Election Eve 2016

This Election eve morning I awoke to read Morning Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, this time using the mobile app from Mission St. Clare, which lays it all out for you complete with readings and hymns.

The reading from the ancient prophet Joel was a lament from the midst of the devastation caused by a plague of locusts.

Psalm 80 gave voice to a cry of help to God for a beleaguered nation set about with troubles, and the reading from the Revelation to St. John the Divine was a word to persecuted believers about the ultimate downfall of the Roman power that oppressed them.  The Gospel lesson from Luke was Jesus teaching a parable about the ultimate desire of God to set a universal banquet, and about human ambivalence toward God’s invitation.  All these readings spoke from the midst of distress and pointed in some way toward hope.

The app designers include a hymn, and today’s choice was a text by G. K. Chesterton found in our Hymnal 1982 at number 591, set to “King’s Lynn” by the Ralph Vaughan Williams, in which were here these words:

“O God of earth and altar,

bow down and hear our cry,

our earthly rulers falter,

our people drift and die;

the walls of gold entomb us,

the swords of scorn divide…”

Wow, I thought.   How appropriate these words seemed after the distress of our divisive and hateful election campaign, which the world has been watching; our enemies with delight, our allies with consternation.

The Psalmist gave voice to the cry which goes up from our hearts:

“Restore us, O God of hosts;

Show the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.”

I sat in silence for my Centering Prayer, but I wasn’t too successful quieting my mind.  Oh well, there’s always the next time.  God is always patient.

Then, on the way to work in my car, I listened to the beginning of a podcast that gave me hope.  A sociologist was interviewed.  She left her left-wing bastion of Berkeley and gave herself to five years meeting and learning from people who live in a right-wing bastion part of Louisiana.  She “turned off her alarm system” and made herself genuinely available to people whose lives she didn’t share, whose views she didn’t share, in order to honor their humanity and learn from them, face to face, about who they were.

She began with getting to know people.  She’d ask them about their birthplace, their family and their story.  Barriers would drop.

I haven’t been able to finish listening.  But I will, because it seems to me that this sociologist was practicing for five years the commitment we make in our baptismal vows to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow.  But no matter who is elected President, and no matter what happens with control of Congress, our nation is in a great crisis.  There’s a great opportunity in the crisis, which is to turn from hating one another to learning about and learning from one another.  Yes, there are people hardened into hateful positions.  But most people let down their guard when someone takes a genuine interest in them as a person.  We’ve got to come together.

The work of this sociologist sets a good example.   We’re going to have to learn to listen.  We’re going to have to own our own “confirmation bias," which is our inclination to only take in information which supports our opinions.  We’re going to have to become better people in this way.  I can take responsibility for myself.  You can take responsibility for yourself.

In order for the restoration the Psalmist prayed for to come about, we’re going to have to change.  And so I end with the last line of the first verse of G. K. Chesterton’s hymn:

“…take not thy thunder from us,

but take away our pride.”

Amen to that.

"O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."   (Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 815)

"Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen."  (Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 823)