Who are you going to vote for in next year’s election? (No, don’t tell me; I really don’t need to know!) Do you remember who you voted for in the previous presidential elections? I do, but I’ve not been around very long in voting terms. The earliest I remember is Carter, but for me it was Reagan that was really engraved on mind as my president. Who was it for you? Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy? Or for the rest of us, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush (I’m always getting the Father and Son Bush’s mixed up in my head, like they mushed together into one person.)
One of the things I always like during presidential campaign times was listening to all of the campaign slogans that would get thrown around. Here are some of them that were thrown around over the years. See if we can guess who’s who:
“Change we can believe in” (Obama)
“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow” (Clinton)
“Peace and Prosperity” (Eisenhower)
“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage” (Hoover)
“Vote yourself a farm” (Lincoln)
Now, coming up we hear more slogan promises that they say will only happen if you vote for them, like: “Hilary for America,” Dr. Carson “Heal, Inspire and Revive,” and Trump “Make America Great Again.”
Now here is one more slogan promise for us to hear today:
Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner.
How do you think that work’s out for a campaign slogan? Do you think it would be well received? How many people would vote for the presidential candidate with that slogan promise?! This slogan promise comes from our First Reading today from Isaiah 51, verse 6, and it comes from none other than God himself! Now the difference between this and the other presidential slogans we heard over the years is this—when a presidential candidate gives you their slogan promise, the implicit and underlying threat/promise is that this particular promise will only happen if you vote for them and get them into office like change, chicken, peace, or a farm, but if you vote that other person into office, it won’t.
But when God gives to us a promise, it doesn’t depend on whether you vote for—that is believe or trust in—God, or it’s “In Hilary We Trust,” or “In Trump We Trust,” it doesn’t matter, because what God promises will always be fulfilled no matter what our voting preferences are.
What part of that promise from God tells us is that, we cannot ultimately, nor should we ever, put our trust and hope in politics, campaigns, governments, or presidents, all of these in the end will wear out like a garment and vanish like smoke. All of these are fleeting things in the story of creation, and all of them will pass away. This is a good word for us to hear because it is so easy to get caught up, not only in political promises, but also in the promises we hear over and over again in our world. Elect me and you will have peace and prosperity. Wear me and people will like you. Eat this and you’ll have a really long and healthy life. Do this and you’ll be rich and happy. Play this and you’ll be immortalized! But in the end, all of these promises will wear out and vanish like smoke. They cannot be relied upon, and if we rest our heart upon them, we will be disappointed.
Psalm 146 reminds us of this: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.”
So where are you going to vote, then? What are you going put your ultimate trust in? In the one, of course, whose promises are not dependent upon you, or your voting habits, or your political affiliation, but whose promises will come to be without your help or participation. These are the promises that God gives to you that will continue to work in this world, within humanity, and in your life. Here is one more promise from God.
God’s salvation will be forever, and His righteousness will never be dismayed.
To see this promise in action we just have to look at the cross of Jesus where God worked salvation for you, even before you were born, before you were a thought in the family line, but God already knew your name, who you are, and that you would need Jesus. Jesus came without us asking or even knowing what kind of help we would need, but came to give us this promise of salvation so that, in faith in Him, we can be seen as righteous in God’s eyes.
Let me remind you that God does not need us to bring about His salvation in the world and he does not need your help in saving you. Your salvation, your hope, your eternal home are all accomplished through the God who loves you and the work He accomplished for you upon the cross. This is such good news to remember because we know that our hearts and emotions can go up and down like a politician’s popularity polls. We have good days and bad days, days when we feel close to God and days when we feel far away, days when we don’t love ourselves and need someplace secure in our life. This is when we can always look to the cross, look to the promises given to you in your baptism, look to God’s love that doesn’t depend on you, and know the love you are given from your Heavenly Father is the one place that will never change, no matter how you feel or who gets into office next.
Knowing this, then, is there a place for us as Christians in the political process, whether state, local, or national even though we know that every government some day will wear out like a garment and vanish like smoke? Should we have a voice or just say sa la vie, that’s life?
This is one of those surprising places in our faith, that God doesn’t need our good works, but our neighbors do. That God does His work through you, His faithful people to bring His goodness to our community, nation, and world. The political process, like anything else, is a tool that can be used for the benefit of others or to their detriment, because it is such a powerful tool that affects so many that absolutely, this is a place where we as Christians need to continually speak. Speak in such a way that isn’t protesting or waving angry placards, but in reasonable, calm, and consistent ways that speak especially for those that cannot speak for themselves.
A few weeks ago we had a movie night at my parish and watched the movie Amazing Grace together about William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith led him to work in European politics consistently and reasonably, and through whose efforts brought about the legislation that ended slavery in Europe.
The same is true of us, in whatever spheres we are called to, from voting our Christian values to speaking in the public arena, and everything in between, we can do this with a calmness—urgency, of course, because people are in need—but a calmness, knowing that God’s work is already being done, and His promises are already being fulfilled in His world, and we get to be a part of those promises fulfilled for the sake of others.
But ultimately rest assured in this good word that whatever season of life you find yourself in, from the season of endings to the season of beginnings and every season in between, know that God’s promises for you in Jesus will never change and will hold you tight through every season of life. Amen