How are you feeling just days before the election? When I asked people this question, I received a variety of answers – uncertain, disgusted, uneasy. When I asked if anyone felt fear, most hands raised up. Some discussion ensued. The truth is this election is based on fear, and we are called to name that.
I have a long, long, long history in politics. You name it, I’ve done it. I say that not to impress you – it’s merely a statement of fact. Good or bad, I don’t know, but I do know that it has given me some insight into what politics is about. What I’ve learned is that politics is about power – the obtaining of power, the keeping of power, and the using of power. And politics uses fear as a way of doing this.
This year we are presented with two very different messages. No I’m not talking about the messages of the Republican and Democrat parties, their candidates, or their platforms. No, instead, I’m talking about a different set of visions and platforms. There is the message of the candidates, the parties, their rhetoric and platforms, and in opposition to this is Jesus with his platform representing the Kingdom of Heaven.
You see, humanity has been at this for a long time – dividing people, using fear, thirsting and lusting after power. This isn’t the first election which uses fear and is about power. Politics and politicians have been using power and fear for a long time. Their message is that you should put all of your salvation, and hope, and trust in the person in power. They are the one who will save you. They are the one who will provide you peace.
This isn’t new. When Jesus walked the earth, it was the same message. The Roman empire was based on fear and power. Caesar was the messiah, the one who would save the empire. He did this through fear and power. The Romans worshiped Mars and Nike. Mars was the god of war. Nike was the god of victory. Peace was a destination that came because Caesar defeated the empire’s enemies and destroyed them. All hail Caesar! No wonder they treated him like a god.
Today we hear a similar message. I took the liberty of rewriting the Beatitudes from today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:1-12). I rewrote them as a way that politicians proclaim an alternative gospel. I’m calling them the Politudes. I made that term up. Here’s what the Politudes proclaim:
When the Politician saw the crowds, the politician went up to the podium; and the followers of the politician came to listen. Then the politician began to lay out their political platform and policy ideas, saying:
Blessed are the proud in spirit, for theirs is an elected office.
Blessed are those who make others mourns, for they will make other nations fear us.
Blessed are the greedy, for they will take from others and call it an inheritance.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for power, for they will take it any way they can.
Blessed are the merciless, for they will receive power.
Blessed are the cold of heart, for they will think they are God.
Blessed are the warmongers, for they will be called children of Mars.
Blessed are those who persecute for ideological purity’s sake, for theirs is the campaign of being right.
Blessed are you when you revile and divide people and utter all kinds of evil against your opponents. Rejoice and be glad, for your political appointment will be great, for in the same way your political predecessors divided many of their countrymen before you.
But Jesus presents a different message, a different vision, a different hope. He doesn’t look at the political systems we live with and argue over which party should be in power over the other because of this policy or that policy. He looks at it and points out the truth of how screwed up we are with our systems of government and rules and uses of power – those systems and individuals that hold different values from the Kingdom of God.
Jesus isn’t interested in the fate of the Republic or the empire for that matter. He’s interested in implementing a completely different way of governing and living. It’s the Kingdom of God that Jesus preaches. And he has a different platform. It could be summarized in the Beatitudes:
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:
3 ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 ‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 ‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.
8 ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 ‘Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
These are a different set of values. These are a different set of ideals. These are a different way of looking and living life. Jesus turns the whole system of governing right side up.
When you look at the Beatitudes they are about relationships – a right relationship with God and with others. They are salvation through the reconciling work of God – reconciling broken relationship. It’s not about grabbing power and creating us vs. them scenarios. It’s not a message based on fear. It’s not a message that says look to the capitol and elected leaders for your salvation. It is far different. Our salvation doesn’t reside in some politician. Our salvation is in Jesus and what God is actively doing for us today. His is the message of true hope. His is a true vision where peace and mercy aren’t just some unreachable destination that is promised, but where peace and mercy are the way of living. He is the true Messiah who saves his people by conquering through love, mercy, grace, and peace.
I don’t know what will happen on Tuesday. I do know this much. Regardless of the result, Jesus is our salvation. Jesus is our hope. Jesus lays out a vision for God’s people. God has voted and has selected each one of us. And Jesus calls on us to not just swear allegiance to the Kingdom of God, but to live out what the kingdom is all about. And for that we can be thankful. Amen.