O Lord, uphold Thou me, that I may uplift Thee. Amen.
Week before last, on the day after the election, we held three services in the Cathedral for people to come together and pray for our nation, to pray for one another, to find strength in our God who is beyond all elections. Bishop Mariann spoke at each service and offered words of comfort and faith. It was a difficult day. Many of the people who attended were seemingly in shock. There were tears, sadness and grief. Others were just quiet and seemed to relish a chance to sit and pray. Throughout the day I could feel a palpable sense of exhaustion from people after this long and brutal election season where so much has been said and done in the name of winning.
All that day, as we did our best to be pastorally present to everyone who came through our doors, I wondered what I could say on this Sunday that might be helpful? When there is much pain and grief on one side and such a sense of vindication against all odds on the other side, when we are so fractured as a nation, what could I say that might make a difference? Late on that Wednesday night, right before going to bed, I picked up the readings for this Sunday and I was struck by their power and relevance. I realized at that moment that I don’t have to say anything special; all I need to do is let the Gospel speak for itself. I don’t have to have the answers; Jesus has already given us all the answers we need.
Today is the last Sunday of the Church year. Next week Advent begins and we turn our attention toward Bethlehem in preparation to receive the Christ child. But today is traditionally known as Christ the King Sunday, the day when we take a last shot at proclaiming who Jesus is and why he should be the King of our hearts and souls. On this Christ the King Sunday, our Gospel begins in the midst of Jesus’ crucifixion. It is a stark and frightening scene full of grief, loss and death. Jesus’ disciples have left him; they have run away to hide in fear because the man they loved, the man they dedicated their lives to, was being executed and with him all their hopes and dreams. They mistakenly believed Jesus’ crucifixion was the end, the final scene for a good man unjustly put to death. They fled because they had no hope. What they did not realize was that in Jesus they had the incarnation of a compassionate God whose primary work is one of love and redemption. What they did not realize was that this God of love is also a God of hope. What they did not realize was that death, loss and grief do not have the last word. What they did not realize is that the God they loved is a God of resurrection. What they could not see was that three days later the tomb would be empty and Christ the King would rise from the dead.
My brothers and sisters, on this last Sunday of the church year, we proclaim that we are heirs of a faith grounded in hope, a faith grounded in the knowledge that Easter Day follows Good Friday, that love is more powerful than hate, and that in the end love wins. Because of the resurrection, the arc of history does indeed bend toward justice. Christ has risen from the dead and all things will be reconciled to God. Therefore, whether we are relieved and glad that our candidate won, or crushed and sad that our candidate lost, the bottom line is – our faith proclaims that in the end all that separates us from one another will one day be redeemed by God (as the collect says) whose will is to restore all things in Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Now please understand me, I am not trying to gloss over the terrible and destructive things that were said during this election. I am not trying to sugar coat anything. There can be no place in our national discourse for the belittling of women, the marginalization of immigrants and minorities, or the shaming of people different from us. We have to stand against this kind of behavior wherever it rears its ugly head, but we have to do so with love, because we follow the King of love. I am sure many of you heard about the vandalism that took place at Church of our Savior last Sunday. Members of the church arrived on Sunday morning to discover “Trump Nation – Whites Only” scrawled on the side of their sanctuary and on a banner welcoming immigrants. As a congregation whose members are 80% immigrant, I can only imagine how many in the church must have been frightened to see such words. But the way they responded is what matters to me. They responded with love. Rather than lash out, they created their own signs proclaiming that “Love Wins” and inviting others to leave messages of hope, peace and care for all God’s children. They didn’t shrink back in fear, instead they stepped forward in love. This is what it means to follow Christ our King.
In 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a sermon entitled, “Love Your Enemies.” In that sermon King said, “Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. . . (But) love has within it a redemptive power. . . a power that eventually transforms individuals. . . Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption.”
My friends, on this Christ the King Sunday we know how the story ends. We know that on the other side of the cross there is an empty tomb. We know that in the end love wins. So, when we reach out to one another, when we strive to love and understand those we disagree with, those we do not like, even those who would be our enemies, we know we are doing the work that matters, we know we are on the right side of history. Donald Trump’s campaign said that we need to make America great again. I’m not sure I know what that slogan means. I agree we need to make America great, but when was the “again?” When was the time in our history that we need to get back to? There were times when America was great for some of us, but I don’t know a time when it was great for all of us. Every era of our brief history is riddled with the reality of oppression, discrimination, and the existence of second class citizens. As the Rev. Adam Hamilton pointed out in his sermon last week, America will be great when we actually live out the command of our God to love our neighbor as ourselves. America will be great when we actually love our enemies, when we care for the marginalized, the vulnerable, the weak. America will be great when we can live into our highest ideals that all people are created equal, when, as Dr. King said, people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Until that day comes we all have a lot of work to do.
So, for those of us who are pleased with the election results, who feel that we have made the right choice for our nation, remember that the King who lays claim to our lives, by virtue of our baptisms, is a King who demands that we love our enemies, that we care for the least of these, that we welcome the outcast and the stranger. And for those of us who feel deep grief and sadness because we believe our nation has made the wrong choice, remember that the King who lays claim to our lives, by virtue of our baptisms, is a King who prays for those who would hurt him, a King who gives of himself even to the point of crucifixion, a King who faces the worst that the world has to throw at him and rises to love and serve even those who would take his life.
In the days and weeks ahead, let us pray for President-Elect Trump. Pray for his wellbeing. Pray for him to fulfill his duties with compassion and honor. Pray for him to govern in a way that protects the welfare of every American. Pray as well for those appointed to serve in his government that they will carry out their responsibilities with grace. And finally, pray that those of us who follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords will have the courage and the strength to actually live out our faith. Because, as the Psalmist reminds us this morning, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth be moved, and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea; though its waters rage and foam, and though the mountains tremble at its tumult. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.” Amen.
 MLK, “Love Your Enemies” Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, on 17 November 1957.