Passing the Peace to Barack Obama
Third Sunday, January 18
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2:1-4
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
Well, we are into week three of talking about the way we might build a culture of peace, but not just any peace. Last week we spent some time with Saint Francis’ famous prayer that begins with the line, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…” That is “your” peace, the peace of God. St. Francis is seeking an expression of faith, a reflection of God in that bringing of peace. And we seek the same.
Towards that end we are doing something different this coming Sunday. We run the danger of being misunderstood, but it seems a worthy gamble to me. We are going to take the opportunity to “pass the peace” to President-Elect Barack Obama.
We always have prayer stations around the Sanctuary for personal devotion and community activity, and for the next couple of weeks we’ll have a place to extend the peace of Christ to our incoming President. Some of you saw the temporary wall that appeared at the National Mall after the election last year which congratulated Barack Obama on his victory and pledged to give him support for tackling the many issues he raised as priorities during his campaigning: issues like poverty, peace and unity. We are mimicking that wall with one of our own which will be a place for folks to sign their names, draw and paint.
Here’s how I was thinking the pledge on our wall might read: “President Obama, we extend to you and your family the peace of Christ as you enter into this new office of service to our nation. We pray for you all the needed wisdom and strength from God to hold such a position of responsibility and power with integrity, patience and perseverance. We at Church in Bethesda pledge our prayers on your behalf. We also pledge that we will speak and act as agents of peace and unity during your administration’s years in office. We renounce the destructive language of political abuse, humiliation and degradation that has become the norm in our times. We will speak to edify and encourage. Our faith calls us to respectful submission to those in authority and faithful service to our neighbors. These ideas will guide us as we follow your lead in the coming years. May the God of grace and wisdom enrich your years of service.”
That pledge, and the wall where we can prayerfully commit to it, will stand in our Sanctuary for the next couple of Sundays. Now, I don’t personally want anyone too confused by the wall… we are not trying to either politicize our religion or “religiousize” our politics. This is an expression of faithfulness. We would have found a way to pass this peace to John McCain as our next President at this time had he won the last election.
It will be hard for some Christians to sincerely pass the peace to Barack Obama, just as it would have been difficult for some to pass it to John McCain, but it’s who we are. We are the people who have chosen a King who sends us in peace. So we do it, when it is easy and when it is not. We don’t plan to have this “wall of peace” in our Sanctuary to choose a party side and exclude someone of varying political sensibilities. It’s not about the politics of the nation, but about the faith of the kingdom. Watch for photos of the wall. I’ll surely post some.
Now, may God bless our country and give us the peace that we need. May God bring peace to the battlefields and killing fields around the world. May the Spirit of God consume the warring souls of those leaders and all in authority who cannot find such peace within themselves.
May Christ be better known and clearer shown in all corners of the world in this new year. May God be glorified, the divine peace increased, and all people shown the beauty of life, life immersed in the eternal. Amen.