For the first time in 17 years our nation is facing the complexities of a government shutdown. As we grapple with this newfound reality for a myriad of reasons people turn to religious institutions for answers. From the epicenter of the shutdown in DC to the far-reaching corners of this nation people are looking for a good word. One need only follow a few ministers on social media to see that many who are preparing to preach on Sunday are working overtime to address this issue with grace and dignity.
As I've been pondering what I might say to the congregation I serve my mind immediately went to a 19th century hymn that talks about evening and our journey into night. "We thank Thee that Thy church, unsleeping, while earth rolls onward into light, through all the world her watch is keeping, and rests not now by day or night." While many people are mad at the institutional church (in many situations, rightfully so) the church throughout time and crisis has addressed hard realities in the light of God's hope and love. The people who make up the church we know today stand united, unsleeping, ready to keep watch and offer whatever comfort we can to those who are in the crosshairs of the political debate. We must not offer superficial truths and answers, but be a constant reminder that the forces of good in this world offer joy and hope in spite of despair.
The hymn goes on, "So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never, like earth's proud empires, pass away: Thy kingdom stands, and grows forever, till all Thy creatures own Thy sway."
People of God, continue to hope that tomorrow will be brighter. The God who created us and sustains us does not leave us destitute though governments bicker and economies rise and fall. We press on towards the kingdom that God offers us here and now, a kingdom where the fact that museums and zoos are closed are less important than the people who work there. We press on towards a hope that political discourse may be a reminder of our need for greater understanding instead of greater division.
In doing so, we continue to be people God has called us to be. A people not bound by political ideologies or geographical nationalities, we are people who are beloved. Beloved by a God who continues to restore a redemptive peace in the lives of people who will go without a paycheck for the foreseeable future, and people who stand ready to support them.
It is my prayer that God will continue to sow seeds of light in the vast darkness of every crisis we face collectively and individually. You can rest assured that if you stand with the last and least of these you are an integral part of that light bursting forth on a scene of such despair and darkness. In our time and our place, we must offer hope, resurrection, and new life to those who need it most. And no, I'm not talking about far off theological concepts that theologians debate, I'm talking about resurrection that means we will be able to get up tomorrow and face whatever is ahead of us as a nation. I'm talking about hope that keeps us moving even in the face of a dysfunctional government, and a new life that allows us to continue to work for the kingdom of God no matter what our politicians are doing. May we all be gifted with enough courage to start this work, and enough grace to see it through to completion.