I can’t live sanely and lovingly without church. Now if you’re saying, “Well, I can’t live with church,” I would understand and empathize, but I’d urge you to try another church until you get a chance to experience good church.
And here is why I am especially mindful of how grateful I am for good church today. Because today is Super Tuesday. Every presidential election season I think surely political pandering couldn’t get any more divisive and base, pitting our worst instincts against each other. But I am always wrong. Someone else can come up with an even shrewder way to make us think that everyone who is for this candidate is dumb, while everyone who is for this candidate is mean, and everyone who is for this candidate is godless, while their special candidate is the savior our nation needs. During the week, listening to and watching all this hyperbole, I start to believe it.
And then, Sunday morning rolls around, and I go to church. Now I know that in some churches, you can assume that everybody is pretty much voting the same way. Some churches even pretty overtly support a particular political party. Frankly, I don’t think that’s good church (nor is it in keeping with the laws of tax exemption for religious institutions in our country). I am not at all suggesting that good church is apolitical. That’s not even possible, because if you follow the teachings of Jesus, you will be in the muck of systems that either care for people or don’t. But at our church, you may not assume one single thing about the political affiliation of the person who is sitting next to you in worship. One of our values statements says this, “We celebrate who you are: male or female, single or married, gay or straight, brown, black, or white, Democrat or Republican…”
So I know that there are supporters of all of the major candidates and a few minor ones singing the hymns with me on Sunday mornings. And while I could argue fervently with them and them with me on many topics, here is the thing upon which we agree, and the reason why we are in worship together: We agree that none of the presidential candidates, nor any political party, is the Savior. We trust that position has been filled by Jesus Christ. Jesus, who was born into poverty, and cared for the people of greatest need and lowest status; Jesus, who washed the feet of his followers; Jesus, who suffered and died rather than conquered and amassed power; Jesus, who God raised from death to show that Jesus’ way is the way to life now, and forever. In church, we remember who we are: followers of Jesus who challenge each other, correct each other, but most of all, so help us God, we love each other.
When someone passes the communion cup and bread to me, I receive grace, whether it’s from a Cruz supporter or a Sanders supporter. My self-importance and self-righteousness move aside for a moment of humility and unity. It’s weird, and wonderful, and it’s the stuff of authentic community and the very hope of the world.