This letter was sent to the folks at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland on the day after the General Election (November 8, 2016).
As I finish my last day of my STAYcation, my heart is full. This election season which culminated in last night’s election felt for some like a violent game which was played with violent language and oppressive behavior directed toward people we care about. Today, many of you have reached out, expressing shock and grief. At the same time, others are concerned with how to be part of a community in which they feel alone in their choice. All of our hearts are broken and our ideals feel as though they have been shattered into a thousand pieces like a beloved piece of grandma’s crystal that has fallen to the floor.
As I sat with my thoughts today, I remembered Elijah – the prophet who fled to a mountain cave to hide – the one who told God:
I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
Elijah was surely thinking: “How did this happen? I’ve been faithful. I tried to do what God needed me to do, yet here I am.” Like many of us today, Elijah didn’t know where to turn next. He didn’t know what to do. His shock was great, as was his very real fear of the King’s shock-troops that were coming for him. It seemed better to him to hunker down and hide. But God had another idea.
As the story goes, God sent a destructive wind, a mighty earthquake, and a roaring fire – but God wasn’t in those things. God was in the silence of the aftermath. God’s presence was deeply felt by Elijah in the deep quiet that fell while Elijah waited for some other terrible thing to happen. And then God spoke and gave Elijah clear instructions about what he needed to do.
So I sat with Elijah in a deep silence – the silence of cognitive dissonance, the silence of unspoken fear, the silence that falls in the absence of easy answers to questions that require more from us than we want to give. And this afternoon I heard God say: “You know what to do. First Church already knows what to do. You have already seen the vision I have for you.”
- What is God telling us about making a welcome in such a time as this?
- What does that welcome look like for people who will face oppression?
- What does it look like for those who will face rejection?
- What does it mean to not just HAVE a sanctuary, but BE a sanctuary for any and all who would seek comfort?