Dear brothers and sisters,
We’re approaching the countdown to the election, and anxiety levels are high. I can’t claim to be immune. Like all of you, I have specific hopes, fears, anxieties that all hinge around what happens Tuesday night and in the days following. As a nation, we’re collectively convinced that the future of this nation and our way of life rest fully on the shoulders of the outcome. Many of you have commented to me that you’ve never seen anything like it.
I am not blessed with the gift of prophecy. I don’t know how this election will turn out. I don’t know what the aftermath will be like. I don’t know which of you, my brothers and sisters, will be relieved and which of you will be mourning. But I do know that at the heart of all this anxiety and stress and prognostication lies a temptation. We’re being encouraged, both by the rhetoric on the news and the fear in our own hearts to treat current events as if they had ultimate meaning in our lives. We’re being encouraged to view our political party as the savior of our nation, and our opponents’ party as the tool of the devil. We’re being encouraged, in other words, into idolatry.
In 470, Augustine of Hippo stood in the aftermath of the fall of Rome, in the aftermath of the end of his world, and wrote a book called The City of God. And the simple, most basic insight of that book is that the City of God is not to be identified with any of the cities of humankind, no matter how glorious, no matter what promises they might make. We work and pray - and vote - for the flourishing of our cities and our nations, but we never forget where our ultimate hope, our ultimate citizenship, lies. We never forget who is really King.
One of the greatest gifts that can be found in our Book of Confessions is the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. It runs like this:
Question: What is your only comfort in life and death?
Answer: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in
death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins
with his precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the
devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my
heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must
work together for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit he also
assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from
now on to live for him.
Our comfort and our hope rest in sure and certain trust in God’s unfailing good-will towards us.
I’m not a prophet, as I mentioned before. But I am charged with the care of your souls. And so here is my prescription: Print this thing out. Tape it on your bathroom mirror or in your car, tuck it into your pocket or your purse, memorize it if you can. We’re going to say it together in worship these next few weeks. I encourage you to join me in praying it in the morning before we watch the news or listen to the radio. And let’s not stop when the election is over. Let's keep going for at least a week afterward, when the temptation will perhaps be even greater than it is now - to unrestrained triumph for some of us, and unrestrained despair for others. In life and in death, our comfort is found not in ourselves or our leaders, but in our faithful King Jesus.
Let’s not fall into the trap of fear and despair that our politics are currently offering us. Let’s practice trust. Let’s practice hope. The God who loves us and desires our good is on the throne.
Pastor Sara Jane