The Rev. Steven D. Paulikas
All Saints' Church
November 13, 2016
The day before the election, Jesse--my husband--and I went to Pennsylvania to canvass for Hillary. I did so not as your priest, but as a citizen. Shortly before nightfall, we went to a neighborhood that was mixed politically. Our job was to knock on doors and encourage likely Clinton voters to get to the polls the next day. We were instructed not to engage with people not likely to vote for her, and later I understood why. As it got dark, I had a strange sense of tension and unease in that place. At one point, two young people approached Jesse and asked what he was doing in their neighborhood, then started chanting, Trump, Trump Trump.
I went to a house that was surrounded by other houses with Trump lawn signs. The house was modest and neat, and certainly not fancy. There was an old van parked in the driveway. The woman who opened the door was white, in her late 70’s, and disabled. It was obvious she lived alone. She was cheerful and enthusiastic with me and obviously wanted me to linger. She said she already had a plan for how to get to her polling station. Then she got just a notch more solemn and pointed to her neighbors. “I’ve got Trump on one side, Trump on the other, and Trump across the street. I’m in a U of Trump.”
Friends, today, we are all in a U of Trump. Like many, if not most, of you, I’m anxious. The upsetting thing about this election is the same reason that neighborhood was blanketed in Trump lawn signs but the Hillary supporters were hiding. They were afraid. We have a president-elect who has come to power through fear. I’m afraid for that woman; I wonder if she feels safe in her own home, all alone. I’m anxious for my sisters and brothers of color as we prepare for a president who was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan. I’m anxious for our planet, which has only a few years left before the change in climate cannot be stopped. I’m anxious for our world order, which will depend on a man who said he doesn’t understand why we don’t use nuclear weapons.
Like many of you, I am anxious to the point of feeling physically sick. At the same time, I am hearing the Word of God anew. The Gospel passage we hear this morning had a different meaning for me just a few days ago. Jesus has always been telling us like it is. There is a sinful and destructive side to the human condition. It can cause untold violence and suffering. But that’s why he came. He knows we can do better. He practiced love, not hate. He saw that the way for us to live together is accept each other as our own, just as he accepted us. There is no place for fear in God’s house. Fear will never help you, and there is no reason to be afraid. Jesus says, not a hair of your head will perish. For by your endurance you will gain your souls.
The Spirit of truth has already shown us the way forward. It will replace our fear with faith. We must continue to love God with all we have and love our neighbor as ourselves. We must continue to serve the most vulnerable and treat them as the greatest among us, just as Jesus did. We must continue to welcome all people with prejudice toward none. We must BE the beloved community God has called into being. In other words, we must continue to be the church.
So on that note, let me offer a word of welcome on behalf of this gathering and in Jesus’ name.
Welcome, all you who are disheartened. Your tears will water the crop of righteousness.
Welcome, all you who are afraid. God will lift up your hearts, and we will be your support.
Welcome, all those ready to stand up for themselves and their neighbors. You will receive the power of the Most High.
Welcome, all who are not Christians. We repent on behalf of those who use Jesus to make you feel unsafe, and perhaps you will find it in your heart to forgive us.
And most importantly, welcome Trump supporters. If you voted for our president-elect or wanted him in power, that does not make you the enemy of anyone here. We understand you have fears of your own. We will listen to you and pray for you. We only ask that you listen to us, too, and try to understand why we are so scared.
Our strength is unshakable because we refuse to think of any person as outside the circle of love that God has placed around this church. Let our souls all ring together today, for this is the day that the Lord has made. This day, like all days, was made so that we would love one another. If you are here to do that, you belong here. And what everyone needs right now is love.
In contrast to the fear so many of us feel, there has been an unprecedented outpouring of love in this country this week. We have awoken to the realization that we need one another, that we cannot take belief in our common humanity for granted. I think that is why so many of you are here today, many for the first time.
And yet, now is the time to heed the one who says, be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We may hope for the best, but we must prepare for the worst. And the preparation begins now.
President Obama wished Mr. Trump success because, he said, America’s success depends on his. I disagree. There is no evidence that the president-elect’s success has ever benefitted anyone but himself. The reason we are so anxious is because of his success thus far. We can wish him success—but only on the condition that his success benefit the country as a whole, and that we are all made to understand that we are respected, that our liberties will be protected by the state, and that America will continue to enjoy the benefits of the democratic rule that has served us so well for the last 240 years.
We will be watching. We will be vigilant. And let me proclaim it here and now: if we see harm, abuse, or intimidation of ANY of God’s children, All Saints’ Church will be a point of resistance.
If they come for the people of color, we are all people of color.
If they come for the disabled, we are all disabled.
If they come for immigrants, they will find only immigrants in this place.
If they come for the trans people, we are all trans.
If they come for Muslims, they will find one family under one God.
If they come for the lesbians and gays, well, I know you are with me and my family.
Look around you: look at the different faces, hear the different stories. This is the beloved community. It is a gift from God, who called it into being. It cannot be destroyed. Our strength is our unity. If the forces of darkness are given power, they will search for any crack in our resolve. They will not stop until they divide us against one another. But we are stronger, because God has brought us together.
Our president-elect is a real estate guy. So maybe he’ll understand this: we’re building a house. Our house will stretch up to heaven, and it will be guarded by the angels. But the purpose of our house won’t be to keep people out, our house will keep everyone inside safe, and every person of good will is welcome. As St. Paul says, this will not be a house built with human hands, but will be a building from God, an eternal house in heaven where each of us has a dwelling place. God builds this house, but we maintain it—with our prayers, our service, our resources. We maintain it with acts of kindness and good deeds, and above all with our faith.
Look at the front door of this house: it is open, and you are invited to enter. There is room for everyone. Bring your whole selves—your fears and your hopes, your weaknesses and your strengths. Bring your family. Bring your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers. Bring strangers, and bring your enemies. All are welcome, and the table is set. Let us feast at the heavenly banquet--and be filled. Amen.