4 Days ‘Til Election Sermon

All week, I’ve been searching for my elusive Easter sermon (I think it’s hiding with the Easter bunny), and on my run route this morning, I found, not my Easter sermon, but my 4 Days ‘Til Election Sermon! I saw 22 signs for NO Repeal as I ran and two Vote Yes on Question #1 signs. Completely unsurprising given the part of Springfield I live in, but I did find it heartening given the knowledge that none of those NO Repeal signs would have been handed out at a church where the average Sunday morning attendance is around 9000 people (which is the case for the Vote Yes signs). So all of the people who had the NO Repeal signs in their yard had to do more than just get up and go to church on a Sunday morning. They had to make a concerted effort to get that sign. They had to reach into their pocketbooks and make a donation to help offset costs to get that sign. I know because I had to wait two weeks before I was able to get my NO Repeal sign!

But the potential influence of that mega church paired with an article I read in the News-Leader yesterday about a letter sent to 35 pastors urging them to vote yes to repeal got me thinking about a parable Jesus once told. He talked of the kingdom of God being like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches. And those of you who are familiar with mustard plants know that they don’t actually grow into trees, but they are prone to taking over a garden. In a culture where keeping things separate and pure, it would have been crazy talk telling a story of a man who would plant mustard seed in his garden. That would wreak havoc in the garden and infest everything! But see, that’s the cool thing about Jesus. He likes to take things and flip them on their heads. He uses things that might be seen negatively as an illustration of the kingdom of heaven. How’s that for provocative preaching!

The article I reference mentions that the superintendent of the denomination expects there to be 30,000 people worshiping in those 35 church on Easter Sunday. I would be lying if I said that didn’t make my heart sink as I read it. But today, on my morning run, I saw all those NO Repeal signs and I started to think of that mustard seed. How perhaps this NO Repeal campaign is the mustard seed planted in a garden full of people who like to keep things just so, no ruffling of the status quo because things-are-working-out-just-fine-for-me-thank-you-very-much. Maybe NO Repeal is like the kingdom of God, spreading a message of hope and love to all people. It starts out small, and in the face of 30,000 people who may be standing in opposition to us, we feel insignificant. But we are not. The seeds are being planted. With each conversation we have, the seeds are being planted. With each story we share, the seeds are being planted. With each phone call we make, with each door we knock on, the seeds are being planted. And these are seeds of love, seeds of compassion, seeds of justice, seeds of hope, seeds of care for neighbor, seeds of equality, and they will grow and grow and grow until they take over the field of 30,000 and become the largest of the garden plants. We’re infesting the garden with love, compassion, justice, hope, care for neighbor, and equality. These seeds cannot be unplanted. The conversations we’ve had cannot be un-had. Whether the seeds will germinate in time for the election on April 7, well, only time will tell. But know, that regardless of the outcome, the work we have done has been important work. It has been holy work. And it cannot be undone. Justice will come. Hope will rise. Take comfort in that.

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Voting on Question #1

I have been reading so many letters to the editor, responses, even sermons now on how people are going to (or should) vote on Question #1 regarding whether or not the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) inclusion to the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance should be repealed and here’s what comes to the forefront of my mind: This is actually not an issue about human sexuality. And yet that’s how people are talking about it. What Question #1 *is* about is human rights and whether or not we all have access to the same rights. Question #1 has nothing to do with marriage. And yet people are debating it as though it does. Question #1 is about whether or not every single person in Springfield has the right to keep their job as long as their employer can support their position and as long as the person’s job performance is satisfactory; it is about whether or not every single person in Springfield has the right to be able to put a roof over their head provided they are able to pay for it; and it is about whether or not every single person in Springfield has the right to be served when they go to a restaurant or a store or a place of business. That is it. Nothing more, nothing less.

And so to all of the people who are arguing this on a human sexuality level, it is time for you to consider that maybe you are missing the point. It is time for you to search deep within yourself and ask yourself if you think it is fair, in the United States of America, for any tax-paying citizen to be denied the right to be employed without fear of loss of employment due to something that has nothing to do with their job performance or the employer’s ability to support the position financially, if it is fair for any tax-paying citizen to be denied the right to housing when they can pay for it, or if it is fair for any tax-paying citizen to be denied public services when all they’ve done is walk into a place of business and ask for said services like anyone else. Because that is what’s at stake here.

On April 7, I am going to walk into my polling place and vote NO on Question #1. I am going to do this because I am a person of faith. I am going to do this because I am a follower of Jesus Christ who taught me to treat each and every person with dignity and respect, who taught me that it is in the very ones society despises and pushes to the margins that I can see his face. I am going to vote NO so that every tax-paying citizen of Springfield, MO can have the exact same rights that I have when it comes to employment, housing, and public services. I am going to vote NO and it is my sincere prayer that those of you who live within the city limits will join me in doing so as well.