Summary: Following the presidential election, we must check our allegiances, cast aside our idols, and seek to follow Christ and the ways of God's kingdom.
Once we picked our collective chins up off the floor on Wednesday morning this week, I think we saw the fruit of something that has been growing in our country for at least 15-20 years. But maybe it’s been longer than that and I’m speaking only from my personal experience. You all will know better than I. In any case, it seems to me that despite the system of checks and balances that is built into our government, we have lifted the office of President a notch above all else. It’s kind of like the quarterback on the football team, or the pitcher on the baseball team—when the team wins or loses, it is our tendency to point to those positions (depending on the sport) as key to the outcome of the game. And I think we’ve come to a point where we view the Presidency (or maybe its parties or policies) in a similar way. Here’s what makes me think this: when I watched the reaction unfold on Wednesday morning, what I saw were a whole lot of people who were feeling like the outcome of this election is the end, or at least the beginning of the end, and a whole lot of people who were feeling confident that all their greatest hopes and dreams will now suddenly and seemingly magically be realized.
Now, that seems innocent enough, perhaps even normal enough. But here’s the thing; think for a minute about the status of pitchers or quarterbacks in their respective sports, especially at the pro-level. They’re paid more, right? They have better name recognition. Millions of people buy their t-shirts and follow them on Facebook or Twitter. We idolize them. And I think we have gotten to a point in the United States where we idolize certain policies, or certain parties, or even the Presidential office. I think this is why the reaction to Tuesday’s election outcome was so visceral on both sides. If we saw the Presidency (or even policies or parties) for what they are, one piece of the whole, we would have felt joy or sorrow depending on whether or not our candidate won, but I’m not sure the emotion would have been so completely raw, so extreme. Now, I in no way want to downplay the very valid concerns of some, and the very real joys of others, as a result of Tuesday’s election. These need exceptionally careful attention by our elected officials at the local, state, and national level, and it is my prayer that all voices will be heard and heeded.
What I want to do this morning is consider this matter of idolization and allegiance. Earlier in the service, we heard the 146th Psalm. Listen again to verse 3. It says, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.” In the words of one of my colleagues from a blog post this week, “Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton are not gods.” And I might add that neither is Barack Obama, or the Bushes, or any others. But this fellow pastor goes on, “The DNC and GOP are not your community. The USA is not your kingdom.” My friend is exactly right, and yet how easily do we slip into that mindset? How quickly do we get so wrapped up in campaign politics or just politics in general that our allegiances begin to shift? How often do we build up idols that fit the mold that best serves us? How often do we glorify the mortal instead of our God? A lot, it seems, because the impression I got on Wednesday is that we all feel like our whole lives are on the line every four years when these elections come around.
Which brings me to our gospel reading for this morning: Jesus’ foretelling of the destruction of the Temple. This is our lectionary text for today. The lectionary is a three-year cycle of Scripture passages that guide us through the major themes and stories of the Bible. I have been preaching now for almost ten years; this is now my fourth opportunity to preach on this text, but the first time I ever have. I do not like this passage, and so I always push it aside when it shows up in the lectionary and I find something else to preach on instead. But this week, with some gentle guidance from a well-respected colleague and mentor, I decided it was time to absorb this passage, to let God speak to me, to us, through these words; to hear the message of the destruction of the Temple as we think about how our hopes and dreams rise and fall with the electoral counts every four years.