Yesterday’s assigned Gospel lesson was the parable about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. My friend Rev. Kelle Brown, the pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Seattle, Washington, was in town, so she preached for me. Because of the fire that caused a portion of Atlanta’s Interstate 85 to collapse, she got caught in the diversion and was running late. So, I had to think about what I might preach, just in case. In the current climate, in which our leaders seem determined to cast their lot with the ways of death, division, and destruction, I wasn’t sure that I simply could pull out an old sermon from the files.
Our theme at Virginia-Highland Church this year has been “Just Say Yes!” because, in last year’s election cycle, so much of the energy and so much of the passion were driven by fear. Candidates seemed to compete for who could be the most anti-them. There were calls for a stronger military, even though the United States already spends more than the next seven nations COMBINED. Candidates exploited every violent act to make people more afraid and, hence, more motivated to vote for them.
Unfortunately, fear and division are powerful motivators, so leaders are tempted to use it against us. Embracing the positive and life-giving is counter-cultural. It is the power of the Gospel. Jesus brings new hope and the possibility of new life.
Calling us away from life’s “No” toward life and light and “Yes” is the work of the church of Jesus. Answering the call takes great courage. Ultimately, we must constantly choose the “Yes” of life, but resisting the barrage of fear and division means we must be braver than those who let their anxiety motivate their decisions.
Rev. Michael Piazza