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  • Pastor Gary

Congratulations: You have won the election!

(sermon displayed as spoken by Pastor Gary)

The American Psychological Association has, issued guidelines for Election Stress. That’s right. This election is so stressful for so many people that medical professionals are now in the game. These guidelines include such things as turning off your TV’s, and purposefully not engaging in election discussion with those you are likely to argue with, and in my case, moving away from SC.

One thing we can say for sure is that we all need a break from the election.

St. Paul did not get the memo.

Listen to this verse from the second reading in Ephesians: In Christ we have also received an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all thing.

These phrases echo a theme from the section just prior to ours where Paul says God “elected us in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

So destined can also be translated “elected.” For Paul election is a big theme in Ephesians. As he languished in prison, you have to wonder what kind of election did Paul believe the church had won? In fact, speaking of election stress- being thrown in jail because God has elected you hardly seems like a winning situation.

Paul’s understanding of what has happened is rooted in his understanding of what elected or chosen means. It is just the same as the Hebrews were chosen are elected.

They were/are the chosen people, the elected people. Elected to be a light to the gentiles, elected to bring light to the world, to advocate for the widow and the orphan, to see God’s reign, to be dedicated for and strive for shalom. Sholom means peace plus justice. No justice, no peace paraphrasing almost everything in the Bible.

Don’t misunderstand Paul. He is not talking about election in the sense of who gets in and out of heaven, but election in the sense of who has been chosen by God to do God’s work.

Congratulations, you have won the election.

Perhaps this election is a little less stressful than the one to be held on Tuesday.

And perhaps not.

Jesus looked at his disciples, the elected ones and said: Blessed are you who are poor in spirit for yours is the kingdom of God- that is blessed are you without hope. Blessed are you who are hungry, who weep, who are hated…I suspect most political leaders, even if they are dedicated to the good, need and want the adulation that goes with public life.

Jesus starts off by telling these elected that the best adulation they will get is to be hated, reviled and excluded.

These words that we call the beatitudes are also found in Luke. In Matthew they are the hope of a present reality. Yes there are implications that this will be fully realized in the future but the blessing calls into being that future now. Luke doesn’t mess around at all, structuring the beatitudes as a purely present reality. In Matthew the present starts now. In Luke the present is fully now. Please notice they are both cast n the present tense. . Blessed are you who are hungry now, who morn now, who weep now, for you will receive…

And here is the key to our understanding today. We are elected present tense people. We are because God is. The Great I am is a present I am, not a The Great I was or the Great I will be, not the Great I might be but I am.

For Paul, the Ephesians are reminded that they are elected to be a light to the nations now, the hope to which they are called, the Gospel that they are receiving. Present tense people, present tense election, present tense hope, present tense God.

This is my favorite Sunday of the year. I like it for a variety of reason. First, this is my favorite Sunday because we get to hear from Revelation – a book that begins, ends and reminds us throughout that God always wins. It is not a story of monsters and beast, wars and famines and plagues. It is the story of Christ defeating all of these horrible things. It is the story that offers hope that racism, prejudice, violence and the pandemic are not stronger than God.

It is my favorite Sunday because I like remembering those people who have touched my life in so many ways over the years and who are not caught up in God’s glory. But selfishly I like perhaps best of all the extra hour in the morning before the early service. I always say I will sleep in but I’m so excited about an extra hour of sleep that I can’t sleep- thus a paradox. We are not really given an extra hour, no matter how much we think we can control the clock. But I like the sense of controlling the clock. I suspect that it feeds some deep human need to control time.

If I could only turn back the clock to undo some things that I have done. If I could only turn back time to be with my grandmother or my friends Javier, my cousin Kirtis and Richard for just another hour. If only I could.

Many of you may feel that way today.

But we can’t. Remembering our friends and family in faith is not about recapturing the past but acknowledging that they are a part of our present, of who we are today, that their witness is a part of our current faith story. They are the sum of what God has done for us and is doing for us. We are elected in this time and in this place to be a blessing to those who are poor now, who weep now and who are hungry now.

Lease read revelation not in the American conservative fundamentalist light about coming disaster but about God being with the people ho suffer from present disasters now.

Present tense people with a present tense God, called, now chosen now.

Congratulations, you have won the election! Amen.

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