God's Platform


Randall Tremba 
November 4, 2012
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
 Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church

* * *

Psalm 146
Do not put your trust in princes.

* * *

In case you hadn’t heard, this forthcoming presidential election is the most important since, well, since 2008. But here’s a little perspective: before Barack Obama. Before Mitt Romney. Before Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, Greens, Socialists, Whigs, Tories, or Teapots. Before, bailouts, Bain, birthers and Big Bird there was Psalm 146. Which turns out to be God’s platform for those who would govern, be it kings, queens, presidents, mayors or just you yourself governing your own small world.

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! 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.

Happy are those whose help and hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them.

And now here comes “God’s platform”:

The LORD executes justice for the oppressed; gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free; opens the eyes of the blind, and lifts up those who are crushed; the LORD loves righteousness. The LORD watches over the stranger and upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked is brought to ruin.

The LORD will reign forever, for all generations. Praise the LORD!

And here’s a simple prayer based on this Psalm. May the hand of righteousness be strengthened in the land. And may the arm of wickedness be restrained.

Yesterday I read in the newspaper that a woman in Texas was turned away from her polling place because she was wearing a T-shirt which said in big bold letters: VOTE THE BIBLE. Could it be by “Bible” she had “God’s Platform” from Psalm 146 in mind, you know, justice for the oppressed, setting prisoners free and welcoming immigrants? I really don’t know what she had in mind. All I know is that she lives in Texas and that may be a clue that she had a different part of the Bible in mind. I don’t know. I’m just sayin’!

In 2008 a lot of Americans put their trust in a prince as it were. And from what I’ve heard a lot of people on Tuesday will put their trust in yet another prince whom they think will save us from the Great Recession, rising health care costs, unemployment and terrorism, to name just a few. No one knows how. But again there is rumor of a “magic wand.”

Lord, have mercy. Here we go again.

I have friends who are more terrified of the outcome of this election than they were of Hurricane Sandy. They are predicting devastation on an apocalyptic scale if certain electoral forces converge on Tuesday. But they’re not stocking water. They’re stocking liquor.

Lord, have mercy. Here we go again.

Please, let’s all take a deep breath.

Please, remember who you are.

Please, remember whose you are.

In life and death you belong to God.

Whether you suffer or sing rejoicing, you belong to God.

Whether your candidate wins or loses, you belong to God.

Remember whoyou are and, for heaven’s sake, remember whereyou are.

The United States of America has been around for 236 years. Shepherdstown has been here for 250 years. Civilization has been around for at least 4,000 years. And the planet for four and half billion years.

The Spirit that keeps bringing life out of death, light out of darkness, beauty out of chaos, isn’t going away next Wednesday. The Great Spirit is in it for the long haul—until swords are beat into plowshares, until lion and lamb lie down together, until the poor are lifted up, the powerful humbled and the oppressed set free. The Spirit is in it for the long haul.

Still, as far as I can tell, none of that is inevitable. We have a hand in the outcome. We have a responsibility to be faithful to the ways of God, which are, as the Psalm suggests, the ways of justice and kindness.

Put not your trust in princes or mortals. Don’t expect one man, one woman, one political party, or one form of government to solve all problems and usher in the Kingdom of God in your lifetime. It doesn’t work that way.

Put not your trust in mortals. It may be typical Bible hyperbole but still it’s a good idea to be cautious. However, remember this: God doesn’t work without human, mortal hands.

A certain old story keeps coming round after every major storm. Perhaps you’ve heard it.

The police go door-to-door urging residents to evacuate but one pious man refuses, saying, no thanks, I’m staying right here. God will save me.

The storm hits. Water floods the streets. A boat arrives at the pious man’s porch. No, thank you, says the man. God will save me.

The water rises to the rooftop. A helicopter arrives to hoist the pious man to safety. No thanks. God will save me.

The man drowns, arrives at the pearly gates and stomps into God’s throne room. Where were you, he yells at God? I put my trust in you and not in mortals and you let me down.

Really, says God. I sent the police, a rowboat and a helicopter to save your—and this is a loose translation—to save your sorry you know what! So, tell me, what exactly were you looking for?

Put not your trust in princes or in mortals may mean, put not your trust in the short term, the quick fix. For the Lord of Love is the Lord of all generations, past and yet to come.

Still, God doesn’t work without human hands.

The works of God are embodied in ordinary human flesh. Our hands reach out and touch the world around us with love. It’s what the incarnation reveals in Jesus. The divine shines in the human.

We caught a surprising glimpse of that light in New Jersey last week when two highly divisive partisan politicians set aside bluster and bickering to unite for the sake of crushed and dispossessed people. Kindness and compassion, as it turns out, is in every single heart. Sometimes it takes a hard blow to set it free.

No matter the outcome of Tuesday’s vote count you can count on this: Wednesday the sun will rise on the just and the unjust. The sun will rise on Republicans and Democrats. The sun will rise on the winners and the losers, on the gleeful and the mournful. Why can we count on that? We can count on that because God is in charge of the sun and not you, your party, the government or even China!

The Lord shall reign for all generations. Which is to say: Love shall reign forever and ever. Whether we suffer or sing rejoicing we belong to the earth, we belong to the stars, we belong to God.

Which means: no matter the outcome Tuesday, there will be work to do on Wednesday. Homes and lives to rebuild, the hungry to feed, the naked to clothe, the friendless to befriend, the homeless to shelter, the enslaved to free, prisoners to visit, mourners to console, children to education, poems to write, songs to sing, the fearful to comfort, the dying to anoint, and the wounded to mend.

Why? Because we belong to God and that’s what those who belong to God do.

Whether it rains or shines, whether it’s Obama or Romney, across this wide world, we shall always find
 those who are crying with no peace of mind,
 but when we help them, or when we feed them, 
we belong to God.
 And that’s something you can count on no matter the vote tally count. No matter what may happen today, the next day or even the day after we belong to God. And those who belong to God always have good work to do. Always.

* * *

SING: “When We Are Living” (Hymn 400)