A Sermon For Election Day: “A Political Eschatology”

A brief homily for an Election Day Communion service I will be leading this evening:

Today is an election day, a political day, an important day.

People are passionate about politics, including Christians. This passion characterizes both Christians on the Left and Christians on the Right – who are all too often unable to see past their disagreements and recognize their unity in Christ.

Every two years, our nation is flooded with candidates, campaigns, promises, debates, and votes. Every two years, politicians seek for more power and political parties stretch for more influence. Every two years, citizens either eagerly anticipate a better tomorrow or become more disillusioned with the political machine.

And every two years Christians are tempted with a unique species of idolatry.

The danger of politics lies with the passion of politics. People believe in politics. This is why political disagreements often become shouting matches and ad-hominem attacks. A commitment to partisan politics, regardless of the particular politician, party, or agenda, always threatens to undermine our commitment to Christ and to each other as the Church.

Scot McKnight calls our temptation an “eschatology of politics.” Eschatology is the study of the things that will make a lasting difference in our world. He defines his term, an “eschatology of politics,” as the belief (embraced by non-Christians and Christians alike) that the democratic political process has the ability to bring about Kingdom conditions (like justice and peace) if we can just manage to elect the correct candidates and pass the right legislation.

Christian eschatology, on the other hand, is wrapped up in the conviction that true change in our world comes only through Jesus and the working of his Spirit. The difference is subtle, but incredibly important. Christians are called to recognize that God’s Kingdom does not, and will not, ultimately come through candidates and laws. God’s Kingdom comes through conversion to Jesus and his social order. That is to say, through the worship and witness of the church. This confession is not an attempt to deny the importance of the political process, but it is an attempt to dramatically relativize it. For Christians, the most important election that ever took place occurred when God the Father raised Jesus and placed him on the throne in Heaven.

We are a people who expect the Kingdom to come as the Holy Spirit continues to work transformation in and through the local church. Our beliefs as a community are not most fully embodied in a polling booth but in our individual and collective lives. Our first calling in the world is to be faithful witnesses of the economic, social, and relational realities of the peaceable Kingdom of Jesus – no matter what is happening around us or who claims to be “in charge.” The church is called to show the world what God’s Kingdom looks like – serving as a model community of flawed people transformed by the Spirit and living in peace and justice.  A specifically Christian political eschatology frees us from the frantic struggle to gain more power, releases us from placing too much hope or trust in candidates and law, and rebukes us for the ways in which we have lost hope for our world.

Today is an election day, a political day, an important day.

And tonight, I invite you to table of King Jesus, to cast your vote of allegiance.