I am part of a Slack group of clergy and lay people who discuss everything from evangelism to politics to what we are going to preach on Sunday.
Last week, we were agonizing over how to preach on the Sunday before this election. What do you say when everyone is so freaked out? I, personally, spend most of my days now frantically checking polls and lying in a prone position hoping for time to speed up.
My brilliant friend Holli Powell commented that as a person in the pews, all she wanted to hear from the pulpit was that Jesus was still Lord, and everything else was secondary. (She actually used slightly different words, but the sentiment was the same.) Holli is right about most things, so I tried to write that sermon.
Here’s what I said:
Rev. Megan L. Castellan
November 6, 2016
Ordinary Time, Proper 27
Luke 20: 27-38
I figured out that I did the math wrong earlier–there are actually only 2 days to the election. So how are we feeling? You panicking yet? Do you find yourself checking Fivethirtyeight.com several times a day? Have you bookmarked several polling websites to update you when something changes?
Or have you gone in the other direction–are you one of those people who has gone full news blackout, ignoring all sources of news coverage and political advertisements until after Tuesday (or whenever this thing gets called) and focusing on calming things instead. Rediscovered a love for cat GIFS?
What can I say–this is stressful. I was reading something the other day that said that psychologists are advising people to turn off the news, because they have recognized a strong uptick in ‘election anxiety’ on all sides of the political spectrum. Regardless of who you support, because we’re so polarized right now, there’s a feeling that if THIS DOESN’T GO THE RIGHT WAY, EVERYTHING WILL END FOREVER OMG. Trump supporters are convinced that if Clinton wins, the country will be plunged into a morass of taco trucks on every corner, open borders, and free healthcare for all that will bankrupt us. Clinton supporters are sure that if Trump wins, we will have political opponents thrown into jail, martial law declared, and probably a nuclear war within a month. So everyone’s biting their fingernails.
I don’t want to downplay this–elections are important, and this one is important. You need to do what you can. Go vote in two days if you haven’t already. But there’s a difference between taking something seriously and letting it overwhelm you. This election is a big deal. But once you have done your part, remember that it is not the most important thing . And remembering the scale of things when we’re panicking is vital. Especially when the world likes to hand us reasons to panic. (Looking at you, FBI director.)
Nothing the world likes better than to hand us things to freak out about–whether its polls or emails, or this thing that guy said, or OMG, what if? Because here’s how anxiety and fear work, after all.
Anxiety and fear are, ironically! much like the viral videos of adorable kittens we watch on the internet to combat anxiety and fear. For many people, our feelings of fear aren’t real until we’ve shared them with someone else…and they’ve shared them, and on and on until they go viral. Much like the viral cat videos. The number of shares builds exponentially.
So fear builds on itself–in order for one anxious person to feel even slightly better, they need to get someone else to feel scared. And so on and so on. Which is part of why, when everyone is freaked out–it’s easy to feel like everything becomes scary. FBI! QUOTES! HEADLINES! EMAILS!!!!!
Here’s the thing, though. Take a breath. (Seriously. Right now. Take a breath.) We are Christians. We follow Jesus, we take our cues from him. And that will be just as true tomrrow, and Tuesday and Wednesday as it is today, no matter what happens.
Just because the people around us right now are breathing into paper bags, does not mean we need to.
Let me point out that when the Sadduccees come up to Jesus with their smarty-pants brain teaser, this anxiety web trick was part of what they were trying to do. This theoretical idea about the resurrection, and what it would mean, was hotly debated at the time. People were really into it. So they wanted to get Jesus to side with them on this REALLY TRICKY BRAIN TEASER. They wanted Jesus to be as invested in the thing that was driving them nuts as they were.
Jesus is having none of it. Why? Because first off, the question is dumb. It’s one of those hypothetical brain teasers that doesn’t happen in real life, and doesn’t happen to real people. And there’s another problem with it too.
The Sadduccees aren’t asking because they are concerned by what will happen to the woman–about her health or wellbeing, or worried about the welfare of all those brothers. (They keep dying, for one. Don’t tell me that’s not troubling.) They are worried about proving a hypothetical. They are worried about being right, about satisfying their ego. And that, though it may worry the Sadducees, doesn’t worry Jesus.
Jesus, as it turns out, is worried about other things. Preaching the gospel. Feeding the hungry. Helping the sick. Freeing the oppressed. Showing the love of God. Those things that are real, are important, and that continue whether or not this hypothetical thing they’re scared of happens or not.
Because whether or not this Sadduccee’s brain teaser comes true or not, Jesus will still have a call. And so will we. No matter what happens on Tuesday, we still will have a job to do. Jesus will still be Jesus. God will still be God. And we will still be called to do what we have always been called to, no matter what happens around us. We will still need to preach the gospel, to feed the hungry, to care for the sick, to free the oppressed, to show the love of God. No matter what. That’s the most important thing.
So on Tuesday, go vote. Do your part. And then, think of those big, reassuring letters from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and “don’t panic.” And when we get up on Wednesday, we are just going to go out and follow Jesus like we’ve been doing. Because God will still be God. And God does not abandon his people.