Rector's Blog: In the Hands of a Competent God
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Do you have your plan? We’ve been hearing this question a lot lately as Election Day approaches. And of course, it’s referring to your need to come up with a plan for how you will vote: By mail or in person, early, or on the day of. What’s your plan? I want to know what your plan will be too. But I want to know how you plan to be Christian in the next week. I’m not just talking about how you vote. Of course, your relationship with Jesus should be influencing your vote. That’s a given. But voting, however important, is just one moment – and the next week is going to be profoundly stressful for your community and your country, which means on some level it will be stressful for you.
I don’t want to pile onto that stress by asking you your plan for being Christian. So, let’s look at it from a different angle. My friend Jimmy likes to remind me that we are in the hands of a competent God. Your life is in the hands of a competent God, and you need to hear that during a time such as this. So, really the question is, what can you put into place in order to ground yourself in the competence of the God who loves you?
In The Episcopal Church, we understand our faith not just in terms of what we believe, but in how we practice living this life. In particular, we seek to follow The Way of Love - a set of seven Jesus-centered practices that comprise an Episcopal rule of life. These seven practices are titled: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. We believe that a faithful engagement with these seven practices define the Episcopal experience of the Christian faith. What follows is an opportunity for us to think about ways to engage in this world in the coming days through the practices that ground us in the Love of God which is the fountainhead of all life.
Turn - Pause, listen, and choose to follow Jesus. In the midst of our shared anxiety, stress, and uncertainty, we have the capacity to get mean and judgmental, to get petty and unkind. Sometimes we tell ourselves it comes from a place of righteousness. It almost always comes from hurt and fear. In the coming days, here’s a clear and simple way to pause, listen, and turn to follow Jesus: Take a breath and ask yourself the question, “Where do I see Love today?” Wherever you see Love, that’s where Jesus is. Then decide that this Love, however small, is what defines your day. Be diligent about acknowledging the Love right in front of you. This is how you follow Jesus. Make a plan to look for Love.
Learn - Reflect on Scripture each day, especially on Jesus’ life and teachings. Read the Beatitudes. No, really. That’s it. Matthew 5:1-12. Pay attention to who Jesus calls Blessed, and remember that when Jesus says someone is blessed, he is saying that God is with them, that God is reflected in them, that God is saying, “You are my child, my beloved, with you I am well pleased.” The poor in spirit, the peacemakers, the meek, the persecuted, the ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful and pure in heart. Which one are you? And who are these people in our society? Ask yourself how you can vote and work and speak and act towards a society that honors and loves people such as these. This is not about idealism or dreaming: It’s about having a clear vision of the type of world we’re working for. Make a plan to orient yourself in Jesus’ vision of a blessed world.
Pray - Dwell intentionally with God each day. Perhaps you already have your own practice of prayer in place. Perhaps you don’t. But here, let me make it easy for you. Throughout the next week, we will be posting a prayer every day that directly relates to our shared life as Americans. Listen to it, and then pray it. There are also two specific prayer services just before Election Day in which you can participate. One is a multi-faith service being held at Washington National Cathedral called “Holding on to Hope” on Sunday at 4:00 pm. The other is Church of the Redeemer’s own Zoom Prayer Vigil at 6:30pm on Election Eve (Monday, November 2). Make a plan to create space for prayer this week.
Worship -Gather in community weekly to thank, praise, and dwell with God. I know, I know: We may not be able to gather this weekend. We are currently planning for a Pop-Up Church in the park this Sunday at 11:15 am, but if the county goes to purple due to COVID cases, we may not be able to do that. But make time either to join us in the park, or to watch the service online this Sunday. This isn’t me trying to bump up our viewer stats: It’s a reminder that you have the capacity to set the tone for your whole week by grounding yourself in Love And don’t forget about our online Daily Office offerings Tuesday-Thursday! Make a plan to start and mark your week with Love.
Bless - Share faith and unselfishly give and serve. The first time my wife and I did couples counseling, our counselor gave us a tool to cut the tension when we were in states of heightened anger and tension. She said, when you want to end the fighting, but you don’t know how, take a breath, and then take turns telling your partner something you appreciate about them.” It sounds cheesy, right? It was a game changer. Years later it still puts an end to every fight. It creates a space for Love to do its work. Sharing your faith isn’t always about telling people what you believe: Sometimes it’s about giving them some of the faith that is in your heart. So, when you’re stressed and anxious, think about someone you appreciate, and then reach out to them and tell them why you appreciate them. Seriously. Don’t ask them for anything. You don’t realize how powerful your faith is. Make a plan to bless people with the love you have for them, and watch it change your week.
Go - Cross boundaries, listen deeply and live like Jesus. Vote. Obviously. Please vote. Some people will tell you this is not a spiritual act. They are wrong. Some Christians like to say that Jesus wouldn’t have voted, or that Jesus is above all this earthly struggle. This is utterly false. Jesus exists as the physical embodiment of God’s solidarity with our humanity. How we vote effects how we live. And Jesus cares about our lives. He cares about what happens to us here and now, he cares about how we treat one another here and now, he cares about what kind of communities we build here and now. If you’ve already voted, and you have the capacity to leave the house, consider driving people to the polls. Help people use their voice. Empower them. Make a plan to love your community on a practical level – just like Jesus does.
Rest - Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration. Put down your phone. Step away from your television and computer. Seriously. You are in the hands of a competent God who loves you. You have a part to play in the reconciliation of this world, but you are not responsible for the whole thing. And your body and soul need to remember that you are not the end-all be-all. I am telling myself this as much as I’m telling you: Your worry will not save the world. Your busyness will not be the difference between heaven and hell on earth. Do your part. Love hard. Tell the truth. Vote. And then, please, each and every day take a few moments to do nothing and be responsible for nothing. You need it. Make a plan to rest.
That’s it. It’s not magic, and it’s not flawless. But if you engage in this Way of Love with authenticity and courage, your week will be defined by the Love for which you were made, rather than the anxiety that corrodes your soul. Please give this next week everything you’ve got. And at the same time, be gentle with yourself. This world and your heart have something in common: They are yearning for Love and mercy. Be generous with both and you will see God’s hand in your life and in the life of our country.
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