This post is a corollary to last week’s “Sermon Prompts for the Sunday after the Cubs Win the World Series.”
There is plenty of commentary online right now assessing this week’s U.S. presidential election.
This specifically is not a political analysis of voter demographics. It is not an impassioned plea to hear a certain perspective. It is not a toast or a eulogy.
It is a resource for the many hardworking pastor-preachers whose primary responsibility is to shepherd their tired, divided, harassed, jubilant flocks this Sunday. Most congregations in America are less than 250 people. At that membership, pastors know their members on a personal level. You know who gets along with whom, who grits their teeth and bears with one another, and where people are in their spiritual growth. You also don’t have time for a one-on-one visit with every individual person to offer a uniquely tailored word of pastoral wisdom, and not everyone would want it or welcome it if you did.
Instead, you have Sunday morning: a worship service following a very tumultuous week. While the nation quarrels, the bulletin still has to be printed, the PowerPoint prepped, the hospital visits made, the insurance paperwork filled out.
What will you do with your ten or twenty or thirty minutes?
(Your sermon time is not for electoral map analysis, or partisan statements, or cheap shots, or celebratory brass bands, or an extended period of sobbing into a microphone in despair, nor is it a time for lying on the floor and preaching into the microphone, as one pastor did, before he was asked to leave and subsequently self-published a book called Screw Them All.)
*Consider how the Wesleyan Methodist viewpoint cuts through other theological responses to current events. Wesleyan theology affirms the sovereignty of God and human free will. We believe that God is all-powerful, that God is not a slow emerging of a collective consciousness of human goodwill, but rather that God was before space and time, existing in all power through eternity as Three Persons in one, Father, Son, Holy Spirit – who creates, redeems, sustains.
We also believe that the Holy Trinity is the source of the physical world, creating humans in the image of God: God created little creators. God infused us with self-directing ability. Within the universe God spun into being, we meaningfully choose. While we are not all-powerful, we have the will to engage with our world.
-that if you preach on the sovereignty and Kingship of God this Sunday, take care to that a “don’t worry, God is in control” statement is nuanced, because we, as Wesleyans, also believe that people are given free responsibility to engage their culture, meaning that human responsibility is very real.
As you preach a theocentric (God-centered) sermon, because we’re sick of an anthropocentric (human-centered) week, connect God’s power with God’s majesty. A good dose of wonder helps heal either pride or cynicism (however the listener voted). Consider the impact of texts like, “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
This doesn’t avoid practical application: listeners can be challenged to look for ways to share beauty with others during the week. If God allows red and blue states to enjoy a beautiful sunset, then we are called to share joy, beauty, and cheer with those around us, no matter what political shirt they may be wearing.
*Preach alongside a special Communion service, whether it’s normal for your monthly schedule or not. Some denominations have a pause for reconciliation (rarely utilized) in their communion liturgy. It’s not a bad idea. Usually part of this text from Matthew 5 is utilized:
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
How is it not powerful to hear a congregation pray, after a week of polarized, polemical rhetoric,
Almighty God, to you all hearts are open [significant pause]
all desires known, [significant pause]
and from you no secrets are hid: [significant pause]
Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts [significant pause]
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy Name;
through Christ our Lord. Amen.
-that your sermon balances human fallenness and sinfulness with the intervening, sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ. Allowing God to gently sift our spirits, attitudes, and beliefs keeps us from triumphing over our seeming victory or despairing too greatly over our seeming tragedy.
After a season of frustration with others, individual believers must face their own shortcomings, sinfulness, and dependence on God – not as a way to justify his or her own candidate, but out of recognition that each person contributes to our collective culture, and that each person has blind spots, prejudices, and areas where they need to grow. It is an exercise in humility.
Bonus level: Switch out a Communion service for a Foot Washing service. Make sure there is balance in leaders and laypeople, differing perspectives and backgrounds. *If you think you might be moving anyway and you don’t care: invite public officials to attend and participate.