Park Hill Congregational UCC
Rev. Dr. David Bahr
November 8, 2020
“Thank You for Voting”
Joshua 24: 14-25 – New Revised Standard Version
“Now therefore revere the Lord and serve in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 Now if you are unwilling, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17 for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. The Lord protected us along all the way and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18 and drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, our God.”
19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, a holy God, a jealous God; who will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then God will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” 22 Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve God.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23 He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” 24 The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve and obey.” 25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.
You know what this election means? As Van Jones said tearfully on CNN, it’s easier being a parent this morning because I can tell my kids, being a good person matters. Telling the truth matters.
The margins may seem razor thin because of the electoral college, which, we remember, was born out of the wishes of slaveholders; yet, despite every voter suppression tactic and literally the risk of death, the margin really was 4 million. Not a few thousand but over four million more Americans voted to save the planet,
With record turnout, Americans voted to constrain white supremacists and denounce so-called “very fine” neo-nazis and stop the chaos, corruption, and greed. To save democracy.
This morning, we can finally stop holding our breath and exhale, because:
As Yascha Mounk said in The Atlantic, “Although the nation’s deep problems won’t vanish, the next president will undoubtedly work to tackle those problems rather than downplay the danger still posed by the global pandemic, to improve rather than imperil the lives of immigrants and minorities, and to unite rather than divide Americans.”
That’s because you did your part. Voting in Colorado might not quite feel like we did a lot to tip the national scales, but we will now have paid family and medical leave for everyone in the state.
I’m grateful we could support another to enact the faith of progressive Christians. Let’s be clear: Not to elect someone from one party over another, but to seek more compassion by whatever means available to us. An act of faith, a means to bring more justice. More kindness, generosity, and love.
And I’m grateful that we could support one another through our Park Hill 2.0 congregation that extends to Wisconsin and Texas and South Carolina and Florida and Alaska and Iowa and Ohio and Arizona and Montana… And the Western Slope. The first text I received on Saturday was from our member Lori Fell who lives in Pennsylvania. Perhaps you felt like a very small dot in a vast ocean, but you are an island of welcome and reprieve and for that we say, thank you. We are grateful to be on this journey together.
So, to everyone, thank you for voting. Thank you for sitting at your kitchen table and reading those voluminous blue voter guides to offer a reasoned response to every ballot question. And around the country, thank you to all who stood in long lines, insisting and resisting attempts to suppress the vote.
Thank you to members of our congregation, like Eileen McCarron who was a precinct captain in charge of motivating people to vote.
And canvassers like Sarah Johnson who spent the better part of their days knocking on doors, texting, and calling to encourage people to vote. She told everyone, I don’t care who you vote for, just vote. And had some interesting conversations along the way about exactly that.
Thank you to Laura Harris and Kat Gaskins and Sue Wofford and more of you who wrote hundreds of postcards.
Thank you to poll workers and election judges and volunteer attorney’s like Lily Alves Bane who juggled her already full plate of kids at home from school and full time employment to provide legal services to ensure fair elections.
Many more of you spent your last few days, weeks, and months doing exactly the same. Really, for four years. Remember all those Indivisible meetings? The Women’s Marches, March for Our Lives, March for Science, the march down Colfax where we were drenched in pouring rain after Charlottesville. Thank you.
Thank you to 144,963,305 voters and still counting – a remarkable increase of 16 million voters from 4 years ago. And that is thanks to heroes like Stacy Abrams, the daughter of two Methodist preachers, whose life-mission has been to enfranchise voters, one by one, until she could build a coalition large enough so that people who assumed they had little or no power could speak truth.
Stacy was walking in the shoes of Shirley Chisholm and Fannie Lou Hamer. At the time their candidacies were likened to a joke. But as one meme has captured so beautifully: Rosa sat so Ruby could walk so Kamala could run. Kamala, a black woman, graduate of Howard University, a daughter of immigrants, a daughter of the West Indies, a daughter of Tamils from India. A woman. Finally, a woman.
Heaven gained a cheering section this year that included John Lewis and C.T. Vivian and Joseph Lowery and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. That great cloud of witnesses cheered on and reminds us, as John Lewis said, "Ours is not the struggle of one day, one week, or one year. Ours is not the struggle of one judicial appointment or presidential term. Ours is the struggle of a lifetime, or maybe even many lifetimes, and each one of us in every generation must do our part."
And that is the basic question of Joshua. Choose this day whom you will serve. Not just today, but with your life.
I’ll be honest, however, that earlier in the week I was really disappointed that the election hadn’t been a complete blow out. A thorough repudiation of the reckless immorality and gleeful cruelty of the past four years. And I have some residual feelings about that this morning too. But sticking to the wisdom of John Lewis, he said: “Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, hold only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won." Think of John Lewis, skull cracked crossing the Edmund Pettis bridge for the right to vote. Those are his words. Release hate, division, revenge, and bitterness.
We have been holding our breath for so long, let’s take another deep breath. And another. And shake it off. Not shake it off as in get over it, but shake away the stress of waiting. Of four years waiting for another shoe to drop. Another tweet.
What are you feeling? Relief? Perhaps still disbelief. You may still feel like crying this morning. You may felt have like shouting hallelujah yesterday. Frustrated that you couldn’t rush downtown to scream, rejoice, and dance.
Some of you may point out that there is a lot of work to be done. That there will be no easy transition. That without the Senate, little will get done. So on and so forth. True. It’s OK to be equally hopeful for the future as well as frightened for it this morning.
But first, just give yourself permission to rest, to not feel ready to engage new battles yet. One day again we will. But first rest. We will rise with a renewed sense of purpose and hope. But today, it’s OK to sit a little deeper into your chair. Relish the results of the work you did. The sacrifices you made. The money you donated. The time you spent.
To reflect on Joshua. What did you choose?
To follow the God of love, not vengeance, retribution or violence.*
To cast your lot and your vote,
with the poor in spirit, and those who mourn,
with the gentle, and those who hunger for righteousness.
To stand with the peacemakers and those who are persecuted.
To follow the one who fed all who were hungry,
who healed all who sought healing,
and welcomed all who were pushed to the margins.
To strive to speak only truth, and only lovingly.
To examine, confess and resist our own complicity in systems that harm, and surrender what we can so that our lives are a blessing for the poor.
To accept the power God gives us
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves.
To live with hope and gratitude, with courage and generosity and kindness.
Joshua said, choose this day whom you will serve.
And friends, through your civic duty, you have done so. Thank you for voting.
* Adapted from a prayer by Steve Garnaas Holmes in UnfoldingLight.net
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