Benedictus

I’ve heard it said that it is not proper to mix religion and politics. Maybe that comes from the insistence, from the beginning, on protecting our right to live out our religious beliefs without interference from the state. Of course, all rights come with responsibilities and foremost among them is that we exercise our rights without harming other’s rights. Two things about this. First, this means things will always be messy. They will always involve the hermeneutic of human experience. Second, this means the rule of law is key to it’s success.

I have been asked how one should vote. I’m guessing I’m asked that question because I’m a Christian Pastor and that perhaps there is a Christian way of voting. I know many pastors believe there is a Christian way of voting.

But even there, depending how one interprets scripture the conclusion one might reach with regards voting could be different. That makes sense. Not all Christians interpret scripture in the same way. Some take scripture literally, and think of it being inerrant. Others see it as parabolic story, a collection inspired over 1000 years, written by many.

The core of Christian teaching is pretty simple. At least according to what Jesus said. Love God, Love neighbor. Love self. Love even your enemy. Care for one another. Share that love and care with others, especially strangers. Whatever you do to others, you are doing it to Jesus.

When we gather in worship we offer thanks for all God is doing in our lives. We strengthen ourselves through Word and Sacrament for our faith journey, and we depart to bring a message of good news to all we meet.

As a pastor, I usually conclude worship with a benediction.

It is a Latin word benedictus, formed from two Latin words, bene, to wish well, bless, and dicere, to say, speak. Benediction means to speak well of, or wish well, to bless.

During the recent Republican Convention the meaning of benediction took a turn. For the worse.

Now, I can understand people who are passionate about one political party or another, one political candidate or another. I even get the fact that our disagreements can often be loud and strong. Isn't there a way we can move from this demonizing polarization, both politically and religiously, to a more mature way of agreeing to disagree respectfully.

Or are we so convinced that we hold an absolute truth, that we will abandon our humanity for the sake of it. Isn’t that idolatry?

When I think of how we might disagree while being respectful, I think of conversations my dad, uncle and grandmother had at family gatherings. My uncle is a retired Methodist Minister. My dad was quite well read, and was a devout Christian. My grandmother, who lived to be 102, had read the Bible cover to cover every year since she had been a teen. When we got together for family gatherings the three of them usually wound up discussing some theological issue or another.

On one occasion it was about heaven. They went back and forth, my highly educated theological uncle, my faithful dad, and my grandmother who simply read the Bible a lot. I can still hear my uncle exclaim after much discussion, and disagreement, “Mom, I know when I die you are going to be standing at those Gates to Heaven, saying, ‘I told you so!’” They would all laugh and hug.

And that was that.

And, so, to you all, those who agree with me and especially those who do not:

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen.