we can?

Maybe I'll revive this "homily" from three years ago for worship group this weekend. It was originally preached the day after All Saints day and two days before Obama's election (the readings were Hebrews 12.1-2 and Psalm 146). This seems even more true to me now, after the experience of the last three years:

Barack Obama's campaign slogan is “Change you can believe in.” But he doesn't just want you to believe that he can bring change; he wants you to believe that you can. He wants you to believe that, together, we can change this country and change the world. He's even selling t-shirts with big letters that say, “Yes, we can!”

There are many differences in the policies of the two presidential candidates. But they clearly agree on one thing: They both believe in the power of the people. The power of people working together, combining their strength, their will, and their resources. That is the power they are seeking, that is why they want your vote. Without the power of the people, they are just men and can do very little. But with the support of the people, they will have great authority and power in the world, and great wealth that can accomplish great things. That is their hope. They believe in the power of the people.

Everyone's attention is on these men right now, but in our reading from Hebrews we are reminded to “look to Jesus.” And when we look to Jesus, we don't see someone who believed in the power of the people. We don't see someone who preached “together we are strong and can change the world.” We don't see someone who tried to get the support of the crowds. When they tried to make him king, he refused. He did not seek their power or their wealth to accomplish great things. Jesus accomplished great things not through the power of the people, but through the power of God. It was by the power of God that he fed the hungry and healed the sick and raised the dead. It was by the power of God that he spoke words from God, giving us real freedom and real hope. Jesus' life did not show that people working together can change the world, but that, through one poor, lowly, vulnerable man, God can change the world. It was the power of the people that crucified Jesus, the voice of the crowd, their leaders and their soldiers. It was the power of God that raised him up.

Today we also remember the saints, the many heroes of the faith. But, like Jesus, they did not encourage us to believe in the power of the people. They were the first to admit that the church is not great because of the people, because of them. They made it clear that all the good that we see in their lives was not their work, but God's. As we read in the psalm, it is God who gives food to the hungry, freedom to prisoners, justice to the oppressed. For all the good that the saints did, God gave the inspiration, the direction, the energy, the resources, everything. God once said to Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” And it is in the saints' humility, their poverty, their vulnerability, their weakness, that we can see more clearly the greatness and the power of God. They are heroes to us because their lives pointed, not to the power of the people, but to the power of God.

That is also our mission: To point people to the power of God, to help people believe in the power of God. Let's not join our voices to those who preach the power of the people, those who rule by the authority and wealth that comes from people, those “princes, in whom there is no help.” Let's join our voices and our lives to those who proclaim the power of God, “the Lord who will reign forever.”