Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A First Communion Prayer for the Election Aftermath

On Sunday my son, who is nine, had his first communion. This is a significant milestone in the life of a member of the Lutheran church, as it is in a number of denominations. In the weeks leading up to this event, my son met with our pastor to talk about the meaning of holy communion, he helped to make the communion bread which was served that day, he made a banner that was hung on the Church wall during worship, and he composed a prayer that was read aloud during the part of the service devoted to the prayers of the people.

In composing that prayer, he was told simply to say what was in his heart. And so he prayed for three things. Or rather, I should say that all of us in worship on Sunday prayed together the three petitions that were in my son's heart.

The first was for wisdom as we confront global warming and the increasingly severe storms and other problems that it helps to fuel.

The second was for those who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy, for those who have suffered losses and those who are working to respond to its aftermath.

The third petition was that God should be with the people who would be upset by the results of Tuesday's national election.

My son didn't know who would win or lose the election, but he knew that whatever the result there would be those who were deeply unhappy. And he wanted God to be with them in that time of disappointment and distress.

In the immediate wake of the election results last night, my facebook newsfeed gave me an immediate sense of just how upset some people were. As someone who believes that Obama has done a number of good things for this country, and who thinks that our economy is on the road to recovery in part because of the policies and choices that Obama made early in his first term, I wasn't personally upset by the result last night. But I know what it feels like. I remember in the past the disappointment and the worry that can come when someone you don't think is the best choice for the country is elected.

But what I glimpsed last night, through social media, was not just disappointment and worry. There was a level of fear and outrage that sobered me. And I know enough to know that had the election gone the other way, there would have been similarly sobering expressions of outrage and fear.

And I know this: Deep and widespread fear, outrage, and polarization is far more dangerous to a country's health than any Democratic or Republican policy agenda. We don't elimiate such fear and outrage and polarization by electing the right person. We do it by turning our eyes to something that transcends our divisions, that rains down love and grace, that stands opposed to hatred and fear and offers in its place the hope of reconciliation and redemption.

And so, with my son, this is what I pray for today. For all of us today, and especially for those who look at the election results with fear for the future, may the God of grace and love be felt within each of us as a source of comfort and hope. May the peace that surpasses understanding fill us and help us to move forward, seeking ways to build cooperation, to overcome division, to carve out pathways for mutual understanding and healthy compromise in the face of enduring disagreement. Let us remember that last night's election was not the triumph of good over evil or of evil over good. It was the victory of one well-meaning man over another. And while good people can disagree over the best path to take, good people can also work together in the face of disagreements to find a path that works, and to work together when--as inevitably happens on any human path we choose to take--we stumble or fall.

Let us remember that what divides us is dwarfed by what unites us, that our value differences seem so sharp in part because of how vivid they appear against the backdrop of our common values. We all love our children. We all want a world in which each of us can make a living by making a meaningful contribution, where no one is a freeloader but where everyone gets the help they desperately need to lift themselves up again when hardship strikes them down. We all want safety and good health and economic prosperity, methods of responding to natural disasters that are effective, education systems that prepare the next generation for success, infrastructure that can sustain our lives and our welfare. We all want to find ways to meet current needs that don't compromise the ability of the next generation to meet theirs. We all want the sense of rootedness that comes from having traditions and culture and communities with a shared history. We all want to love and be loved.

Be with us, God of grace, this day and every day, as we strive afresh to rehearse the Kingdom of God with our neighbors and our communities, that we may reach for the beloved community here and now even amidst our differences and disappointments and fears.



  1. Sounds like a beautiful ceremony, and doubtless you were proud of your boy.

    It strikes me that this type of prayer allows a child a way into contemplating notions of goodness that extend beyond the concrete and immediate, and to associate such empathy with the sacred.

    Not sure what the non-spiritual equivalent would look like.


  2. My fellow Christians, remember, "the greatest of these is love"! There is nothing about standing for your convictions that makes it Christian to hate, judge, be intolerant, deny another human beings right to free will, call people names, be derogatory or disrespectful to others whom you disagree with into some collective category with a distorted label. I write this as a witness to the greatest commandment of all, Love toward God and toward each other. We are to witness His Love, His Peace, His Grace. Ask yourself..."What would Jesus do?"