Waiting can be hard.
Waiting to see how we did on a test, waiting to ask someone if they want to get married, waiting to see how bad the hurricane will be, waiting for that call back from the doctor.
It’s hard to wait, and at the same time we feel afraid of what will happen when the waiting is over. What if we fail the test? What if our beloved says no? What if the hurricane destroys our home? What if we receive the diagnosis we fear the most is what we receive?
Waiting can be hard.
This is hardly the first time we’ve had to wait for change in leadership in this country. This is hardly the first time people have waited, hearts filled with a mixture of hope and dread, wondering if things will turn out ok, whatever ok may be. This is hardly the first time a lot has ridden on the outcome of an election. But this definitely is an election like no other.
Like many of you, I have been doing what I can to ensure candidates who values align with my own are elected to office. Like many of you, I’ve been doing this work alongside a full-time job and pandemic parenting. My heart today is filled with a mixture of gratitude and admiration for this congregation and all that each of you has been doing in the service of our values, and deep concern about what the next few weeks may bring.
This country has had contested elections before, and we’ve experienced voter intimidation and suppression before, too. But to my knowledge this is the first time a candidate, and the incumbent at that, has refused to agree to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election. I think this is why leaders with the Poor People’s Campaign, Election Defenders, and the Clergy Emergency League all agree it’s likely this election will be a contested one. And given the complications of the pandemic, it’s safe to say that no one really knows what to expect, how long the uncertainty will last, how things will unfold, and what may be asked of us as citizens and residents of this democracy.
This political storm has been long in the making, but that doesn’t make it any easier to try and live in the middle of it, or wonder how long it will last. The winds of racism, fascism, greed, and suppression are blowing one way, while we each lend what weight we can to the grounding rocks of justice and equity. We are not the first to face this kind of storm. And because we are not the first, we have the hard-won wisdom of those who have done this before to guide us.
As the late, great Congressman John Lewis taught in our Time for All Ages this morning, a true story from his own childhood, these storms come and they go. And it is the people clasping hands, holding firm to one another and to our values of freedom and justice, equity and compassion that keep the whole house from blowing down around us.
To paraphrase Congressman Lewis, America feels as if it might burst at the seams—so much tension, so many storms. But the people of conscience can never leave the house. We cannot run away. We will stay, we will come together and do the best we can, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that is the weakest. And eventually, inevitably, this storm will settle, and God-willing, the house will still stand. But we know another storm will one day come, and we will have to do some version of this work again. And that is when our children and grandchildren will look to us, that is when they will read our words, study what for them will be the history of the days that lie now ahead of us, and they will gain strength and comfort from our commitment, from our fortitude, from our unwillingness to give up.
I am not here to make empty promises or give you false hope. I do not know how things are going to turn out. I can only share the faith and hope I have received, faith and hope in a power mightier than any army and more tender than a mother’s caress. I can only share the good news that the Spirit of Life and Love and Freedom that is at heart of our free faith is the same Spirit of Justice that has thrown the mighty down from their thrones, exalted the lowly, and filled the hungry with good things from generation to generation. And I can share my hope, that come what may in these next few days and weeks, that same spirit of life and love, freedom and justice, will be at work in us and with us and through us and millions of others who are willing to work and sacrifice for an inclusive and equitable United States of America.
The Unitarian Universalist minister David O. Rankin liked to share a story from his career. In 1968, he preached a sermon just before the presidential election, in which he was not thrilled between the choice of Richard Nixon or Hubert Humphrey. Instead of making the case, however subtly, for either candidate, he chose instead to recommend that he hoped everyone would vote for the most intelligent, experienced, and compassionate candidate. After the service, in the receiving line, he was confronted by a man who shouted at him, “How dare you use the pulpit to support Hubert Humphrey!”
As your minister, I endorse no candidates today. It is not my place to tell you who to vote for. But I believe it is absolutely my place to encourage all who are eligible who haven’t voted yet to vote for the candidates you feel are the most intelligent, compassionate, and committed to justice. And to encourage you to join me in loving the hell out of this country, each in our own ways.
Because, come what may, we can’t heal a country we don’t also love.
Because, come what may, we are bold and courageous and are charting a new future.
Because, come what may, we have faith in a future that is not known.
Because, come what may, we are the people we have been waiting for.
May it be so, and may we make it so. Amen.