By Pastor Gary Peterson
In just a few days we, as a country, will have the opportunity to voice our intentions for our community, state and country through the midterm elections. The polls taken recently have shown that more and more people believe our country is becoming more divided and coming together less and less. Unless we take up the mantle of leadership by our casting of votes where every person’s voice can be heard and can reach their full potential we cannot change our community, our state, our country and the world.
In our divided country in which we currently live, what role can and must the church play? We are not without hope. These words from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 sermon “Strength to Love” gives us a place to put our attention. “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture his prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggles for peace, for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause people everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will.” Remember WE are the church.
We as United Methodist have a conscience and we are obligated to express our conscience as we look forward to casting our votes this November. Our conscience comes from our doctrinal heritage where we believe Scriptures holiness always entails more than just personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and a renewal in the life of the world. From our social principles we know that “Every person has a right to a job at a living wage.” And in spite of general affluence and the industrialized nations the majority of persons in the world live in poverty. In order to provide basic needs, such as food, clothing, shelter, education, healthcare and other vital necessities of life; we must find ways to share more accurately the resources of the world. As a church, as the United Methodist Church we are called to support the work needed so that all the world can live above the, “Basic needs of life.”
What can people of faith do to be the conscience of the state? We must encourage our government and those that we elect to provide ways for those who live at the poverty levels to be able to rise above and also we must provide social safety nets so that the people living next door, on the next street, in the next community, in our country and around the world can have healthcare, food, clothing, shelter and education. Our social principles of the United Methodist Church require us as United Methodist to do all that we can to help provide more than just the minimum requirements for all people.
We can advocate through letters, phone calls, our presence and our vote. We must recognize that our government and our nation exist to serve its citizens and we as a church are called to be a conscience, guide or critic of the state. Whenever we turn in on ourselves or failed to serve the very least in our midst we are violating our principles as United Methodist and as Christians. Our country was founded on ideals that include welcoming all to our shores, moving beyond our borders, to seek justice around the world and ensuring fullness of life for each person on God’s earth.
We in the United States, I believe, were never destined to be self-serving and isolationist. Our founder John Wesley proclaimed that the whole world is our parish, so the entire world is our concern as well. I ask you as a people of a faith covenant to support those we elect by our vote not just in a few days but as we are asked again and again to voice our support through voting, by our prayers, our encouragement and by serving to be a conscience to those around us and those we elect who would determine the future of our community, our state, our country and the world. Dare we work for the day when our nation and the world would look like God’s reign, where the poor will go first, those earning minimum wage will sit at the places of honor and those who are rejected because of their skin color, immigration status or sexual orientation/gender identity are welcome with open arms? Dare we move from praying, “God, make our country great; America first!” To “God, use us as your servants to make every corner of our world safe and whole again?”
My prayer for us as we go forward in our midterm election, and in our church conference that comes at the end of November, when those we elect in leadership positions and those we trust who will have influences upon us will be led by God into the future with humility, grace and hope and may we too be filled with humility, grace and hope as we serve our Lord Jesus The Christ. Amen.