This Sunday at Saint Paul we will celebrate that almost 500 years ago, our beloved rebel Martin Luther, nailed 95 Theses to a door as a public witness of faith. What does it look like to have a public witness today? A public theology? My hunch is that it is a church that looks less like a culture war, and more like a people who know how the story ends. A community of people living in the space of a Creation, as the Apostle Paul said, that groans in pains of childbirth, and knowing the story of the God who is bringing a Kingdom through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
One of the ways that we have a public witness is how we care for our neighbor, what Luther called the primary responsibility of a people who have been saved by grace. As a community, with the help of the social concerns committee, we have raised over $2,500 for the Ebola response of Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Disaster Response. That is public notice of our faith, particularly when, as noted in a New York Times article yesterday, in a time when fundraising for Ebola has been lacking and Americans have not responded with their money. Let’s keep up that work, as a witness for the God who is at work in the world.
As we move toward Election Day in Massachusetts, I have been thinking a deal about our public and political witness as a Church. Lutherans have never been a people to stand in the pulpit and advocate a politician or a party, and we have a long history of being a Church of conservatives and liberals, peaceniks and soldiers, protestors and politicians. But, I think there are issues that are worth our consideration, as how we might witness to a God who is concerned about dignity, mercy, and human flourishing.
At the Synod Assembly this year, the New England Synod passed a memorial supporting a “yes” vote on issue 4, which is to prohibit casinos. Ross wrote to you about that a few weeks back, and I would refer you to his letter, which is a great guide to thinking about the issue. I think it’s also worth paying attention to a “yes” on issue 3, which is a question of earned sick time, and would be of great assistance to many low-income workers, and families with children, allowing them to use sick time for their children’s illnesses, as opposed to vacation time.
In the end, we are a people who don’t always agree on politics, but come to unity around Jesus, so please, vote your conscience, and as Luther would say, do it boldly, “but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.”Because no matter how you or I vote, no matter what issues pass or fail, we are saved by a God bigger than our politics, who everyday of our lives welcomes us anew to abundant grace and mercy.