What's Tony Thinking

The Sunday After Tuesday


“The Sunday After Tuesday” was the header on this week’s Alban Weekly newsletter. Every preacher seeing that knew what it meant. You’ll be in the pulpit, called to proclaim the Word of God, on the Sunday following an election that has our nation on edge, and by Sunday, maybe worse . . . or maybe, let us pray, better.

A month ago I agreed to preach on this Sunday, without really noting as I said “yes,” that it would be the Sunday after this particular Tuesday. Yikes! What was I thinking? No matter what happens today or as the rest of this week unfolds, it will be a challenging day to preach, but also an important one.

The ancient question will be before us. “Is there a Word from the Lord?”

The Alban newsletter cited to four articles, one by yours truly, which editors thought might be relevant and helpful to preachers preparing to preach on November 8. One had in view “purple” congregations, where people were on both sides politically. Another addressed preaching after the election in African-American churches, touching on the dilemma I cited in yesterday’s post: as Christians, how invested are we to be in America? A question even more acute for many African-American Christians.

While having political diversity in a congregation (hence purple) is, in my judgment, a good thing, it has become increasingly rare, more the exception than the rule, lately. As we sort ourselves into tribes and affinity groups, congregations have become more like-minded politically. That’s problematic. The temptation then is to equate one party or candidate with God’s way or purposes and the other . . . well.

Even if your congregation is heavily blue or red, such partisanship is a temptation to be avoided. The election must be addressed with a pastoral heart and sensitivity. But Christian discipleship and hope are not primarily governed by the outcome of the election.

The gospel text for this Sunday presents its own challenges and opportunities. It is the first of three parables about the delay of the coming of Christ and of a judgment that will attend that moment. This week it is the parable of the wise and foolish bridesmaids, five of whom are wise and five foolish.

There are some tough elements here, particularly for liberals. Judgment being one. “Judgment? I thought we’d gotten rid of that!” Or the fact that the five wise women, when asked to share their oil supply with those who have run short, refuse. “Aren’t Christians supposed to share!” And, then, finally, there’s a closed door to the wedding banquet hall. “Wait . . . what happened to inclusion!”

I would note that when we liberals get to the third of these parables (Matthew 25: 31 – 46) where Jesus says, “Inasmuch as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me,” and there is a separation of the sheep and goats, we seem not quite so bothered by that judgment. “Take that, you hard-hearted fundamentalists!”

One thing you can say for these parables is that all of them deal with waiting and how we wait. Which may be highly relevant this week as the outcome of the election will likely be delayed. And we wait. The question raised by all three parables is how we live and act during the waiting time. We’ll see, won’t we.

While Advent doesn’t officially begin until November 29, there’s a sense in which all of these are Advent parables as they address living in the time between the first coming and history’s final consummation. That is a topic to which I devoted my lecture, “How To Live When Things Fall Apart,” last month. It is available on video at the website of Desert Garden United Church of Christ.

So, fellow preachers, the Sunday after Tuesday comes. Your people will need you. They will need to hear a word from the Lord — as will I, as will you. May your work be blessed with God’s anointing.

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