Sunday, November 27, 2016


Just this week I started riding a bike—well, a trike really—to the church on the days I have office hours. When I was in physical therapy the first 15 minutes of each session was spent peddling a stationary bike. I need exercise; the weather was lovely; and I live only about a mile from here. Thanks to Peggy for lending me the adult tricycle. The only problem was that the trike had no light. So I had my son drive me to the bike shop on the island so I could pick one up. Also, I got a helmet and I got a rear view mirror that clips to my glasses. The main reason for all of those things is protection. The mirror helps me keep track of cars coming up behind me; the helmet protects me from brain damage; the light helps me see and be seen when I drive during the increasingly early twilight hours.

Everybody is, if not afraid of the dark, at least more cautious in it. Darkness hides stuff. It could be a serial killer or it could be something you might trip over. The latter concerns me more than the former. When you are driving darkness can obscure potholes or people or key deer in your path. You don't want to hit any of those. Of course, if you are a serial killer, or doing anything illegal or unethical or disreputable you might want the darkness to hide you and what you are doing. The reason we have lighted certain areas of cities or the outside of our houses and businesses is at least partially to flush out thieves and robbers and all manner of unwanted activity.

Light reveals things and by doing so, protects us from threats we otherwise might not know about. It can change the threat. Psychological experiments have shown that people do not cheat or steal when they think they might be observed. As Jesus said, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed.” (John 3:20) Small wonder then that light and darkness have taken on metaphorical meanings as stand-ins for good and evil.

In the first chapter of the Bible, Genesis 1, the first thing God does is create light. And in the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22, God eliminates all darkness: “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Rev 22:5) 

Light is associated with life. In the first chapter of John, Christ is called “the true light” and it says, “In him was life and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:5) It is also a symbol of joy. Psalm 97:11 says, “Light dawns for the righteous and joy for the upright in heart.” It also stands for wisdom and truth. Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (By the way, notice the parallelism in the psalms, saying the same thing 2 ways. That will be important later.)

In 1 John 1:5 it says, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.” Since God is light and Jesus is “the light of the world,” (John 8:12) it follows that those who follow him are vessels of light. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” (Matt 5:14) Paul says, “For you are all children of light and children of the day.” (1 Thess 5:5) We are therefore to “walk in the light, as he is in light.” (1 Jn 1:7)

In our reading from Romans 13:11-14 Paul urges Christians “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” It's not the first time Paul uses the metaphor of spiritual armor and it won't be the last. Paul sees us involved in a spiritual battle. In Ephesians 6:12 he writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age...” Darkness in the Bible is a symbol of death, chaos and ignorance. If we are opposing darkness, our armor must be of light.

Here we come to an issue that we cannot ignore. Paul clearly means spiritual powers in this passage. Regardless of whether you believe there are evil spirits out there—and there are times where so many things go bad that there is a cascade of catastrophes and it is tempting to see a cosmic conspiracy behind it all—I think this can even apply this to things we see. There are powers and rulers in this physical world that promote and live in darkness and shun the light. I am not one who generally believes in massive conspiracies, because they are impossible to keep secret, but the powerful have often succeeded in shaping the world not so much to benefit others as to increase and preserve their wealth and influence. They don't advertise it and they don't like it pointed out.

For instance, in the "tough on crime" 1980s and 90s, when we started incarcerating more and more people, privately-run prisons became a popular solution to keeping costs down. The problem is that they turn out to be just as expensive as government-run prisons, but because they need to turn a profit, they cut back on how they feed prisoners, on the medical care they give inmates and on programs offered to help the incarcerated better themselves. Since 1994 the number of college programs open to prisoners across the country has gone from 350 to just 12. Prisons thus ensure that little or no actual rehabilitation takes place. And since in their contracts many private prisons penalize the states they are in should they drop below a certain occupancy level, they give state and local law enforcement an incentive to lock more people up. Add to that the fact that a lot of small communities use traffic and other fines as revenue streams to support local government, and those fines grow when not totally paid off, it is actually in the interest of both towns and private prisons that crime not go down. And indeed the explosion of our prison population has not made a dent in crime.

There are other industries and even governments who do not want light shed on their activities. That's why one of the first things dictators do is stifle the press. Hitler forced out of business newspapers that opposed him, sometimes by passing laws that said Jews could not own publishing companies and sometimes by just having his thugs break in and physically destroy the offices and printing presses. It happens today. Worldwide 40 journalists have been killed so far in 2016, a third not in combat or on a dangerous assignment but by murder. Since 1992, 56 journalists have been killed in Russia, 21 since Putin came to power in 2000, and nearly 2/3s were murdered. As Jesus said, “...people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19) That's one reason that the founders of our country put freedom of the press in the first amendment. Dictators hate the light of a free press.

Darkness can distort and disguise the truth as well. The internet has enabled us to have nearly instant access to the news. Reporting is no longer local but can spread globally. Unfortunately, so can badly reported or deliberately distorted news. And now there is fake news, things made up out of whole cloth. Some of the fake news is propaganda but some is simply done to make money. NPR recently tracked down the person behind a fake story about a fictitious FBI agent and his wife dying in an apparent murder/suicide after leaking emails in the recent scandal. The publisher said the story, which featured a fake town and fake people, got 1.6 million views and was done not to influence the election but simply to drive traffic to certain websites and their advertising. He has 25 domain names and makes $10,000 to $30,000 a month. And he will continue to do so as long as people do not check to see if reputable news sites back up or fact check the stories he makes up.

Like good journalists, our only weapon as Christians is the truth. We proclaim the good news of God in Christ calling all people to him for forgiveness, healing and restoration. Our job has gotten harder because of the cacaphony of competing voices essentially broadcasting any kinds of “news” you can imagine. Paul foresaw this. He wrote, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Paul is recognizing something we now call confirmation bias. Scientists have learned that people tend to select out data that seems to agree with their deeply-held beliefs and ignore or explain away facts that contradict those beliefs. This bias is so strong that showing people stuff that disproves their beliefs just makes them more firmly committed to their worldview. We are more concerned with our justifying our personal opinions than in learning the truth.

What I find fascinating is how people who supposedly base their beliefs on the Bible will disregard scriptures that contradict their personal understanding of Christianity. You would think they would change their views to conform to the whole of scripture. Thus we have churchgoers who put their trust in political leaders despite the fact that the Psalmist says not to. (Ps 146:3-9) We have churchgoers who believe revenge is all right even though Jesus said to turn the other cheek and love your enemies. (Matt 5:39, 44) We have churchgoers who think it is ok to turn away the homeless, aliens and refugees though the Old Testament explicitly says to shelter the homeless (Isaiah 58:7; Leviticus 25:35-36) and Jesus, who, along with Mary and Joseph, was a refugee in Egypt, said that not welcoming the alien is tantamount to not welcoming him. (Matt 25:43) As Stephen Colbert, who teaches Sunday School, said, “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that he commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to.”

Light can be harsh. There's a reason why those in power are not really in favor of people telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. That's in large part why they felt that Jesus had to die. That's why those who preach a santitized and comfortable version of the gospel become popular and those who preach the unvarnished and uncomfortable truth are not. In the same way, as a nurse I have found that people prefer not-very-good doctors with good bedside manners over quite good doctors with less than comfortable bedside manners. As Paul said, people would rather hear what they want to hear than listen to the truth. But the only way to get better is to get the real diagnosis and to follow a treatment plan that is honest if not the most pleasant.

This does not mean being mean. Paul says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ...” (Ephesians 4:15) The purpose of knowing and acting on the truth is not to lord it over others or gloat over their flaws but to become more Christlike. Indeed in our passage from Romans just two verses after telling us to “put on the armor of light” we are told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think Paul is using the same kind of parallelism we see in the Psalms and other Hebrew poetry. The two phrases are two ways of saying the same thing. To put on the armor of light is to put on Jesus Christ.

And how are we to do that? When I was acting in school and community theatre, to become a character, I had to study what he said and did and then practice saying and doing those things. I would think about why he spoke and acted as he did. Once I realized that my character had to be in love with the female lead from the beginning of the play rather than out-of-nowhere at the end. It changed the whole play for the better. With the help of the director I had to learn to relate to the other characters. I hoped that eventually people would not see me, Chris Todd, pretending to be someone else but would instead come to see the character I inhabited in all that I said and did.

In a sense that is how we become more Christlike. We study and learn Jesus' words and deeds. We put them into practice. We look for his motivation in it all. With the help of his Spirit we learn how to act towards and in concert with others. If we immerse ourselves in Christ, we will begin to see others as Jesus sees them and they will see him in us. We will speak to others as he would and they will hear him in our words. We will reach out to help and heal and comfort others as he would and they will feel his love and power in our actions.

The way to fight the darkness is to light the darkness. Put on the armor of light. Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Be the light of the world. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Who Done It and How

Most mysteries fall into one of two categories: the Who Done It and the How Done It. Heist movies are usually How Done Its. The mystery is how will someone commit the crime. The recent film Now You See Me about 4 magicians pulling spectacular heists is a How Done It, as are many of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L. Sayers. The now classic film The Usual Suspects is a Who Done It, as are most Agatha Christie mysteries. But since you get to know several characters during the course of the investigation and one of them is the non-obvious person behind it all, most Who Done Its also explore the question “Who are you really?” And in fact, Now You See Me does reveal that one character is also the non-obvious mastermind of the whole enterprise and not really a bad guy at all. And, like the reveal of the mastermind in The Usual Suspects, this new information makes you rethink the whole story.

The central question of the New Testament is “Who are you really?” and it is directed at Jesus. In the center of the 3 Synoptic Gospels (Mark 8:27-29; Matt 16:13-16; Luke 9:18-20) Jesus turns that question to the disciples: “Who do people say I am?” Then he probes deeper. He asks these folks who have been traveling and living with him for 3 years, “Who do you say I am?” And Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” Christos is just the Greek word for the Hebrew word Mashiach, Messiah, the Anointed. Peter identifies Jesus as God's anointed prophet and king. But I doubt Peter sees Jesus in the same light as those Jews who expected the Messiah to be God's anointed priest. Jesus is not of the priestly class, as his cousin John was. There is no expectation that he will make sacrifices on the part of the people. Which is one reason why Peter immediately rejects the idea that Jesus will be killed by his enemies. A conquering king, especially one chosen by God, doesn't get killed; he kills God's enemies. In short order Peter is proven wrong and he comes to see Jesus differently.

But the idea of Jesus as conquering warrior did not die. We see it in certain passages of Revelation. And we really see it when the ruling class and warrior cultures became “Christian.” Jesus was increasingly pictured in Christian art as an enthroned monarch, Pantokrator, literally, the All Powerful. Since the church in the first century came to see that Jesus was not a mere man, and that the term Son of God was not simply an old title for the king of Israel but was literally true in Jesus' case, it is appropriate to see him as God Almighty. But that doesn't do justice to all that we know about him.

I've got to give credit to the people who compiled our lectionary, the texts we read each week, for juxtaposing on Christ the King Sunday this passage from the New Testament with the one they chose from the gospel. In Colossians 1:11-20 we have this statement in regards to Jesus: “He is the image of the invisible God.” At the end of a murder mystery, we want to know who is the bad guy. In the Bible, we want to know who the good guy is; that is, what is God like. In the passion narrative in Luke 23:33-43, we see an indelible but startling image of God: a naked man crucified between two criminals. But how can that be God? Like Peter's problem with Jesus' conception of the Messiah, our mind rebels against the notion of a helpless, suffering God.

But if Jesus is God incarnate, then that image is as accurate an image of him as the one where he is all-powerful. The key clue is found in 1 John 4:8—God is love. When we read the Old Testament, we tend to think of God as being all about judgment. And now we veer into the territory of How Done It. How can the Old Testament God be love?

I learned that when I had kids. Nobody can make you as angry as your kids when they are doing things that can harm themselves and/or harm their brothers and sisters. My daughter once got between two back to back metal shelves at a Sam's Club and started to climb them. My wife and I were beside ourselves. If she had fallen, getting to her would have been impossible without moving huge ceiling-high shelves packed with bulky merchandise. When she finally deigned to respond to our entreaties, descended and squeezed herself out from between the shelves, laughing at our concern, I gave her a few swats on the bottom, the only time I can remember doing that to her. My action and my furious face sent the message that this wasn't a joke or a game but a deadly serious situation that she had gotten herself into. She never did that again.

In the Old Testament we see the nation of Israel in its infancy and adolescence. God keeps telling them not to do things like exploit the poor, mistreat the immigrants, and sacrifice their children to Moloch and they keep disobeying him. He warns them of the consequences and when they don't listen, he lets them suffer the results, often meted out by the empires around them. But in the same way that a good parent forgives and resumes his or her relationship with a child after the bad behavior is dealt with, God always forgives and restores his people. Because he loves them.

God's justice arises out of his love. If you have more than one child, you have to be fair to all of them. Favoritism towards one spoils him or her, gives them a sense of entitlement and makes the favored one think the world will treat them better than it really will. It also breeds resentment and rebellion among the unfavored children. If you love all your children, you treat them fairly.

Which means that you punish those who break the rules. You don't turn a blind eye when one deliberately hurts or harms another. But many parents who have tried to be fair still find that a child may not listen and learn. What happens when that child gets him or herself into a situation where the consequences are dire, where their health or their life is endangered? The loving parent will do whatever they can to save their child. They might even donate an organ if a child's kidney or liver was damaged. They would certainly give their blood to save their child.

In a sense that's what God did in Jesus. He shed his blood to save us. He gave his own life to save ours. And he did it despite our bad behavior.

That's exactly what we see in our gospel. Jesus is crucified between two criminals. Mark and Matthew say they were robbers, the Greek word being the same as the one used by the historian Josephus for revolutionaries. They were probably colleagues of Barabbas, the man released by Pilate in place of Jesus. So these were men who committed violence. Now they are dying by a nasty form of execution reserved for slaves and those considered traitors to Rome. And Jesus is hanging there between them. One insultingly tells Jesus if he is the Messiah, he should hurry up and save himself and the two men. The other rebukes his colleague in crime. They got what they deserved. Jesus didn't. He asks Jesus to keep him in mind when he comes into his kingdom. And Jesus says to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This violent person, pinioned to a cross, cannot at this point change his behavior to merit a change in God's attitude towards him. Yet he is the only human being in the Bible we know for sure is in heaven, because he is the only one given that assurance in Jesus' own words.

That is the true image of God in a nutshell. The God who is love giving himself for the world and forgiving a dying sinner because the man recognized him as his king.

And that's why some traditions adorn their churches like this:  

It's been a bad year for my family. Among other things my sister-in-law's mother died. She was Greek Orthodox and her funeral was done in accordance with that long tradition. This was laid on her coffin. My brother says neither his wife nor his daughter can look upon it without crying. So he gave it to me. I haven't decided whether to keep it or give it to our Greek Orthodox friends who have met in this sanctuary. But my brother, raised like me in a Protestant tradition that prefers crosses to crucifixes, found it a bit grisly. I understand. There is a church here in the Keys that has behind its altar a life-size, realistic and rather bloody Christ on the cross. I could see the point if they just displayed it during Lent or Holy Week and then substituted the empty cross, the cross as it was on Easter, the rest of the year. But every time they hold Mass they look upon Christ crucified.

I get it, though. Without the death of Jesus, Christianity would be very different. It wouldn't speak to our mortality, our limits, our brokenness. It wouldn't grapple with the true extent of evil in our world. It wouldn't show us the depths of God's love or the extent of his grace. See the skull at the base of the cross. It is a reference to the Place of the Skull, Golgotha, of course, but it is also a reminder that Jesus does not merely suffer but dies. Without Jesus' death there would be no resurrection and therefore no triumph over death, our greatest fear and greatest adversary. If Jesus can conquer death, what can possibly stand in his way? And if by uniting to him our fear of death is taken off the table, then what is stopping us from taking up our cross and following him all the way? In the recent film Risen a Roman centurion is investigating the disappearance of Jesus' body. He arrests the disciple Bartholomew and interrogates him. He threatens to crucify the apostle if he doesn't produce Jesus' body. Bartholomew laughs and tells him to go ahead. Because he has seen the risen Christ, he no longer fears death.

So who is God? Let's face it: even for believers, God is kind of nebulous in our minds. Theologically, he is a mystery. Sure, he created the universe but what he is really like? To find that out, we have only to look at Jesus, who, despite all we have done to his world and to each other, and what we have done to him specifically, loves us to the end and gives his life for us and to us. He is the God of life, whom even death cannot hold. He is the God of forgiveness and redemption and renewal.

We are created in the image of God. People should be able to see in us that same love, which gives deeply of itself and is concerned with acting justly towards all and mercifully towards those who like us fall short of God's glory. We need to ask ourselves “Where is Jesus in this thought? Where is Jesus in these words? Where is Jesus in this act?” And whenever we find that we are not reflecting Jesus accurately in those things, we must ask God for forgiveness and for his Spirit to work in us so that there can be no mistake of who is behind it all. The mystery is revealed. In everything, our incarnate, crucified and risen Lord is at work to save us all. And his motive is love.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dealing with Painful Change

I was in my hometown of St. Louis the last two weeks where, among other things, I was helping my brother make my mother comfortable in a very nice nursing home. It doesn't look like a nursing home; though rather recently constructed, it looks like a sprawling old home with a large screened-in porch and cozy little rooms. There are no hospital beds. It's all carpeted and there are lots of comfy chairs and her name is on a brass plaque outside her room to which she has a key. It's lovelier and more homey than any nursing facility I ever worked in. Not that my mom sees it that way. Well, some days she does and some days she doesn't. She misses her house, which she bought and paid for by herself and where she lived for more than 50 years. Though she can't live by herself any more, not even with a live-in caretaker, she resents being moved. And it is hard on my brother, whom on her bad days, my mom sees as the villain. 

Change is hard. It means some things end. We miss what was. Some things that we had, tangible and intangible, are lost when our lives change. Some of our dreams for the future must also change or be let go altogether. Change often leaves us nostalgic. It can even leave us mourning.  

Change means we have to adapt to the new state of things, the new normal. The old ways were familiar, even if in retrospect, they weren't really better than the new ways. But we knew how things worked. We knew where we stood. And now the landscape is different and we need to get reoriented to the way things are now. Looked at one way, it can be fun, an adventure, an undiscovered country to be explored. But it can also be a tremendous pain in the neck.

Change can be a real challenge. I know that from my recovery after my accident. I'm getting better at standing and walking but the act of standing up and the act of sitting down can still be difficult. Transitioning from one state to another is tough. And sometimes literally painful.  

The biggest changes come from disasters. A tornado, an earthquake, a hurricane can take away everything you own and anyone you love. That includes man-made disasters like the Great Recession. People lost jobs, pensions, homes. And the worst part is not necessarily the disaster itself but the aftermath. Even if you survive, rebuilding your home, your business, your life is a daunting task. 

In today's gospel (Luke 21:5-19) the disciples are curious about the ultimate disaster: the end of the current world order when God's kingdom comes. Jesus does not paint a comforting picture of that transition. Things will get worse. There will be wars. There will be destruction. There will be persecution. There will be false messiahs and doomsayers. "And he said, 'Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name and say, 'I am he!' and, 'The time is near!' Do not go after them." (Luke 21:8)

I find it interesting that certain Christians will study every prophesy in scripture and build up these elaborate timelines of the end of the world and even predict when it will be and yet they ignore the fact that Jesus tells us specifically not to do that. Things will get bad, he says, "but the end will not follow immediately."  In the parallel account in Matthew 24 Jesus says, "All these are but the beginning of birth pains." Anyone who's had a kid knows that means it's going to be a long, drawn-out process. My wife's labor when we had our son was about 20 hours, and that was after a few false alarms. All my nursing texts said the second birth would be faster and more regular. Wrong! My daughter also took about 20 hours to make her appearance. So Jesus is saying, Cool your jets! It ain't going to happen all at once and it isn't going to be as predictable as you think it is. The scenario found in the Left Behind series is totally fictional.

Jesus also says, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matt 24:36, emphasis mine) Even Jesus, at least in his earthly life, didn't know when this would happen. How arrogant do some so-called Bible teachers and preachers have to be to think they have it all worked out! 

If we don't know when Jesus is coming what should we do? Jesus says, "Stay awake!" (Matt 24:42) Be alert. Keep your wits about you and think of this not as a disaster but as an opportunity to represent him. (Luke 21:13) When everyone else is losing their head and blaming you, stand up for Jesus. Testify to what he has done for you. Endure. It won't last forever.

Again in Matthew, Jesus asks, "Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find doing so when he comes." (Matt 24:45, 46) In Mark Jesus says, "It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake." (Mark 13:34) Jesus doesn't want us spending our time on end times seminars but doing the work he has given us to do. 

And what is that work? To love God with all we are and all we have. To love our neighbor as ourselves. To love our enemies. To love each other as he loves us. To treat the least person we encounter as if he or she was Jesus because how we treat them is how we treat Christ. 

That's what we are supposed to do every day so that on whichever one Jesus returns he finds us doing those things he commanded us to do. We don't want to be like that servant who slacks off and indulges himself and starts abusing the other servants. Things don't go well for him. Jesus says, "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matt 24:48-51) And if that doesn't clue you in as to who is really serving Christ, Jesus said, "You will recognize them by their fruit." (Matt 7:20) And Paul enumerates the fruit of the Spirit as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." Jesus doesn't care what you say you believe with your lips; if it is contradicted by what you say with your life, things will go as well for you as the heart patient who claims he's following doctor's orders while actually smoking 3 packs a day and eating junk food for every meal and not exercising at all. That person obviously doesn't believe in or trust his doctor in any meaningful sense. And if you don't show even the early buds of the fruit of God's Spirit, you don't really believe in or trust the Great Physician in any meaningful sense. We are saved by grace through faith. Like any doctor, God can't save those who don't trust him. 

Our gospel is talking about the biggest change we can imagine: the transformation of the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our God and of his Christ. Most of the changes we have to deal with pale in comparison. For instance, right now our country is transitioning from a president we've had for 8 years to another. Whoever got in, this change was going to be hard, more so for those who supported the other candidate. Yet the strength of our country is the fact that from its beginning we have had a peaceful transition of government.That's built into our constitution. We don't need a revolution to change leaders. We don't have a monarchy or a dictatorship, either. We have a constitutional government and a balance of powers. Nobody can rule by fiat. The 3 branches of government keep each other in check. But that means to get things done people from different parties or different wings of the same party have to cooperate for the common good. To do that we have to recognize that our political opponents are not enemies of our country. We all love our country, even though we all see flaws in it as it currently exists. We all want to fix those flaws, though we tend to focus on different flaws and have different solutions for those problems. We can either keep pulling in different directions or we can decide to sit down and talk with each other and find common ground. 

As Christians we are called by our Lord to be peacemakers. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus never told us it would be easy, as today's gospel shows. After all, to reconcile us to God Jesus was crucified. How can we compare our task of enduring the discomfort of listening to different viewpoints and having painful discussions to that? There are those who cause harm in this world and those who bring healing. I think we know which group Jesus wants his followers to be part of. And the aftermath of this very contentious election is a good place to start. Our new president is going to need a lot of help bringing this country together. As Christians bringing people together in love is a big part of what we are commanded to do. Reach out to someone who voted differently than you did. Listen to their hopes and fears. Share yours. Pray together for our leaders and for our nation. 

And be thankful that God put you in a country where what unites us is not where we are from or what we look like or how we worship but a commitment to freedom and justice for all. And be thankful that as hard as this change may be, it is not the end of the world. And if it were, what matters is the person to whom we owe our ultimate allegiance: Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. His kingdom is not from this world. It doesn't come about through rage and violence but through love and reaching out to help and to heal.