25 August 2017

THE INTERSECTION OF TWO HEAVENLY BODIES IS NOT RARE!


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We were so happily enthralled and overshadowed by the solar eclipse of August 21, 2017! What awe! What mystery! What fun! Some of us had made plans for months to travel to some spot within the seventy mile “path of totality.” Others of us took off work to watch with special glasses or homemade pinhole viewers. Those who experienced the total eclipse, when the world became dark for up to two minutes or so, were spectacularly moved. Others of us shared their thrill vicariously.

Wherever we were, it was wonderful for us to pause, and to let it be. Recognizing, and imagining, the paths of two huge celestial bodies – heavenly bodies! – crossing each other was a truly awe-inspiring event. I would say that those several hours on August 21, of waiting and watching, touched people with transcendence, a sense of majesty and power that was so much bigger than us. Moreover, we shared those transcendent moments with other people: some of them friends, but others in campgrounds and parks, and some of them strangers we happened to park beside along the road. We shared both transcendence and intimacy.

For some of us, the more we studied the event, the more profound particular details became. We were aware that the moon’s shadow was racing across the continent at between one thousand and three thousand miles per hour. We were aware of slight angles in the earth’s and moon’s orbits that make an eclipse possible. We were aware that the precise size of the moon, at this particular time in its gradual withdrawal from the earth, is what makes a total eclipse possible – and not an annular eclipse (which does not completely cover the disc of sun).

Finally, some of us became aware of something else. Solar eclipses are not exactly rare. They are certainly rare if you stay in one place on the earth. However, they occur somewhere on earth about once every eighteen months – about 2 every 3 years. Indeed, many people claim to be “eclipse chasers,” making plans even now to be at the next solar eclipse on July 2, 2019 (though most of it will occur over water, in the South Pacific Ocean). I read where Joseph Pasachoff, astronomer from Williams College, has experience 65 solar eclipses.

I reckon, then, that if we include space and time outside earth, then celestial bodies –let’s call them heavenly bodies!—are intersecting their paths somewhere, almost all the time. Stars are crossing in front of other stars. Moons are coming between suns and planets. (These events are called “occultations,” which means “hidings”).

In the tremendous universe of God, then, there is always an intersection happening somewhere. What if we, we ourselves, are also such heavenly bodies? Sometimes, we are depending upon one light source, and another body moves between us and the source. Sometimes that movement occurs with amazing speed. We can see the shadow moving quickly along the floor, and it overtakes us. Sometimes the shadow is not a negative phenomenon at all, and the darkness can be helpful to us. Darkness can also show us that we have other sources of energy to depend upon, other sources of growth. In short, the darkness can both excite and calm us, showing us again our particular place in the tremendous order and creation of God

Yes, we human beings are heavenly bodies, too. We make paths and trails and orbits and intersections. When we meet another heavenly body –let’s call that heavenly body a spirit, shall we?—when we meet another spirit, when our paths cross, we have the opportunity for a fruitful intersection, we have the opportunity to say hello, to wink, to pause and to rejoice. (Or we have the opportunity to resent the shadow, to resent the interruption.)

The glory of this week’s total solar eclipse, then, can teach us about our own eclipses and intersections, and overshadowings. It is restorative simply to pause, and to marvel, at the glorious constellation of heavenly bodies among whom we live, and move, and have our being. We salute the complicated wonder of this universe of heavenly bodies. All of us travel in beautiful orbits. When our paths cross, a fruitful intersection will be that same combination of transcendence and intimacy that so many of us experienced August 21, 2017.

It is worth remembering one of the most mysterious and transcendent of all intersections: the one between divine and human. That intersection will always be impossible to fully describe, but here is how the gospel writer, Luke, described it: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). Right. It’s a miracle. And it can happen in us. And it can happen all the time.

(This article also appeared in Episcopal Cafe, and in The Cathedral Times. Thank you!)

14 April 2017

THE CROSS IS WHERE LOVE WALKS THROUGH DEATH

14 April 2017
Good Friday


It’s about walking. It’s still about walking.

On Palm Sunday, the walking began in glory, with bright sun warming the labyrinth ground. It felt good to greet the refreshing morning. We walked with energy and hope.

For me, the day seemed just like the previous morning, a Saturday, when I had walked to the Cathedral Farmer’s Market, and greeted hot coffee, warm bread, and familiar friends. The community was rich and strong.

That Saturday, I kept walking, into Buckhead Village, noticing the optimistic new construction everywhere, and stepping into a little boutique store, just to see what they had. Wow! I never do that, step into a store just to see what they have! But I did that day. And I kept walking still.

I find that when I take my steps intentionally, deliberately, prayerfully, those steps become somehow holy. I begin to see the beauty of ordinary things. And the ordinary things become holy. It seems easier to smile at people.

I kept walking. I was deliberately not in a hurry. I stepped inside one of our local restaurants, one which has been closed for two years, and has now come back to life. It’s been resurrected! It is in a new location, and I had to visit.

Then, I walked through the parking lot of the Cathedral. I knew that our family mini-retreat was occurring, and I knew that other visitors were elsewhere on the campus tending to things. I was walking, however, deliberately in the middle of the driveway. It is not the safest place to walk, but I do that occasionally here at the Cathedral, just to slow people down, especially when I have the time to engage people.

Yes, I was walking in a way to slow people down, especially people who were cutting through our Cathedral property, zooming through, in order to hurry their errands. It’s our property, and people don’t seem to know that. Thus, our parking lot is sometimes used as a convenient cut through, a way to get some place in a hurry. But, my thought is that the Cathedral is supposed to be the place that teaches us not to be in a hurry! It was fun to smile at people, and welcome them to the Cathedral!

But on Saturday, the passenger in one of the “cut-through cars” turned mean. The driver drove around me, but it was the back seat passenger who stepped out of the car and yelled at me, hollered at me. What was I doing walking down the middle of the road? I told him softly that I was slowing down the traffic that was zooming through our church property. We care for lots of people walking here, I said. Indeed, our youth and family retreat was occurring just then, on the lawn of the Lanier House.

Nothing further than that happened. The yelling man got back into the car, and they drove off. All was fine. I kept walking. But I have to admit that I also felt wounded, somehow stung by the man’s anger, even though I also admit that I had opened myself up to it. I felt like my walking had taken me not only to the nice people around town; but my walking had also exposed me to the angry people around town.

Good walks do that. They take us everywhere. As I walked on, I realized how often our walks take us through the valley of the shadow of death.

My little skirmish with meanness was not a big deal. I knew I was risking absorbing another person’s anger, and I did receive it. I figured I was absorbing that meanness on behalf of the church. I was stung by the guy, but it was nothing compared to the other ways that humanity strikes each other around this world.

My example is a small one.  But maybe it gives a way of explaining what Jesus did on Good Friday. Jesus walked. And he walked deliberately. And he walked knowing full well that he was about to absorb the meanness and anger of the world. More than that, of course, he was about to absorb the sin and violence of the world.

On this Good Friday, please don’t think about the old and worn-out ransom theories of atonement. Please disregard, in particular, any theory of so-called substitutionary atonement, the theory that Jesus violently dies in the place of humanity because God is owed justice. I have preached before about how meaningless those theories are. God does not demand blood because humanity has sinned. God is not a god of violence. Satan is not owed a ransom either. On Good Friday, there is not some cosmic judicial transaction going on.

The reason Jesus dies is because there is violence and death in the world, and Jesus dies to show us how to defeat that anger and death. Amidst all the anger and pain and violence of the world, Jesus demonstrates that there is a love that defeats violence and anger.

The reason we walk with Jesus to the cross today, is so that we can touch even the painful and angry parts of the world – even the neighborhoods we would rather not walk through. The neighborhoods of cities, and the neighborhoods of our interior lives, too. There are areas of our own souls that we fear walking through.

Today is a day to walk through those interior neighborhoods, too – places where we are in pain, places where we are angry, places where we might even be violent. Jesus wants to absorb those places, too.

We have skirmishes with death every day. Those deaths are not just the physical deaths of people we love. We have little outbursts with anger every day, too, encountering it in others, and even delivering it ourselves. Pain and death reside not just out in the world, but also in every one of us.

Jesus Christ touched, absorbed, all those places when he walked to the cross. The reason, then, that we walk with Christ to the cross, is so that Christ can touch those awful and treacherous places in us. When Christ touches them, they become holy.

Yes, I know it is hard to call death holy. But even death becomes holy when the love of Christ touches it. We walk the way of the cross so that Christ can touch our pain, so that Christ can touch our anger, so that Christ can touch our death.

When Christ touches the suffering of the world, when Christ touches the sin of the world, nothing magical or transactional happens. The Cross is not some commercial or juridical exchange wherein an angry God is now satisfied that a penalty has been paid for human sin. We are not “sinners in the hand of an angry God!” That way of thinking perpetuates the sad system of violence and blood shedding. That way of thinking leads only to more unjustified suffering.

What happens, instead, when Christ touches the suffering and sin of the world, is that sin becomes emptied, suffering becomes become dis-empowered. Sin and suffering lose any effect on us; they become meaningless, powerless. They wither away in the glory of love.

Yes, the cross is about love. Ultimately, the cross is where love touches the sin and suffering of the world. The cross is love, love absorbing anger and death, and de-powering them, in the name of God. The cross is where love walks through sin and death.

Our “Holy Week” is “Holy Walk.” And our Holy Walk brings us to this day, Good Friday, gazing at the cross of Christ, so that we can absorb that love which we see in Christ. Every one of us has skirmishes with anger and death every day. And some of us have tremendous battles with anger and death. And all of us will eventually die. Every one of us walks, eventually, through the valley of the shadow of death.

The way to prepare for those skirmishes and battles. and for death itself, is to slow down and walk through them in small ways now, to take the time to learn how to encounter them daily. When we say that we take up our cross daily, we mean that we are choosing to take love with us on our daily walks; with love, we are willing to encounter violence and to absorb the tiny deaths that assault us every day. 

The cross, then, is not where Jesus pays for sin. The cross is that place where love meets death. It is part of the Holy Walk of love. And love wins today. Love wins.


AMEN.

IT'S ABOUT WALKING


It’s about walking.

In the fourth century A.D., a woman named Egeria, or Etheria, took a long pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and beyond. She walked a lot. Apparently, she wrote a detailed letter back home describing her travels, a letter called Peregrinatio Etheria, the “walking,” or the “pilgrimage,” of Etheria. In particular, she described what the fourth century Christians in Jerusalem did on the Sunday before Easter. They walked.

From holy site to holy site, they walked. So began the observance of processing on the Sunday before Easter. It’s about walking.

Christians have been walking ever since. Indeed, people of faith, and people of “no faith” walk. Something happens when we walk. Something holy and inspiring occurs when we walk.

The famous thinker, Augustine of Hippo, is known for his answer to an unsolvable philosophical paradox. He said, “Solvitur ambulando,” “It is solved by walking.” Many a great thinker has discovered the same thing. Walking solves problems both intellectual and psychological.

In May, 2014, an article in the Journal of Experimental Psychology showed that walking—as opposed to sitting—significantly improves creative thinking. Charles Dickens and William Wordsworth knew that a long time ago. Wordsworth was known for rambling all over Europe in all kinds of weather, composing most of his poetry while walking. It is said that even in his 60s, Wordsworth walked twenty miles and day, and that he probably walked 180,000 miles in his life.

Jean Jacques Rosseau, in his Confessions of 1782, wrote “I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.”  Even the atheist philosopher, Frederick Neitzsche wrote, “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”

That is why we Christians walk, too. It is why we take time to walk. Of course, we actually walk throughout the year, not just on Palm Sunday. We walk on the labyrinth, for instance, where God’s spirit speaks to us without words. Just yesterday, I enjoyed walking around the Cathedral Farmer’s Market. I had no particular goal, or object, in mind, except to walk around, to saunter, to meander. To be present in the moment. And I ended up finding holy people there.

The beautiful Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, has written about “Walking Meditation” as a form of prayer. He said, “Many of us walk for the sole purpose of getting from one place to another. Now suppose we are walking to a sacred place. We would walk quietly and take each gentle step with reverence. …. In our daily lives, we get lost in our computer or in our worries, fear, or busyness. Walking meditation makes us whole again. …Walking meditation unites our body and our mind.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, “Walking Meditation,” Lion’s Roar, March 20, 2015).

There is a spirituality, a deep spirituality, that occurs in walking. It is the reason Jesus walked into Jerusalem. It is the reason some pilgrims walk the el Camino de Santiago de Compostela. It is the reason we walk today. We find God in our walking.

A simple Palm Sunday Procession, perhaps around one’s local church, is a relatively short one. We don’t go a long way, physically; but we can go an incredibly long way, spiritually. It’s about walking. Spirituality is about walking.

God comes to us when we walk. This day, Palm Sunday, begins something called “Holy Week” for Christians. But we might better call this week, “Holy Walk.” This week is “Holy Walk.” We have blessed palms and shouted “Hosannah!” But, if we are following the walk of Jesus, we know that our shouts of joy can turn embarrassingly into shouts of betrayal, too.

Our beautiful walks of glory can also take us walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Christians hear the painful Passion of Christ on Palm Sunday, and we will observe that Passion again on Good Friday. That’s what true walking does. True walking takes us everywhere, from joy to pain, and from death to life. Yes, the walk will conclude next Sunday, a week from today, with resurrection and new life. But the walk will take us through death first. That’s what faithful people do when we walk. We touch every facet of human life; we try to walk the full way of Christ.

The naturalist, Henry David Thoreau, did not always get etymological details right, but he got walking right. He knew how to walk and how to enjoy the presence of God in the world. Listen to how he talks about walking, and how he explains the definition of the word, “saunter.” He wrote,

“I have met … but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering, which word is beautifully derived ‘from idle people who roved about the country, in the Middle Ages, and asked charity, under pretense of going a la Sainte Terre,’ to the Holy Land, till the children exclaimed, ‘There goes a Sainte Terrer,’—Saunterer, a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds; but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. (Henry David Thoreau, “Walking”, 1862)

Yes, every good walk is a walk to the holy land! Every good walk is a holy saunter, a holy walk, a spiritual pilgrimage to holy land. When we walk deliberately, intentionally, spiritually, then every place we step is sacred ground: the soft, beautiful ground, and even the bloody, crucified ground.

Today begins Holy Week, “Holy Walk.” Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2).

13 November 2016

THERE IS A CRACK IN EVERYTHING


(The sermon from Sam G. Candler on 13 November 2016)

In scripture, we hear the hopeful words of Isaiah repeated forever: “I am about to create new heavens and a new earth” and “Behold, I am about to do a new thing. From Psalm 98, we hear, “Sing to the Lord a new song.” And from Saint Paul, we hear, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians  5:17). Even in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, we hear the words, “See! I am making all things new!” (Revelation 21:5).

I have been inspired by these words, even though I know they are also the most difficult words in the Bible. The most neglected commandment in the Bible – the least followed commandment in the Bible! – is that seemingly innocuous repeated commandment in the Psalms “Sing to the Lord a new song!”

“Sing to the Lord a new song!”  we smile to each other. But we rarely, very rarely, actually enjoy any new song (especially in church!). The old ones are just fine by us! In fact, we get angry at the new songs. Why can’t we just sing the same old stuff? We get angry at those bringing us new songs, and we fire them.

The reason is this. For almost everything new coming into our lives, something old has to depart. Something old has to pass away. Leonard Cohen sang about it like this: “It looks like freedom, but it feels like death. It’s something in between, I guess. It’s closing time.” Those departures, those deaths, are not pleasant. They are painful. They make us sad; and sometimes the deaths make us angry.

What a week this has been. On this particular Sunday of the year, a lot of people have been wondering what I would say in today’ sermon  -- including me.

If this week is what new life is like, I admit it has not been pleasant. Our country has lived through a tumultuous national election, when, once again, more popular votes were cast for the loser than were cast for the winner. Yes, the loser of the popular vote won.

On the day after the election, I wrote that this past year’s campaign has been about feeling: the lack of it, on one hand, and especially the anger of it on the other hand. That anger, so incessantly inflamed and exploited, will not go away soon. It is arising anew within allies now, and even friends and colleagues are turning against each other. Anger, and downright meanness have somehow been endorsed in this election. Racist comment and misogynist comment, and fear-of-the-foreigner comment, have been loosely and wickedly strewn all over the country.

People have said that they take the comments and character of our president-elect “seriously but not literally.” Well, that’s a phrase I usually like. I say that about the Bible a lot: “take it seriously but not always literally.” But words matter. One cannot throw words into the public arena and then pretend they don’t exist, or pretend they were a joke. It takes a long time to repair mean words.

I do not think that such behavior is the new heaven and the new earth that God is talking about in the Bible. Biblical virtues take a long time to develop. Character takes a long time to build.

Yes, what a week. I understand that new life always seems to involve something old passing away. But I would rather be preaching about the death of my hero, Leonard Cohen, the poet and musician who died this past week. He was able somehow to communicate the deep light of life that appears even in deep darkness. God resides in the darkness, in the cracks, in the beautiful losers. He sang, “Everybody knows the war is over; everybody knows the good guys lost. Everybody knows the fight is fixed; the poor stay poor, the rich get rich. That’s how it goes. Everybody knows.”

Cohen’s words were the most humble, the most lowly of words. People considered him despondent, but he knew how to dance, he knew how to dance to the end of love. So long, Marianne. So long, Leonard, a sportsman and a shepherd. “Hineni, hineni,” he sang, in Hebrew. “Here I am; I am ready, Lord,” he sang, just days before his death.

Yes, I would rather be preaching about other deaths.  Like the death of our dear, dear parishioner, Ruth Vaught, another one of God’s humble and serving saints. She was about service, she was about grace and hospitality. She insisted that she be called “Old Woman,” and I admit I could never call her that. But today, in the kingdom of heaven, she is a New Woman. She is a new creation in Christ.

I would rather be preaching about the honor of military veterans, on this Sunday after Veterans Day, remembering faithful men and women who served our country, often without accolades or applause at all. I salute the service of my own father, who served in the United States Air Force, and who is the reason I myself was born on an Air Force Base.

Yes, I do realize that old things have to die as new things are born. This is actually the reason I could never support the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” I can’t go back to the 1950’s, the decade in which I was born, or even to the 60’s, the 70’s, the 80’s, when I was growing up. Hey! I love those old songs, too! But the phrase of Thomas Wolfe rings much truer to me: “You Can’t Go Home Again.” The world changes, the world evolves; and with the grace and love of God, the world usually, over time, changes for the better.

This week demands that we be on record, that we witness for what we believe, as individuals and as the Christian Church. My witness is that most of the changes in this country have been for the better, not for the worse. The United States of America is a strong country because we are against racism, and we are against using racism to advance popularity. We are against the abuse and ill treatment of women. We are against the mis-trust of foreigners. And this is the claim of the Christian Church, too. We are against accusations without evidence; we call that false witness.

As a Christian, I am for, I am for, so much more. I am for the equal treatment of God’s great diversity of people in this country, for the dignity of blacks and whites, Christians, Jews and Muslims. We call it dignity and respect for God’s creation. Christians are for other great new things in our country, too. I am for same-sex marriage. I am for women’s reproductive rights. I am for the welcome of immigrants.

This country has accomplished much in moving towards that new heaven and new earth that God has for us.

Another thing must be said today. I must speak to white men, in particular. Here is what I say to white men: Be a man. Be a man. A good man does not act crudely toward women, and a good man honors the power of women. I know many white men have lost jobs in the past twenty years. But so has everyone. Nothing makes you any more distinctive than other demographic groups. You will lose to women sometimes, and to black men sometimes. So goes life. I am a white man, and I myself have had those experiences. Usually that defeat has come fairly and evenly. So goes life.

I have learned – from Leonard Cohen maybe! – that it is loss, it is loss, that enables my new life to flourish. “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in,” he sang. Hey, wait! Those are the words of Jesus: “the person who loses their life, finds it.” And they are also the words of Saint Paul, who said that “God’s grace is made perfect in weakness.”

Here is the full quotation from Thomas Wolfe’s book: "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time." You can’t go home again.

The Christian claim is that God always calls us to the future: to new life, new heavens and a new earth.

Two weeks ago, I preached at a most sad service, the funeral of someone who had committed suicide. Most of us know that death is often incomprehensible. We can never answer the “Why” questions surrounding death. And deaths by suicide are even more incomprehensible. The more data we discover, the more we realize what we don’t know. We will never be able to analyze completely. We will never know.

The gist of what I said at that suicide funeral was this: God never puts things back together the way they were exactly. God never restores the old. Instead, God creates the new. We always want the old back. But we can’t go back. We can only go forward. Behold, says our God, I create the new.

Our call, our vocation, is to be part of what God is creating. That new creation is always bigger than any one person, no matter who that person is.

I am glad to be in church today. This particular parish, this Cathedral community, wants to be part of God’s new creation, but we know that God’s new creation is always about service. We are named for St. Philip, a deacon, one who serves. If there is any one Bible verse that should define us, that verse is Luke 22:27,  “I am among you as one who serves.” If we ever write any words on the front point of the Cathedral, the overlook,  I want the words to be those of Jesus: “I am among you as one who serves.”

Good government is about serving, too. At our best, the United States of America realizes this. Good government is not about winning. Good government is about serving. Good government is not about winning! Good government is about serving! That principle is God’s new thing in the world. Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves.”

One might say that institutions are under severe critique and suspicion this week. Political institutions, government, the establishment, the church! In this day, however, I am glad, and proud, to be in a Christian Church, and in this particular church, the Cathedral Parish of St. Philip. We belong to a communion that is larger, and older, and more expansive even than our own country. We gather together because we know that God is faithful when we make the right choices, and God is faithful when we make the wrong choices.

We serve for the long term, because we know that virtue takes a lifetime to create. Good character is built over a lifetime. We are trying to be part of God’s new creation, long term. We do not shame people in this community. We do not intentionally embarrass people. We respect all of God’s creation here. We dignify all people. Like Cohen, “we tell the truth, we didn’t come to fool ya.” We know we have cracks. We know we are weak. But we know God is strong.

We allow many voices here, but we do not let people rest simply upon their own opinions.  We speak another opinion, too, the one that is for the common good, the long-term good, the virtuous good, the new creation good of God. We are the Body of Christ, the one who said, “I am among you as one who serves.” We want to be that light –the light of the world! – that is getting in through the cracks. That is why we sing our song. That is why, even at the grave, we make our song: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.”


AMEN.


09 November 2016

FEELINGS IN OUR COUNTRY


I was twenty-two years old when I presented myself, eager and earnest, to become a priest in The Episcopal Church. In those days, the pre-seminary discernment period lasted a full year and a half, and it was highly therapeutic. Over and over again, my supervisors  implored me to get in touch with my feelings. “What are you feeling?” they asked. “How do you feel?”  As someone who enjoyed using my head and thinking about things, I was startled to realize how little substance mattered.

I had thought my vocation to be a priest was about my belief, and about the substance of my character and history. But I got it. “Getting in touch with my feelings” was good for my young faith. I became far better able to acknowledge sadness and loss, confusion and pain, and the more embarrassing feelings of anger and fear. I realized how often anger and sadness were lying just under the surface of whatever I was saying. Acknowledging and expressing those feelings was messy, and scary, but it was good for me. I realized I could own my feelings, but still be bigger than they were.

I remember all this as I reflect upon the results of our country’s long presidential campaign, and this week’s election. My summary is this: We have had a campaign and election obsessed with expressing our feelings. Like many of us –democrats and republicans alike—I have been shocked by the coarse and crude, raging and rude, comments during our campaign. And I don’t mean just from one of our candidates, the one who is our president-elect. When I asked many a citizen about the campaign, I was likely to receive a torrent of anger or dismay from either side.

I could not believe how little substance mattered in this presidential campaign. I believe Donald Trump is our president-elect because he tapped into our country’s latent feelings of anger and loss, fear and dis-respect. Many of us Americans do feel those things, and some of us felt we had no other way to express those feelings except with a vote. Trump appealed to our inner anger and frustration, even to our envy and jealousy that –no matter who we are, rich or poor—things do not always go our way. Sufficient evidence or consistent substance were not necessary.

In an opposite way, the candidacy of Hillary Clinton seemed unable to tap into any feelings at all. She was often characterized as aloof and unapproachable. Again, the substance of what she was offering the country seemed to matter only secondarily to the way people felt. She seemed the most free and available a few days before the election when the rain began to pour during her speech. With wet hair and clothes, she raised her hands in a most emotionally available way; it was unusual. People just didn’t like her, in much the same degree that people just didn’t like Donald Trump.

But in a contest of free-flowing and ungoverned feelings across the country, and with erratic substance, Trump was elected. I admit that this entire campaign has saddened and angered me. I have especially been horrified by the ways that our country’s anger has been expressed by racism, and misogyny, and anti-immigration, and even violence. And I continue to lament the fundamentalism and absolutism I hear from both parties, fundamentalism of both the conservative and the liberal variety. Our country is better, much better, than that. For weeks, I have been looking forward to the days after November 8, 2016. Now they are here.

Like all of us, I have good friends who voted in different ways on November 8. Whether we voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, I pray that our country can be bigger than our feelings of anger, loss, and fear. As important as our feelings are, our country is bigger than our feelings. Indeed, our country is bigger than any one person. Our country, unified and loyal, is an amazing and diverse community of strength and hope. “You Can’t Go Home Again,” said Thomas Wolfe, and he was right. But, with God’s strength, we can always go forward; and we are always creating something new. In the grace and love of God, we can be faithful citizens in a country with liberty and justice for all, “pledging to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our Sacred Honor.”