Election Week

    On this Thursday morning as I write these words, the contest for the presidency is still underway. It seems like my cell phone vibrates about every five minutes while friends and colleagues text, tweet or email emerging data from a county in North Carolina or Georgia where I used to live. I am grateful for them because I have work to do, and while passionately interested in the outcome, I don’t have the mental or spiritual wherewithal to be so enmeshed in each minute movement forward toward a decision.

    While this presidential election has been repeatedly described as “the most consequential of our lifetime,” and I believe that in many ways it is, I also have the privilege to spend my days thinking theologically and biblically. In the grand scheme of things, this is one election. Hopefully a brighter future for our country and the world is dawning, but after all the votes are in, we will still be a painfully divided nation. Things that matter like healthcare, systemic racism, gender inequality, socioeconomic inequality, environmental degradation, and - you name it - will persist, and each one of us is still being called into the public arena to live out our faith for the common good.

    One of the texts I received this morning was from close friends in Texas who woke up today remembering the words to the old hymn God is Working His Purpose Out:

God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year:
God is working his purpose out, and the time is drawing near;
nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

Let us go forth in the strength of God, with the banner of Christ unfurled,
that the light of the glorious gospel of truth may shine throughout the world:
let us all fight with sorrow and sin, to set their captives free,
that earth may be filled with the glory of God,
as the waters cover the sea.

All that we do can have no worth, unless God blesses the deed;
vainly we hope for the harvest-tide, till God gives life to the seed;
yet nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be,
when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God
as the waters cover the sea.

    We don’t sing that hymn anymore. It fell out with Onward Christian Soldiers as too militaristic, too masculine, too unaccepting of the world’s interfaith pluralism. However, drawing upon the prophetic imagery of Habakkuk and the love letter to the early church from Philippians, it reminds us that the purposes of God outlast and outlive the purposes of any human endeavor, including a presidential election.

    We have our marching orders. Love God and love neighbor as we love ourselves, and remember that our neighbors live in those color-coded counties very different from our own. That may help us be a bit more faithful to what we know to be the truth above all other truths: God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year.