November 2020

If I Were President

22nd Sunday After Pentecost, November 1st, 2020
Matthew 5:1-12

– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –

Do you remember the cartoon characters Popeye and Olive Oyl? Well, in one episode that was aired in 1948, the year of the presidential election between Harry Truman and Thomas Dewey, Olive decides to run for President. Now, the animators and writers promoted this as a funny idea in which Olive promised to boost feminine morale by getting a guy for every gal, and proposed a Women Wear the Pants in the Family Act whereby women would be the heads of corporations hiring handsome male secretaries to sit on their laps while their husbands stayed at home.

She presented her proposals to a divided Congress where donkeys representing Democrats sat on one side rejecting them and elephants representing Republicans sat on the other side accepting them. Finally, she summons cupid to fix the situation who uses a gatling gun to fire arrows of love into the chamber unifying both sides in her favor.

I often think of this episode as a comic relief to the dismal conditions our nation presently finds itself on this Sunday before Election Day. Yet despite the realities of corruption and selfish greed that have long since tarnish this office, I hope the dream of becoming President remains strong among many, especially our children.

I suspect that these days those pursuing the presidency or any national public office do so with some fear and trembling realizing that we are now a nation desperately divided against itself.

It is, therefore, fitting that All Saints Sunday should arrive shortly before Election Day as a reminder of the sacrifices, blood, sweat and tears our ancestors spent that we might enjoy a better life and greater freedoms. It is a reminder that we as followers of Christ and children of God should be less concerned about what our nation might be if any one of us were President, but rather what our nation and world could be if the compassion and love of God reigned supreme.

We are a nation founded upon a distorted notion of Christianity that only white males were afforded the divinely inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even as Israel in its original understanding of neighborly love and equality assumed that only male Jews qualified for such treatment. Both faith traditions have struggled long and hard to overturn these notions which still linger as festering wounds among us.

On this All Saints Sunday we are reminded of the declaration of independence and the constitution of citizenship in God’s realm that Christ proclaimed in the opening lines of his Sermon on the Mount; that all who were poor, persecuted and oppressed; who mourned, who hungered and craved righteousness; who sought mercy and peace would be satisfied, filled, see God, be called children of God, and citizens of God’s heavenly realm.

I recall a question a child raised during one of our children’s sermons. “Where is heaven?” The question was unexpected as are many questions from children, but the Spirit provided an answer. Heaven is wherever God reigns.

Children of God, on this All Saints Sunday we are surrounded by a cloud of saintly witnesses living among us and beyond the grave, watching, inspiring, encouraging and guiding our path. Let us, therefore, put not our ultimate faith and trust in earthly leaders, monarchs or presidents, but in God, and the godly aspirations in each of us, looking to Jesus, the embodiment of godly behavior, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen.