Saturday, November 22, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise

Psalm 100

The news is bad. Jobs are being lost, homes foreclosed, there are wars on two fronts – of course gas prices have gone down. Things have gotten so bad that this might be a good year to cancel Thanksgiving. I mean, how do you give thanks when the world seems to be crumbling in around you? And yet, giving thanks is something we should do only when the news is good?

Whether or not we feel in the Thanksgiving mood, the holiday is upon us and we’re being asked to give thanks. The truth is, if we’re willing to pay attention to our lives, I expect that every day produces something for which we can give thanks. Consider this statement by Jimmy Carter:
When we wake up in the morning, when we meet a friend, when someone lends us a hand, when one of our children or grandchildren expresses love, when we go to a job that is gratifying, when an unanticipated opportunity arises, when we see a beautiful sky, or when we have any kind of exciting experience -- all of these are opportunities to give God the credit and acknowledge God's greatness. It's a good habit to develop.1


I. CALLED TO CELEBRATE

The 100th Psalm begins with a command:

"Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!"
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

The invitation is clear and bold. Come and join with all of God’s creation in giving praise and thanksgiving to God. And what better way is there to give praise than to break out in song? Perhaps, with Isaiah, we could join with "the mountains and the hills [that] will break forth before you and all the trees of the field will clap, will clap their hands" (Based on Is. 55). Today and every day, we can join with the mountains and the hills, the rivers and the streams, the deer and the antelope, the elephant and the mouse, in giving praise to God
“We may plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the ground, but it is God who feeds and waters them by sending snow in winter and warmth to swell the grain.”
We give thanks today, because “all good gifts around us are sent from heaven above.”2

It is true, there is a time for silence, but today is not that time. Today is the day to make a joyful noise before God. To paraphrase the 150th Psalm, let’s not just shout out our songs, but let’s break out the trumpet and the trombone, the lute and the harp, the guitar and the saxophone, the drums and the cymbals, the organ and the piano, because, the Psalmist says "let everything that breathes praise the Lord!" (Ps. 150)

II. BECAUSE WE BELONG TO GOD!

But again, things aren’t going so well, so why should we make a joyful noise? Here is the answer from the Psalmist: “Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his” (Ps. 100:3). We come to give thanks because God is our creator. He is the potter and we’re the clay. We’re the sheep of God’s pasture and we live under God’s care. We may be free, but true freedom is found not in self-fulfillment but in submission to God. As Paul said:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; Therefore, glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

As we worship and give thanks to God, we are acknowledging God's claim on our lives. Worship reminds us that we must trust our hopes for the future to the care of another who is the creator of all things. In worship we acknowledge that God is the source of our identity. Or, as Augustine said: “our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in God.”


III. BECAUSE GOD IS FAITHFUL

The reason we come today to give thanks to God is that God is faithful. As the Psalmist puts it: “God’s steadfast love will endure forever.” As we’ve been hearing lately, God’s timing might be different from ours, but God is faithful to God’s promises.

To put this another way, consider the parable of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go out and look for the one that has strayed. Why would the shepherd do this? I think that the reason is that the shepherd doesn’t want to lose even one lamb. This lamb needs to be brought back into the fold so that the flock can be made whole once again (Matthew 18:10:14). In another place Jesus says that God sends down the rain on the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). What does that mean? Doesn’t it mean that God is faithful and that wherever there is life, God is already present. In this there is blessing and a reason to give thanks.

IV. LET US WORSHIP AND CELEBRATE!

The Westminster Shorter Catechism asks: “What is humankind's chief end? “ In other words, what’s our purpose in life? The answer is simple, yet profound: “The chief end of human kind is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.” Nothing else takes precedence over our calling to glorify God and enjoy God’s presence forever.

I like to think of the Christian life in terms of a journey. To be a Christian is to set out on an adventure, an adventure that can be challenging, but rarely boring. It has its quiet moments, of course, but it’s a journey into lands unknown. At times this journey can be a bit overwhelming, but the promise of God is this: Despite the odds, we won’t be tested beyond God’s abilities.

For this we give thanks. It is, as theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it: We should give thanks for the Christian community in which we find ourselves, “even when there are no great experiences, no noticeable riches, but much weakness, difficulty and little faith.” And, if we complain that life is miserable, that it doesn’t measure up to our expectations, then “we hinder God from letting our community grow according to the measure and riches that are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” 3

The good news is this: As we take this journey of life, a journey that can be both dull and overwhelming, we travel in the company of the community of faith. This community, can and will support us and encourage us along the way. In the moment that we understand this truth, we can break out in songs of praise and thanksgiving. As we do this, we will begin to recognize the movement of God in our midst.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I don’t know what your plans are. Maybe you’ll stay home and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade or watch a few football games. Or, maybe you’ll head downtown and take in the 82nd America’s Thanksgiving Parade. Perhaps you’ll be gathering at a table for some Turkey and Dressing. Whatever you decide to do on Thursday, won’t you join me in giving thanks to God with a joyful heart. Why? Because God is faithful and will be present with us.

As you break forth in praise, maybe you’ll begin singing the Doxology – which is after all a song of Thanksgiving.

Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye Heavenly Host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.


1. Jimmy Carter, Sources of Strength, (New York: Times Books, 1997), 168-69.
2. Stephen Schwartz, “All Good Gifts,” in Chalice Praise, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2005), 110.
3. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press), 5:37.


Preached by:
The Rev. Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
Thanksgiving Sunday
November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Full Life

Luke 2:25-35

What makes for a full life?

The film The Bucket List, starring two of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, explores this question in a humorous and yet poignant way. Two men from the opposite ends of the social spectrum and yet both suffering from terminal cancer, share a hospital room. One is white and rich and self-absorbed. The other is Black, blue collar and extremely well read. Despite their social differences, they share a common fate. Death will come sooner than later. Their conversation is sparse at first, but after a while and a bit of annoyance – Morgan Freeman’s character has a lot more visitors – they begin to talk, and the conversation drifts to the meaning of life. Freeman’s character, Carter Chambers, mentions a bucket list. A bucket list is a list of the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket.” Carter is working on his, knowing that he has neither the time nor the money to do everything on the list. Edward Cole, Nicholson’s character, may not have much time, but he does have the funds. And so they begin to work on a joint bucket list, and then slip out of the hospital and begin a grand final journey. In the end, they discover that the most important thing in life is relationships – including the friendship that develops between them.

This morning we read about a baby and an older man. They have little in common – and yet their story raises the question: What makes for a full life?

1. Delayed Gratification

As we ponder the question of life’s meaning and purpose, we must acknowledge that we live in an age of instant gratification. Ours is a world of fast food, microwaves, and the cell phone. We know what we want and we want it now.

I’ve found many of the responses to the recent election very interesting. Already, even before Barack Obama has taken the oath of office, people are lining up and laying out their demands and expectations. They want solutions and they want them now – even though he’s not yet President. It would seem that his leash is short. But, in an age of instant gratification, should we expect anything else?

Last week’s text talks about a groom that was late to his wedding. That parable reminds us that the things of God come in their own time. This morning’s text is out of place – it belongs after Christmas. I know that the Christmas shopping season has begun, but are we ready for a post-Christmas message?

In this passage we find the holy family offering the purification sacrifice in the Temple. As they leave, an elderly man comes up to them and asks to hold the baby. This man’s name is Simeon, and many years before Simeon had received a vision that he wouldn’t die until he saw the “consolation of Israel.” He had lived his life in anticipation of this event, and as Luke tells the story, on this particular day, the Holy Spirit led him to the Temple and to the baby Jesus. In this baby, he comes face to face with his savior.

His long wait was over. The one major item on his bucket list could be checked off. His hope had been fulfilled – he could say that he’d truly lived a full life. Although it would be many years before this child could fulfill his own destiny, for Simeon, this was enough. He could go to his death in peace, knowing that he had seen the salvation of Israel and of the world.

2. A Broad Vision

As Simeon takes the baby Jesus in his arms, he offers a word of blessing. This child, he proclaims, will be “a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” But there is a dark side to this word of promise – for as Simeon tells the parents of this child – He will be God’s means of salvation, but the world will oppose and resist him, and that will be like “a sword [that] will pierce your own soul too.” This is the way life is – it’s full of difficult turns and delays. Be forewarned: very often the journey of life will be difficult. There is no fullness without a struggle.

Despite the delays and the difficulties, Simeon offers us a broad vision of God’s work in the world. This baby is both Israel’s messiah and a “light for revelation to the Gentiles.” In him there is salvation – that is, in him we find reconciliation, healing, and hope. For Jesus, this is the beginning of a journey that will lead to his death, but death leads to resurrection – and in this there is hope. This is the missional journey that we have been invited to join.

3. The Implications for Stewardship

This is supposed to be the final week of our stewardship campaign. Like the passage that we read the first week of this campaign, the Magnificat of Mary, at first glance this text seems to have little to do with stewardship? There isn’t any talk here about money, no message about cheerful giving, or even giving up everything you own to follow Jesus. And yet, it has something very important to say about stewardship.

This passage speaks to stewardship because it raises the question of values. As we look at Simeon’s dedication, we’re asked the question – what do we value most? What are we willing to give our lives to and for?

This morning we come to offer up our purification sacrifice. In a few moments you will be invited to come forward, bringing your offering and your annual pledge. We come today, led by the Holy Spirit, to discern what God would have us do, what commitments we’ve been called to make – whether it is money or time or talent. Ours is a missional journey that leads to a full and vigorous life. The world may not see this as the full life, but as we take the journey together, even as Carter and Ed took their journey, we will discover what it means to live a full life.

Over the past four weeks we’ve heard from members of this church about the meaning of giving – both of money and time. We’ve been told how stewardship can be a blessing to our lives, and we’ve been reminded of how important it is to support the work of this church. We bring this effort to a close this morning, even as we ponder what it means to live life fully.

Simeon’s own journey reminds us that what lies ahead is rooted in what has come before. It’s rooted in a heritage, in the actions and the gifts of others who believed in God’s purpose. We are the beneficiaries of their gifts and calling. But the story doesn’t end with the gifts of yesterday. Simeon himself understood, that God’s blessings didn’t end with him. God called him to bear witness to a ministry that would bring light to the world. We continue to bear witness to that light that come to us in the person of Jesus.

To live fully in the presence of God is to bear witness to God’s work in the world. This witness comes in many forms – and it involves both our time and our money. It is a calling that will takes us beyond these walls to invest in God’s work here in Troy, in Greater Detroit, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). As we consider our own call to stewardship, the question is this: At the end of our days, may we be able to say with Simeon: “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace?”

Preached by:
The Rev. Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
November 16, 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wedding Bells

Matthew 25:1-13

It’s important that you not be late to a wedding, especially if it’s your own. If you’re a bridesmaid, and you’re late, you might as well go home!

Over the years I’ve been to, been in, and presided over many weddings, so I have a few tales to tell. On one occasion I was sitting in the office with the groom and best man, waiting for the bridal party to arrive. You see this bridal party had decided to get ready at home and come in the limo dressed to go! Well, after some delay word came that one of the bride’s maids had gotten sick, and the limo had returned to the house. We finally got the wedding started, about an hour late. I’ve had to chase down fathers’ of the bride, groomsmen, and even brides maids. It’s not pretty when things go wrong! Fortunately, Bryan and Felicia’s wedding came off without a hitch – in spite of the rain!

1. The Kingdom of God is:

Jesus talked a lot about the kingdom of God, or as Matthew puts it, the Kingdom of Heaven. Both phrases refer to the same thing. Jesus came, Matthew tells us, to proclaim God’s reign in all of its fullness. Jesus often uses parables to describe God’s coming reign.

In this parable, Jesus says that the kingdom of God is like a wedding that’s been delayed. In this case it’s the groom who’s late, and the bride’s maids are ready and waiting for his arrival. Unfortunately, the groom is delayed, not just an hour, but hours upon hours, and as the night dragged on, the bride’s maids fell asleep. I must say, that’s not the kind of wedding I want to perform!

If you’re like me, you probably don’t like delays. We get antsy when an airplane flight gets delayed, especially if we have to make connections. Waiting for the doctor is no fun and when we’re hungry, a delay in serving dinner can make us quite grumpy. Delays can cause complacency and even sleepiness. The longer the delay, the more distracted we get, which is why military units can’t stay on high alert for long periods. After awhile, they lose their edge, their cohesiveness, and their attentiveness. At some point they have to stand down and relax.

The kingdom of God, however, is like a wedding that’s been delayed indefinitely. And yet, the groom could arrive at any moment and we must be ready when he arrives.

As we listen to this parable, what is Jesus telling us about the kingdom? I hear three things: Be ready, be prepared, and be engaged.

2. The Kingdom of God Requires of Us:

  • Be Ready
Fires don’t usually occur at convenient times. They can start just as easily at 3:00 A.M. as 10 A.M.. That means that fire fighters have to be ready to go no matter what time it is when the bell rings. They can sleep and play games, but when the bell rings, they had better be ready to go. I’ve known some fire fighters, and they tell me that their life is kind of like the bride’s maids in this parable. It’s all hurry up and wait. But, when the action comes, it will come without warning! And that’s the way it is with the kingdom of God. When God calls, we need to be ready!

  • Be Prepared

Getting back to the wedding for a moment, if you’ve ever planned and prepared for one, you know that it can be a time-consuming and complex process – especially if the prospective groom wants to get into the action. You have to pick out the dress, the tux, and the clothes for the attendants. There’s the wedding and reception sites to book. Honeymoons have to be planned, and invitations must be ordered and mailed. None of this happens overnight, unless you decide to elope to Las Vegas. And since this is Michigan, even that takes some planning! So, if the groom is late, someone’s going to pay!

In this wedding story the groom is delayed, but we’re not told why. In fact, we don’t even know where the bride is. Not only that, this wedding is so delayed that the bride’s maids fall asleep. A funny thing, though, some of the attendants plan ahead and bring extra oil for their lamps. So, when the groom arrives, they can light their lamps. But the others didn’t plan so well, and when the groom arrived, they couldn’t light their lamps. I don’t know what the first group knew about the groom, but they were prepared. What is interesting is that both the wise and the foolish bride’s maids want to be at the wedding, but only the ones who are prepared get to go in. The message – be like the Boy Scouts, and be prepared.

  • Be engaged

I don’t know about you, but I find this parable a bit disturbing. For one thing, it threatens my theology of inclusion. I hate to hear about people getting left out, especially if they really want to be there. I don’t have a good answer to why they’re excluded. I’ve looked for answers, but the experts are as stumped as I am!

But for a moment I’d like us to set aside that question and focus on what Jesus seems to be saying in this parable and the ones that surround it. All of them seem to say: be prepared, stay ready, and keep your trust in God, so that on the day of judgment you’ll be found worthy. One of the parables talks about how we use our money, and another one talks about signs and warnings that seem strange and yet so common. I think the message here is this: Things will look normal until the very end, so don’t procrastinate, just be ready when the time comes.

As I read this parable, I must ask myself: Am I wise or am I a fool? I suppose how I answer that question depends on the day and the hour. Some days are better than others. Another parable asks the question: Are you a faithful servant whom Jesus will find at hard at work when he returns? I wish I could answer that question with certainty, “why yes, I’ll be busy with the Lord’s work when he returns.” But, can I answer in that way?

By the time this gospel is written, it’s been half a century since Jesus walked the earth. The people had been waiting expectantly, hoping and praying for the kingdom to arrive. They assumed it was just around the corner, and yet here they were, still waiting. Some of them had given up hope and let the flame burn out. But others remained faithful – waiting patiently for the kingdom to arrive in its fullness.

Well, it’s now been 2000 years and counting, and the groom hasn’t arrived. Everything’s ready – the cake and band – even the bride is ready, but the groom has yet to arrive. It’s getting late, and we’re getting sleepy. That cake doesn’t look quite as fresh as it did earlier, and the flowers are starting to wilt. The band is distracted. And yet, everyone is still hoping that the wedding will take place.

Maybe the oil is the key to this passage. It’s the lack of oil that gets one group of bride’s maids in trouble. What did the ones who were prepared know that the others didn’t, and why wouldn’t the wise ones share?

Maybe part of the answer can be found at the end of this chapter, in a parable about sheep and goats. In that parable we hear the goats say to the judge: “Lord, Lord,” but the judge ignores them. Why? Because they failed to take care of Jesus when he was in need. The goats say: “wait a minute, when was that? When did we find you in need and didn’t take care of you?” Jesus answers: You failed when you ignored the cries of the least among you (Mt. 25:31ff.).

Could the oil in this parable be the acts of compassion that God seems to require of us? You can’t just go out and buy acts of compassion at the end of the day. They have to be part of who you are as a person. As James puts it, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-17). It’s not enough, James says, to have faith, true faith must be engaged in acts of compassion.
In thinking about this somewhat troubling parable, I started thinking about ministries that truly express God’s compassion. I thought about a ministry sponsored by First Christian Church of Tucson called Humane Borders. Among other things, Humane Borders puts water out in the desert so that migrants crossing the border won’t die of thirst in the desert. I know that our nation’s border policies are controversial, but the reality is that people are crossing the border looking for a better life, and many of them will die of thirst in the desert heat. Is this not what Jesus is talking about in the parable of the sheep and the goats? You don’t have to agree with why these migrants are crossing the border to understand how offering a cup of water not only saves a life, but ministers to Jesus.

When I hear this parable in the context of a theology of inclusion, I hear good news. I know that we preachers tend to moralize, and that it’s easy to lay guilt trips on people. That’s not what I want to do today. But I do want us to hear the sense of urgency in this call to engage in compassionate ministry. When the groom arrives, will we be ready and found worthy?


Preached by:
The Rev. Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
November 9, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

God and Politics: Oh My !!!

Matthew 22:15-22

Cheryl and I recently attended the Troy Community Coalition’s annual Celebrity Dinner , and were seated next one of Troy’s City Council members. When one of our table companions realized that there was a politician and a preacher at the table, he said: “I guess we can’t talk about religion or politics tonight.”

As you know religion and politics are forbidden topics in polite company, but I love to talk about both of them. I don’t have a choice about the one – I’m a preacher after all – but I’ve been interested in politics for as long as I can remember. My childhood dream wasn’t to grow up a be a preacher, it was to grow up and be a politician. As you can see, I didn’t fulfill my dream of being a Congressman, but I still love politics.

Unless you’ve already voted, I expect that most of us will be going to the polls on Tuesday. The issues before us are many. There are ballot measures, local and state races, and of course there’s that historic presidential election. I must confess, that part of me wants to tell you how you should vote on Tuesday. But, don’t worry, I’m not going to do that, and it’s not just because the IRS might take away our tax exempt status. Still, even if it’s not the place of the church to tell you how to vote, shouldn’t our faith have some role in how we vote?

I. RELIGION AND POLITICS DON'T MIX

History suggests that it’s not a good idea to mix religion and politics. It’s bad for religion and it’s bad for politics. That’s why our nation’s founders were smart to put some boundaries between the two. First, they rejected religious tests for public office. And when they drew up the Bill of Rights, the very first amendment protected our right to freely exercise our religious faith. To make sure that this happened, they also rejected state establishment of religion. Over the years these boundaries have been tested, as candidates and political parties, on the one hand, and religious leaders and groups, on the other, have pushed the envelope. For the most part these efforts at merging church and state have failed, and even when they succeeded, they usually ended badly – damaging both church and state. I believe that faith has a place in the public square; the question is: what is the nature of that place?

As biblical people, we look to Scripture for guidance. But, when it comes to religion and politics, Scripture doesn’t always give clear and consistent answers. Part of the problem is that the contexts are very different. The Old Testament speaks of theocracy and monarchy, while Jesus and the early Christians always seemed to be getting in trouble with the law. Although Paul fared better than most, even his Roman citizenship didn’t keep him alive in the end.

Although we have to be careful in how we interpret and apply the biblical text to our own situation, both Jesus and Paul had interesting things to say about religion and politics. Most of us are probably familiar with Paul’s advice in Romans 13. He told his followers to obey the law and keep their heads down. Submit to the authorities, he wrote, because they come from God, and so if you resist them, you’re resisting God (Rom. 13:1ff). That sounds good in theory, but remember that Paul wasn’t talking about a democracy, he was talking about a totalitarian state. Besides, if you apply Romans 13 literally to American history, we could still be a British colony.

II. OH, AND WHAT ABOUT TAXES?

Jesus may have said that his kingdom is not of this world, but he also made some interesting political statements. In fact, he even had something to say about taxes, a topic that is central to the current presidential race. But when it comes to taxes, I don’t know that Jesus had to say is going to be very popular.

In our text this morning, some community leaders, both religious and political, come to Jesus and ask him if it’s lawful to pay taxes to the emperor. This was a tricky question to answer, because if Jesus said yes, he’d look like a Roman stooge. But, if he said no, he could be charged with treason. So, like a good politician, Jesus asked for a coin, pointed to it, and asked: “Whose image is on it?” They said, Caesar’s, and he answered: Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.

That may sound simple enough – Pay your taxes and pay your tithes! But was he saying something more? As we ponder this question, we may begin to see some important implications for how church and state should relate to each other. In many ways it would seem that he is keeping them separate. History has shown that Christians have often tried to merge the two, with disastrous consequences. Martin Luther and Henry VIII tried to resolve the tension between church and state, by putting the church under the state. Catholics of that era, liked it the other way around, but even they found it difficult to resist the power of the government. Martin Luther King, on the other hand, saw things a bit differently. He believed that people of faith were called to speak truth to power. Stirred by his faith he became a leader in the Civil Rights movement, and because of his leadership, which was rooted in his faith, he helped change America for the better.

III. BEARING THE IMAGE OF GOD

I want to go back to what Jesus said to the religious and political leaders who came to test him. Remember what he said abut the coin – whose image is on it? The answer is Caesar’s. As we get ready to cast our votes on Tuesday, perhaps Jesus would invite us to pull out a dollar bill to see whose image is on it. I think you’ll find that George Washington’s face is on that bill.

Although the question is left unstated, when Jesus said that we should give to God, that which is God’s, he was asking about where the image of God could be found. I think it would be appropriate for us to remember on Tuesday, that humanity bears God’s image. Therefore, even though we may owe taxes to Caesar, we owe our lives to God. When it comes to ultimate loyalty, Caesar doesn’t rate, and as we’ve been learning in our study of Acts, when human authority conflicts with God’s, we must obey God.

Of course, it’s not always easy to know where to draw the line. We may not all agree as to when and where God and Caesar are in conflict. Because we live in a pluralistic society, we can’t impose our religiously inspired views on everybody else – but our thoughts and actions should be guided by our faith.

How then should we approach this election as followers of Jesus? It is my belief that we must start by recognizing that if our first loyalty is to God, then we must first of all be loyal to those who bear God’s image. That means that our first loyalty is to humanity, and only then to family, tribe, and nation. I’m proud to be an American; I’m even wearing a patriotic tie this morning. But, my first loyalty isn’t to the nation, but to all of God’s creation. If this is true, then what should we do on Tuesday? Here is my answer, though I must borrow from Paul and say: I don’t have a firm word from God, but here is my opinion!

1) Go vote on November 4th. Neither Jesus nor Paul had a choice in their governing authorities, but we do! I know that not everybody agrees with me on this, but it’s my personal belief (and again, I don’t have any word from God on this), that if you don’t vote – don’t complain!

2) Vote Your conscience, informed by your faith. Again, I know that we don’t all agree on how we should vote on the candidates or the issues. Although I’ve made my choice, I can’t tell you how you should vote. Neither can I, nor should I, bar someone from serving in this church or taking communion because they vote differently from me. Therefore, this is my suggestion – as you decide how to vote, remember the second great commandment: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. Then, as you vote, consider your neighbor’s welfare, and also remember that Jesus had a very broad definition of the neighbor. You might even go further, and remember that Jesus said: Love your enemies and do good to those who despise you. As we’re pondering the meaning of these statements, we should ask: how do these statements of Jesus speak to the issues of today, whether they be stem cells, war, health care, jobs, bail outs, immigration, and taxes, just to name a few? I don’t know how Jesus would vote, but as I vote, I can take into consideration his teachings and the way he lived.

3) Put loyalty to God above loyalty to the nation. God isn't an American, and so even if God does bless our nation, then shouldn’t we be good stewards of those blessings and use them to benefit all of God’s creation.

4) Recognize the prophetic nature of the Christian faith. When the church gets too cozy with the governing authorities – whether they’re Republican or Democrat, Conservative or liberal – we lose our ability to speak prophetically. In ancient Israel, there were two kinds of prophets. Those that worked for the government and those that didn’t. Usually it was the independent prophet who spoke for God.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote on Tuesday. I’m not even going to tell you, at least not from the pulpit, how I’m going to vote on Tuesday. But when I go to the polls, I will go as a Christian living in an increasingly pluralistic America. I will try to vote my conscience, hopefully guided by the commandment to love my neighbor. And, I will also remember the distinction that Jesus made between God and Caesar.


Preached by:
The Rev. Dr. Robert D. Cornwall
Pastor, Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Troy, Michigan
November 2, 2008