I recently returned from a trip to Indiana to visit family. If you don’t know much about Indiana I can tell you it is on the more conservative side politically, socially, and religiously. I spent more than half of my life in that world, so it is very familiar to me. One newer thing that jumped out at me on this trip, however; was a significant number of large billboards that read “Vote Your Values.” In much smaller print they all made reference to a scripture or some value that people argue are pulled from scripture. It was clear they all were targeting Christians.
I spent a fair amount of my time driving back to Connecticut thinking about these signs. A common refrain in our UCC churches to our pastors is “Your sermon was too political.”
Let me share a secret with you: The Bible is a not a book free of politics. In fact, it is filled with stories of God commanding and Jesus sharing how the way the government cares for people and how people are ruled or governed is a matter of faith. Jesus is very clear, the way all people, and especially the least of these are cared for and treated by the government is vital to faith and how God wants us to live in the world.
We are not called to be partisan. That is different than being political and allowing our faith to shape our political action and our demand for justice. Large portions of the church are not hiding from politics, instead they are spending big money to remind folks that their faith matters in politics. Perhaps it is time we join the conversation and acknowledge that Jesus was very political and we need to be having these conversations shaped by our faith, in our churches, equipping our young people to think critically about their faith in the world in Church, at Camp, in Confirmation Class, in Sunday School, on Mission Trips, wherever we can catch them.
It is hard work living the gospel. It can make each of us uncomfortable. But Jesus didn’t say, 'sit back and get comfy, it is going to be easy from here,' he said, 'it is going to be hard leaving your old life behind to follow me.' But he did promise to walk with us and that together the world will be different.
A Prayer: God of all Creation, help us to hear the cries of the forgotten, the lost, the excluded, the hurting. Push us from the comfortable places to the hard work of living for justice. And remind us that we do not work alone, our faith is grounded in you and in your beloved community.
Rev. Ryan Gackenheimer is the Executive Director of Silver Lake Conference Center.
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