Sermon: Post-Election Breakdown, part two
The Apocalypse, Lincoln, and God’s View of Things
Alex and I went to see our friend, Brett Miller from Springfield band Brother Wiley play at Lindberg’s on Friday night with Jody Bilyeu from Big Smith. It was just the two of them, and they were the opening band, so it was an early show.
Now Brett sings a Bruce Springsteen song every time he performs that mentions a preacher, and when I’m at a show, the preacher in that song goes from a he to a she. We walked in just in time for the switch, and Brett broke into this huge grin as he sang. After the song, he said, “Well, there aren’t many of us, but now we have a music teacher and a golf pro and a chemist and a counselor and a preacher, so I guess we have everybody we need for … The apocalyse.”
You know, since the idea of apocalypse first arrived on the scene, about, oh… Let’s say roughly 200 years BEFORE the birth of Jesus Christ… Every generation. Thats a lot of generations. Every generation has believed that they were the worst, most evil generation that has ever been and that surely they would see the apocalypse. The invention of the bicycle, with people going around in wheels showing their legs, that was named as an end times sign. So was the establishment of the state of Israel. As was every natural disaster ever. But you know, all those generations were just being silly and kinda arrogant, because clearly WE are the worst people ever, what with our cell phones and 24 hour news cycle and Facebook and these kids today.
To tie into last week’s subject, its kinda like elections. I cannot tell you how many people told me that this was the most crucial election in our history as a country. Someone told me that the other day, post-election, and I went all Lincoln on them. See, Alex wanted to go see Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, on Friday night, after we saw Brett and Jody play, and all he knows about the civil war he learned from Gone with the Wind and the tiny civil war museum in Carthage, MO. So I suggested we watch the Ken Burns documentary on the civil war first. I don’t know what he learned, but I learned a lot. I learned, for example, that the word “contentious” does not even apply to elections any of us have seen when compared to the US election of 1860.
Lincoln’s party, the Republicans, didn’t even campaign or hand out ballots in the South so that people could vote for Lincoln. It wasn’t that he was left off the ballot as is sometimes said. It was that the party gave you a ballot to use to vote, and the Republicans didn’t even bother in the South. Kinda weird considering the location of red and blue states today, but THAT was a divided US. He took the electoral college but only had 40% of the popular vote. Between his election and his inauguration, 7 states seceded from the union and the seeds of civil war were starting to sprout. Now that’s a crucial election. Then he published the emancipation proclamation, seizing presidential power no one had even tried before, and 18 months later was reelected. That was also a critical election.
But you know, the next election is always the most critical, and it is always about to be the end of the world for human beings. We are people not on the edge but who perceive a precipice right at the edge of our next move.
Thats the macro scale. The micro scale is like a high school or a nursing home, which are actually quite similar socially because the people in them spend so much time there that it begins to look and feel like the whole world and small things become unrealistically huge. And parents look at their teens and at their parents or grandparents and think, “why do you think something so small is so big?”
God has dealt with humans since we came around, and God has dealt with this human tendency to shrink our worlds and go onto a nonexistent edge and believe tiny things are big things. Noah saves the animals and his family from a flood and then gets drunk and starts a family feud. God promises Abraham a kingdom and descendants but Abraham spends a bunch of time fussing over his wife’s griping and ends up getting their employee pregnant and causing, you know, just the Middle East crisis of the last thousands of years. Moses is in the desert, leading the Israelites from slavery to freedom, he is changing the world as we know it, and he spends his time griping at God about how annoying the people are.
And Jesus… Man, Jesus gets a rough deal. Because he shows up when the Romans are in charge and everybody is so excited because he is the messiah, the anointed one, and he is going to kick the Romans to the curb and make the Jewish people powerful again… And, um, Jesus? When you gonna get around to kicking out the Romans? When are you going to unleash your mighty power and unsheath your messianic sword, and… No, seriously. Quit preaching and healing and stuff. Kick out the Romans already! thats why you’re here. Whaddya mean thats not why you’re here?!?! I don’t wanna hear all that love God junk. Quit telling me my religion isn’t right. Just kick out the Romans. Dude, thats what matters. Thats the most important thing in the world. How bout less “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” and more, “get off my daddy’s property!?”
We can see, in hindsight, how silly Noah and Moses were. We can see the disastrous consequences of Abraham’s hasty actions. We can see the ridiculous lack of sense of the residents of Jerusalem and Galilee in Jesus’ day. But can we face that we do this stuff every day, making big things small and standing on imaginary precipices?
The good news, and what I am most thankful for this Thanksgiving, is that God has a bigger picture than we will ever see. There is no collection of books I can read (and I’m trying to read all of the good ones) that will let me know all God knows. God’s understanding is deep. There is no amount of history I can study that will let me understand all that he understands. God’s timeline is long. The precious hours that we live and share are seconds on a much bigger clock. It is not that what we experience doesn’t matter, it is that it happens in a much bigger world, a much longer timeline, and a much deeper reality than we can understand. At least, thats what Ecclesiastes tells us. And if we look through scripture, we see people making mountains out of molehills and God pushing for a larger, more long-term agenda of love than they could grasp.
We may not get it all, but we can get this. God sees a great big picture on a great big timeline with a deep, deep understanding… And he invites us to be a part of that picture, part of his long-term agenda of love. Eat, drink, be merry, don’t sweat the small stuff, stop and smell the roses, pick a cliche. Chill out a bit. Get off the edge. God knows it isn’t real. Our days be as eventful as they will be, but if they are spent with God, they will be small pieces of a bigger, longer, deeper picture than we can imagine. Amen.