It’s just after Super Tuesday and I’m having trouble reconciling the atmosphere of this election cycle with the messages of this week’s text. The common themes in the RCL this week are repentance, forgiveness, and restoration. When religion, Christianity in particular, has been used (or abused) to further the agenda of presidential candidates, then it’s fair to ask if anyone has looked at the Bible lately. I’m not sure any of them, on either side of the aisle, really has.
In the reading from Joshua, the time of wandering for the Israelites has come to an end. They no longer need the manna that God has provided for them and they can survive off the produce of the land of Cana. Most importantly, the shame of Egypt has been wiped clean and the Israelites are fully restored as God’s people. There is no going back to the great days of Israel’s history; there is only moving forward, trusting in God’s forgiveness and living into the gift of restoration that has been bestowed on them. Have any candidates claiming Judeo-Christian values spoken of a desire to live as forgiven, restored people of God?
Even the somewhat complex passage in 2 Corinthians reminds Christians that to be ambassadors for Christ means to embody the righteousness of God. There is no comment about any past glory. There is only a call to live in the present, knowing God’s forgiveness and reconciliation. Essentially, we are to be as Christ to one another. Again, I’m not sure any candidates have displayed much Christ-like behavior, particularly when it comes to People of Color or Muslims or LGBT people.
If these aren’t enough, then there is the gospel text, the familiar Prodigal Son parable. The younger son demands his inheritance, blows it all, ends up destitute, and returns home with low expectations. His father welcomes him extravagantly while the older son fumes. Fairness does not enter into this parable. If it did, the father would have turned his youngest son away, or kept him in servant status. Instead, he is welcomed and restored to full personhood within the family, no questions asked. The son repented, the father forgave, and they moved on to restoration. They didn’t dwell in the past nor did restoration of personhood and status as beloved son mean that everything was the way it had been; the young man had no more inheritance to look forward to or build his life around. However, he was treated with love and grace.
I probably don’t need to say it at this point, but the direction in which this country is headed terrifies me. Every vote for Trump is a vote that is the antithesis to repentance, forgiveness, and restoration to relationships of love. He claims he wants to “make America great again” and too many people seem to be taken in by this. I’m no historian, but what point in American history was so great that we ought to recreate it? Perhaps First Nations People would have the best claim here. America was great before the Europeans invaded… Seriously, though, when was life so great?
Surely, People of Color will say that now is better than any point in the past. Yes, there is
racism everywhere, but people are at least calling it out and challenging all of us to find a new and better way. We can repent of our national sin of racism. We can seek to restore all persons of color to full personhood and work toward engaging in loving relationships. If forgiveness comes later for white people of privilege, then so much the better. In the meantime, repentance and reparations that lead to restoration of personhood is where we ought to be. Honestly, building a wall around Mexico (and Canada) is not the answer.
New Americans, particularly those who practice Islam, aren’t going to advocate returning to some point in the past, either. And women, do we really want to go back to the days when doors were closed and aprons were the daily attire? And LGBTQ folks, do we want to go back to days of hiding and secrecy? How about going back to the days of child labor or when no one talked about child abuse?
No politician is going to solve all the problems in this country. Not one of them is going to be nearly as gracious as the father in Jesus’ parable. However, do we want a leader who sounds mostly like the angry elder brother who just wants to keep his stuff and get the recognition he thinks is his due?
As I continue to contemplate these texts, I yearn for a time when all the fear and suspicion in our relationships with our neighbors will be replaced with welcome and love. I want to move into a future in which all human beings are restored to their rightful place as beloved children of God and we repent for the times when we fail to recognize Christ in one another. Then we can have the shame of our past wiped clean and we can live in the fullness of God’s righteousness.
I know, I’m a dreamer. Somebody has to be…
RCL – Year C – Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 6, 2016
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32