(We had a guest preacher on Sunday, Rev. Amy Nyland, but before her sermon I gave a pastoral word, and then we read out sections of the Belhar Confession. My people have asked me to post it all:)
Dearly beloved, this is not a sermon, this is a pastoral word. As you know, during our prayers of intercession we often pray for the President and others in authority. We will continue to do so on the first Sunday after the inauguration of Donald Trump. We will pray for him with charity and integrity. The church does not take sides on candidates nor on political parties. Those of us who voted Republican have the right to the outcome, and those of us who voted otherwise must not wallow in anger or resentment.
And yet something special must recognized. The fear and grief that came over so many of us last Tuesday night is real and justified, and not from being sore losers. The reasons are complex, and beyond my expertise, but the spiritual issue is the violence that was cultivated by the winner and exploited by his supporters. Violence — violence against immigrants, violence against black people, violence against brown people, violence against LGBTs, violations of women, violations of truthfulness, violence against the planet — we still have reason to fear it.
This violence is not new, it is apple-pie American. Violence is deep in our culture and our history no matter who is in power. But its current cultivation and celebration is what alarms us, and it tells us that this is a spiritual and ethical danger we Christians must bear witness to.
Two things, then: My next sermon series will be on violence, and how the Bible can help us. Second, the mission of the church is even more critical now: to be a community of the Lord Jesus Christ, that offers a great, safe space of absolute welcome, the practice of worship and service, and the vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. As today’s Gospel instructs us, “Do not be terrified. By your endurance you will gain your souls.”
We Believe that God, in a world full of injustice and enmity, is in a special way the God of the destitute, the poor and the wronged;
We Believe that God supports the downtrodden, protects the stranger, helps orphans and widows and blocks the path of the ungodly;
We Believe that we must therefore stand by people in any form of suffering and need, which implies, among other things, that the church must witness against and strive against any form of injustice, so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream;
We Believe that we must stand against injustice and with the wronged;
We Believe that in following Christ the church must witness against all the powerful and privileged who selfishly seek their own interests and thus control and harm others.
Therefore, we reject any ideology which would legitimate forms of injustice and any doctrine which is unwilling to resist such an ideology in the name of the gospel.