Where do we go from here?
November 13, Proper 28:
Draft text of the homily, please pardon any typos, and do not cite without permission.
“Cheshire Puss,’ Alice began, rather timidly…”
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
Alice felt that this could not be denied, so she tried another question. ‘What sort of people live about here?’
‘In THAT direction,’ the Cat said, waving its right paw round, ‘lives a Hatter: and in THAT direction,’ waving the other paw, ‘lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they’re both mad.’
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the Cat: ‘we’re all mad here.”
I woke up on Wednesday morning feeling quite a bit like Alice. Everything looked basically the same. There was an incredibly beautiful sunrise as I took the dog for a walk around the reservoir. The kids were asleep in their beds…the Cubs had still won the World Series. But everything was also different. Something momentous had happened. Not the kind of momentous that most of us were expecting…not the kind that many were hoping for…but momentous nonetheless. The fear and anxiety that had pulsed unchecked throughout the campaign coalesced on Tuesday. And I did wonder, in the dark hours of Wednesday morning… “have we all gone mad?”
“‘we’re all mad here.,” said the Cat. “I’m mad. You’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Well, we’re not all mad…many are angry, but not mad. Many are frightened. Many are becoming resigned.
On Wednesday, I heard from a lot of people who were hurting, who were grieving. Women who had worn pant-suits adorned with their mother’s and grandmother’s jewelry in honor of those who had not lived to see a woman elected to the highest office, some of them voting for the very first time themselves, who were devastated.
I heard from and saw posts from beloved friends: people of color, and gays and lesbians, and transgendered individuals; Jews and Muslims who are genuinely afraid in deeper and much more visceral ways than they were last week.
I followed posts from an amazing young, undocumented activist I met and worked with in Kentucky who was brought here with his parents when he was two is very fearful of being deported to a country he barely knows.
I also was grateful to talk to people who despaired at the way the campaign had degraded, but who were more cautiously hopeful. People who had not been fans of either candidate, and had struggled with their decisions on Tuesday, but who had faith in our systems, in our democratic processes, and who were committed to continuing the work that we have been called to.
And above all, on Wednesday…and in the days since then…I have been so very grateful for the community that surrounds us here at All Saints. We are not all of one mind here…you need to know that. We are a community who voted for different candidates, who supported and opposed different ballot measures. Who maybe didn’t even vote at all. Who participated as faithfully as we know how in the democratic process.
If it wasn’t clear before, it should be alarmingly clear now, that we are not all of one mind in the country. We never have been—for a long time that was one of the great strengths of our country. That we could debate, and think, and reason together about various solutions to any issue. That process has always been rancorous, but something feels fundamentally different now…It didn’t change overnight, but it has certainly changed—When did one of our greatest strengths become our chief liability? When did it happen that disagreeing with someone automatically made them “the enemy”?
To many in the country it has felt and to many more now it feels like we have lost our way.
So where do we go from here?
“‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.”
Or as St. George Harrison said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
So where are we going?
Friends, today we have been given a roadmap. Truthfully, we’ve always had it, but it’s old and faded and sometimes gets crumpled up in the corner of the glovebox and we forget about it.
But it’s always been there, and you just heard it again…
For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth; [Says the Lord]
I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight.
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.
No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; [all shall be cared for]
They shall build houses and inhabit them; [all shall have work and be housed]
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. [all shall have work and be fed]
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat; [there will be no exploitation]
They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
That’s the map. That’s the destination. That’s where we’re going. And what I pointed out a couple of weeks ago in the sermon is even more palpably apparent now…we are a LONG, long way from there. Much further than many of us imagined. But we do know where we’re going so it’s not true that “any road” will do. Now what’s important—is that we remember what the women and men of color who led us in the Civil Rights movement taught us… Remember the song: “keep your eyes on the prize…hold on. Hold on.”
We know the destination. We know we’re not all mad. And we know that faithful Christians, and people of good will from other faith traditions, and no faith tradition can all see that same destination and still disagree about the most practical, the shortest, and most ethical way for all of us to get there. And those differing viewpoints are a strength not a weakness.
How do we navigate those differences? How do we best travel together together from here to there?
First and foremost, as I said in my letter to you all, we must be attentive to our grief, whether its the grief of this past election, or the grief of being marginalized for decades or centuries, pay attention to it. Honor it. Share it. Seek out friends, or allies, or professionals like myself, or a therapist to work through it. Because grief that is not tended to becomes festering rage and resentment. And we have far too much of that.
Secondly, we’re reminded of another guiding principle today. It’s an echo of what we heard last week, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Which is, itself, an echo of what Jesus calls the greatest commandment…Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Today it comes in this form. “Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.”
Even as I continue to tend my own emotions around these momentous events, that’s the line that I am going to keep foremost in my mind in the days and weeks and undoubtedly years to come. Do not be weary in doing what is right.
When our siblings in the Muslim and Jewish communities are threatened or discriminated against: do not be weary in doing what is right.
When immigrants and refugees are threatened or discriminated against: do not be weary in doing what is right.
When our siblings in the LGBTQ community are threatened or discriminated against: do not be weary in doing what is right.
When our siblings of color are threatened or discriminated against: do not be weary in doing what is right.
When our sisters, or mothers, or daughters are shamed, or demeaned, assaulted or abused: do not be weary in doing what is right.
We know the destination. And we are not in Wonderland.
“Now is not a time,” as Bishop Gates said in his post-election message, “to live out habitual behaviors of winners or losers. Now is a time to rededicate ourselves to the Christian ideal of breaking down the dividing walls of hostility which divide us (Ephesians 2:14). Now is a time to rededicate ourselves to the American ideal of liberty and justice for all.
“Forbearance,” he says, “is a virtue tested not when we are in harmony, but when we are divided. Sacrifice is a discipline called for not in the face of prosperity but in the face of adversity. Hope is a manifestation of faith rendered meaningful not by certainty but by anxiety. Christ calls us, in this moment, individually and communally, to forbearance, sacrifice and hope.”
Excerpt From: Lewis Carroll. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/d1wLz.l