For Election Day Communion

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

Election Day Communion is a national movement of Christians who want to declare our allegiance to Christ over and above our allegiance to a particular political party–or even a particular nation. When I last checked the Election Day Communion website, there were 835 groups who had signed up as participants in this event.

That means that on election night, there will be tens of thousands of Christians gathering together around the Lord’s Table. Tens of thousands of Christians who will share the bread and the cup as brothers and sisters–despite political differences. Tens of thousands of voices raised to heaven praying, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

There will be tens of thousands of Christians across the country remembering together, entering together into the story of what happened with Jesus and his disciples on the night that Jesus was betrayed.

This is the story we are choosing–the story we tell at the Lord’s Table.

For months now politicians, unions, corporations, Facebook friends, have been trying to get us to participate in their stories. So many different stories; all wanting our buy-in–our agreement, our money, our vote.

Stories of a successfully recovering economy and stories of failed economic policies.

Stories of family values and stories of civil rights.

Stories of the war on women and stories of the evils of abortion.

Stories of care for the vulnerable and stories of entitlement programs.

Stories of environmental responsibility and stories of the need for job creation.

We’ve heard so many stories. And we hear them all in the context of our own unique life stories. The stories we live affect the stories we believe. And my guess is that, if you vote, the stories you believe play a big role in who you vote for.

It is fine to go to the voting booth. But it is more important to come to the Table. Our presence at the Table bears witness to the fact that whatever social, political, moral, economic stories we might believe, this is the central story for our lives. This is the Story by which all other stories are measured. This story of God’s deep love for us in creation, in covenant, and ultimately, in Jesus Christ.  This story that proclaims Good News, freedom, healing. This story that proclaims a love stronger than hate, a life bigger than ourselves, a power stronger than death.

It is this story of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ that claims our allegiance. Now and always. Amen.

The Pastor Appreciates Harry Potter

Awhile back I heard a piece on NPR about the Harry Potter Alliance. It’s a group of fans who come together around various philanthropic and social justice issues. They sent five cargo planes full of supplies to Haiti after the earthquake. They’ve campaigned on behalf of marriage equality and genocide prevention. They’ve stocked libraries in Rwanda and the Mississippi Delta.

The Harry Potter Alliance has converted many politically apathetic young people into activists. I was intrigued to hear the commentator discuss why so many people will join the Harry Potter Alliance who have never considered being socially engaged before. It has to do with our deep human connection to story.

Activism based on a loved narrative has a depth and passion that is missing from activism based simply on party affiliation or budget numbers.

People will come together around a story—and its characters—more energetically than they will gather around a statement of purpose.

The truths people learn from a tale well told will lodge more deeply in their souls than the most eloquent persuasive essay.

In this day of instant messaging and fast food and multi-tasking, people will still take the time to read over 4100 pages-worth of a good story. And talk to their friends about it. And watch the movies. And develop organizations around it.

As a pastor, this is all incredibly encouraging to me. Because what the Christian Church has to offer is one fantastic story. The story of God’s relationship with humanity throughout time. The story of God’s intimate connection to us through Jesus Christ. A story—like that of Harry Potter—that delves deeply into the messy questions of good and evil.

I am glad to know that people are still willing to give their life energy to a story, because that is exactly what the Church asks (or should be asking) them to do. While the biblical text is basically set, the Christian story continues and we are all called to be part of it.

It seems that, at least for some of us, there is nothing more natural—or satisfying—than anchoring our lives in a good story. A story gives us principles to follow, people to love, futures to envision. Not to mention adventure and fun and laughter along the way.

It is a grace to inhabit a good story, to let the best of stories inhabit us.

And Advent seems the perfect time of year to re-enter and re-commit ourselves to the story of Emmanuel—God with us.

It’s the part of the story many of us know by heart: “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

Go ahead. Read the story again. Talk to your friends about it. Watch the movies if you want. And join your life to the incredible narrative of God’s intimate love for the world.

[Personal Note: I have read—and loved—every Harry Potter book; I have not seen the movies.]