On Monday, I was convinced that this sermon was going to be about All Saints Day—one of my favorite days in the WHOLE CHURCH YEAR. I love everything about this particular liturgical day. I love singing When the Saints Go Marching In with our kiddos as we march around the sanctuary blowing our kazoos. I love remembering those saints of ours who have gone before us; I love dreaming about what they’d say if they could see us now. And I love the scriptures associated with today—like the one from Hebrews. It’s starts toward the end of chapter 11 by listing out our ancestors in faith. You’ve heard this before, but let’s hear it again—It’s just so, so good:
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.
And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, won strength out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Man, I love that line: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
For the last 18 months, the race we’ve been hearing all about isn’t the race Paul is talking about here. It’s been the race for the presidency. And, whoever you’re voting for, I think we can acknowledge, that race has gotten ugly. UGLY. And you know something, that ugliness has even filtered down to the local level. Have you noticed? Have to turned on the news or logged onto Facebook? How easy it is to get sucked into cyber fights—to remove any humanity from the person on the other side, label them as an idiot or ridiculous and then dismiss them outright. “They don’t know what they’re talking about!” we seethe. “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Here’s the thing you need to know; here’s the thing it’s my calling to remind you: the presidential race, the election, is not the race we’re running. It’s not the race our ancestors ran—those saints who went before us. And it cannot be the one that confuse for the race we are really running—a race toward faithfulness, not to political party, affiliation, or belief, but to God; a race toward generosity, not toward campaigns, but to each other; a race toward kindness, not to those whose thinking aligns with ours, but to everyone, everyone, everyone.
Did you hear Jesus’ words to us earlier today after all the blesseds and woes? Listen again:
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
That is our charge—not to win, not to be right. But to love one another, every conservative other. Every liberal other. Every black other. Every brown other. Every gay other. Every immigrant other. Every hopeful other. Every hurtful other. Every. single. other.
This Tuesday, cast your vote. Do that. That’s a good thing to do.
But what I’m more concerned that you do is run the race our ancestors ran, the one we celebrate today, on All Saints’ Sunday. Vote, then keep running toward kindness. Keep running toward generosity. Pass by the voices calling out to you to hate the people who don’t look like you or think like you or vote like you. Keep running—run toward hope, toward laughter and joy. Don’t be a jerk. Don’t be hurtful. Don’t be condescending. Keep running—run toward faith and peace and goodness. Don’t be hateful. Don’t be haughty. When the results come in, don’t rub it in. Be gentle and caring. And keep running—run toward Jesus.
And while you run, remember your faith isn’t in a party or government or in a country. And if it is—if that’s where your faith is—you’re going to be disappointed. Those are human creations. And human creations break. Put your faith in God—the God who knew you before you were born, and loves you still—now and always. Amen.