Time to Lament

Sermon for Sunday, November 13th, 2016 ||  Proper 28, Year C ||   Isaiah 65: 17-25; Canticle 9; 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13; Luke 21: 5-19 ||  The Rev. Margot D. Critchfield

 May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.

Never have I prayed those words as fervently as while preparing this homily. Because I am acutely aware that while some of us are feeling buoyed, hopeful, and perhaps even vindicated by last week’s election results, many others of us are either grieving or angry or scared– or some combination of all three.

No doubt who you voted for on Tuesday will have affected how you heard this morning’s scriptures. Who you voted for on Tuesday will have determined whether Isaiah’s hope-filled vision of a new heaven/new earth or Luke’s apocalyptic vision of dreadful portents and signs from heaven resonated more closely to what you are feeling this morning.

Many voices far wiser than mine are calling now for open minds and listening ears, many far more experienced clergy are preaching about our call as Christians to promote healing and reconciliation.

But I need to be honest with you, because I’m not there yet. I have to tell you that as a woman who in her younger days was grabbed and groped in the workplace, leered at and jeered at while walking to school, work, church, wherever… who was sexually assaulted when a college intern at a national news magazine…I have to tell you that I was absolutely stunned to wake up Wednesday morning and find myself feeling more vulnerable as a woman than I have ever felt before.

It is impossible to explain how visceral these un-safe feelings were or are…how painful the sense of betrayal I felt in realizing that so many of my fellow Americans—Christian Americans—had turned a blind eye to Mr. Trump’s abuse of women, his potty mouth, his hate-filled words and bullying– and in fact seemed to excuse and legitimize them all by promoting him to the office of the President.

During the Eucharist on Wednesday morning I couldn’t help myself– I cried. And after the service one of you who supported Mr. Trump was kind enough to tell me how sorry you were for the pain his election was obviously causing me. “Now you know how I’ve felt for the last eight years,” you added.

I was stunned. At first I denied any such comparison. But if you have felt as vulnerable and violated and unsafe for the past eight years as I do now, I need to tell you that I am terribly, terribly, sorry. I’m going to need to do a lot of listening to understand your pain—I want to understand your pain– and in time, with God’s help and your help, I will.

But right now all I can think about is the pain of all of my non-white, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, refugee and immigrant brothers and sisters. Right now all I can think about is how they have always felt as scared and vulnerable as I felt on Wednesday morning, only more so. And all I can think about is how much more scared and angry and unwanted they must feel now. And it absolutely breaks my heart.

I would love to be in a place where I could stand up here and preach words of healing and reconciliation—I really would. But I can’t right now. It’s too soon. I can’t preach words of healing and reconciliation when so many violently hate-filled words still echo in my ears and offend not just my sense of moral decency but the very core of who I am, my personhood, and the personhood of all of our most vulnerable and marginalized brothers and sisters.

That we elected Mr. Trump our President feels to me like an act of violence against all those who Jesus teaches us to love, to welcome, to feed and to clothe. That we are being asked now to put it all behind us, to unite and move forward, feels premature and pastorally unsound. Too many of us need time. Time to lament. Time to weep. Time to mourn.

Mind you, not time to despair. Not time to give up. But time to lament– so that by lamenting, God’s Spirit can move us through our sorrow into faithful action and witness in Jesus’ name: proclaiming good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed; feeding the hungry and welcoming the stranger; clothing the naked and binding up the broken-hearted; speaking truth to power and insisting on justice for all those Jesus calls blessed, for “…just as you did it to one of the least of these,” Jesus reminds us, “you did it to me.”

In their statement in response to the election, the Episcopal bishops of New York wrote:

Despair or gloating are unfaithful responses to this election for Christians.  So is the hatred of those who differ from us.  But on the day after the election it must not be forgotten that a substantial amount of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric during the campaign was racist and misogynist, brutal and violent, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and sexually offensive.  Too much of his public comment directly contravened the central principles of the Christian ethic and the accepted, shared values and virtues of the Episcopal Church.  That rhetoric has occasioned extraordinary alarm.  We pray that the heated language of the campaign will not follow him into his presidency or inform his governance, but we also insist: it may not.

In the days, weeks and months ahead we will have much work to do—listening, understanding, and forgiving; healing and reconciling; speaking up, standing with, and insisting on.

But today, at least for now, let’s give each other space to be just exactly where we are, while affirming with the prophet Isaiah that surely it is God who will save us, we will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is our stronghold and sure defense, and He will be our Savior. Amen.






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