Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Sermon for All Souls', Election Day 2004

A sermon preached at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in St. Joseph, Michigan
on Tuesday, November 2nd, at the 12:15 All Souls' Eucharist.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

Today we encounter an odd and rare convergence in our calendar, for it is both the feast of All Souls and Election Day, an event which only happens every 28 years or so.

Since the earliest days of the church, each member of the Christian community was known as a saint, a “holy one”, made holy by Jesus Christ through the Spirit. But as time wore on, certain Christians who lived lives of exceptional holiness were singled out as ‘saints’. As the focus on these people increased, the sense of each Christian being a saint waned. In light of this development, the church began setting aside a separate day in the tenth century to remember the whole body of the faithful departed this life, but who are unknown in the wider church. So we come together to pray for the dead.

It might be wryly suggested that praying for the dead is very appropriate indeed on Election Day, whether because you suspect that as citizens we are embracing death ourselves through which ever candidate we elect, or because you anticipate that if your candidate isn’t elected, we might envy the dead, or even just because you want to express your heartfelt concern for a sizable percentage of the City of Chicago’s voters.

But joking aside, I think there is a deeper resonance here, between Election Day and All Souls. For they are both weighty occasions in which we lay bare our highest hopes and our deepest fears.

In exercising our franchise by voting, we put our support behind one candidate or another to provide leadership and direction to our town, state or nation. By casting that vote, we express our hope for a just and equitable society, and we confront the fearful possibility that – whether our candidate wins or not – things might go awry and the fragile balances of our social order might be upset.

And by coming here to day to invoke the names of friends, family and loved ones who have gone before us, we also bring our highest hopes and deepest fears. Our deepest fears lie in our knowledge that we will one day, too, go the way of all flesh. They lie in the creeping doubts that come in the wee hours of the night, that whisper in our ears that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return, and that that is the end of the story.

And we bring our highest hopes that, despite the doubts and the demons, God is at work, redeeming and restoring the world through Jesus Christ, and that through his death and resurrection, we ourselves, and all faithful departed, and even, yes, we dare to hope, the whole creation will one day be renewed and join in one voice to praise and worship the one true God.

As for the polls being taken today, I can’t say how they will go, how our hopes and fears will be fulfilled. But I do believe that the hour is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For in the grace of God through Jesus Christ, today, and every day, is our election day. And in that is true hope indeed. Amen.

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