If I were standing in a pulpit in the United States today, I would know exactly what to say.
I would say something about the U.S. presidential election, of course, which took place last week, and I would not be alone in that. I am guessing that some very fine sermons are going to be preached today all across the U.S.
In times of national crisis, America’s preachers have searched their souls and found wisdom that many of us didn’t know they had. Preachers who don’t sound eloquent most Sundays of the year somehow manage to be profound and memorable when it counts.
If you want to know the truth, I have thought about little else in the days and hours since last Tuesday. I have been searching my own soul about that election, wondering what it means, looking for divine wisdom and guidance.
But I do not serve an American church, not these days.
A small group of people came together more than 50 years ago and founded the church I now serve, and with an astonishing amount of foresight they called it an “international” church – not an “American” church.
The church I serve today is a church for people of all nationalities: no matter what passport you hold, you will find a welcome here. That was the vision, and it was a good one. It still is.
I don’t know – because we don’t keep these records – but I’m almost certain that U.S. passport holders in the congregation are not in a majority. When I first arrived, only one member of the church’s Council was a U.S. citizen. More than two dozen nationalities are represented in worship every single Sunday. It is a congregation that is staggering in its racial and ethnic diversity.
So, many people in my congregation have been sleeping just fine these last few days. They have been more than a little curious about what is happening in the U.S., but with the exception of a few from the U.S. most of them seem to be sleeping just fine.
On the other hand, we do have several members who are from Hong Kong, and I saw in the news – in the midst of all the coverage about Donald and Hillary – that the Peoples Republic of China has prevented two pro-democracy legislators from taking their seats in Hong Kong’s legislative council. That number may grow to 10. Why? China decided to make clear who was in charge.
I know several people who lie awake at night thinking about that.
We also have at least one member from Ethiopia, and because I have come to know him well I have been paying attention to nationwide protests in his country against the government. Government security forces killed 55 people one day last month in the Oromo region, where my friend is from, as part of an ongoing campaign of violence and terror.
My friend was able to bring his wife and children to Switzerland in the last year after being separated from them for several years, but he worries about others he knows who are still there.
And finally, we have members from Turkey, Greece, and Lebanon, which is where another wave of refugees is headed, though the West is not all that interested in receiving them.
When I think about all of this, I realize that a presidential election in the U.S. is only one news story among many. Don’t get me wrong. When a country with the world’s largest economy and military elects a new president, that’s news. But it is only one news story among many.
And so, what I have in mind for tomorrow is not a sermon about a U.S. presidential election or Hong Kong’s grievances with the Chinese government or even Ethiopia’s repressive and brutal regime. I have had a fair amount to say about refugees in the last couple of years too, and I don’t plan to revisit that subject tomorrow either. What I have in mind is a sermon about God’s providence, which involves all the nations of the world, all races, all ethnic groups.
What in the world is God up to these days? Is God still caring for and preserving the world he made? Now those are questions that more than a few believers around the world might wonder about.