign policy and terrorism. Even the deeply divisive issues—Pro-Life and Pro-Choice, guns, sex and gender issues. There is not one “right” position on any of those issues—even for followers of Jesus, there isn’t. We can debate those issues and yet respect one another and hold onto each other in community.
And I have to say that the Episcopal Church, in the comprehensive and big-tent Anglican tradition, has always been a place where Democrats and Republicans worshiped together. We did not follow the lead of other churches who staked out one side of an argument and said, “This is God’s side, and if you can’t agree with this and us, you’re not welcome.” We said, “None of these issues rises to the level of schism. No matter where you stand on this hot issue or that, when we come in here, we are one in Christ. That unity is too deep to be broken over issues like this where people of good will can disagree.” So we’ve always had Republicans and Democrats worshiping together, though you know that old joke, “Why is there an altar rail in Episcopal Churches?” The answer of course is—“To separate the Democrats from the Republicans.”
But what happened in this election went beyond any norm. It wasn’t just a healthy and robust disagreement about issues and policies. The President-Elect said things that made many minorities and immigrants, people on the periphery and women feel targeted, feel afraid. Now, I know many people who voted for the President-Elect, who did so in spite of those insults, not because of them. But the effects of those words are inescapable. Mature people know: We are responsible not for what we say, but for what we are heard to say. So, when the KKK announces a Victory Parade in North Carolina, you have to acknowledge that you were heard to say that publicly hating people of color is all right again in this country. I don’t for one minute think that anyone meant to say that, but I know they were heard to say that.
You will not see me carrying a banner saying Not My President. I love this country, and whoever sits in the Oval Office is my president. But I love this country and I love the Lord too much to sit down while Jesus’ favorite people are under attack. We cannot let the atmosphere in this country get rancid and dark. It happens slowly and gradually and people begin to accept things they know are wrong because they are slowly desensitized. We cannot look at Europe in the 30’s and say, “It can’t happen here.” It can. It will. Unless we refuse to allow it.
We can disagree—even vehemently—over issues and policies, but once we start saying that “certain people” and “certain communities” are the problem, a line has been crossed. So I want to say as clearly as I can: Saint Luke’s takes no stand on any political issue, but Saint Luke’s stands for God’s righteousness and justice.
We stand, in the words of our baptismal covenant, for “the dignity of every human being.”
We stand absolutely with our beloved sister and brother Muslims.
We reject anything that demeans and commodifies women.
Saint Luke’s stands four-square against racism—even the faintest, dog-whistle kind.
Because the Hebrew Scriptures are explicit on the matter, we stand in solidarity with strangers and refugees and immigrants. We have no choice.
Saint Luke’s stands with gay and lesbian people, and with transgendered people. They are not just OK or tolerable; they are so precious and beautiful we do not want to live without them.
This is not about who you voted for.
If you voted for Hillary Clinton, you have a place at this table.
If you voted for Donald Trump, you have a place at this table.
If you voted for Jill Stein, you have a place at this table.
If you voted for Gary Johnson, you have a place at this table.
If you wrote in someone you admire and trust, you have a place at this table.
It’s not who you voted for; this is bigger than that. It is the biblical mandate to “love God and your neighbor as yourself.” It is the gospel mandate to go specifically in search of the last, the lost and the least, to guard them and cherish them within the circle of universal love.
That is what we are committed to do in this parish. We do that because all the saints have taught us by their life that to do so is to imitate the example of Christ and so receive the greatest joy of human life. We do that because those who have died and now live in the nearer presence of God are looking—as it were—over the battlements of heaven, and we cannot let them down. They are hoping we believe enough in the power of resurrection to lay down our own lives for the sake of the gospel.
With all my heart I want to do that. Will you?