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“Rendered Silent”

Sermon Preached by Pastor Wilbert Miller
The Night After the Presidential Election
“Rendered Silent”
Galatians 6: 6-10; John 15: 9-12
November 9, 2016
There are those occasions when those of us who typically do a lot of talking are rendered speechless.  The events of last evening and today have done that to me.

Dagmar and I were at the Jacob Javits Convention Center last night.  We thought we would be part of history as the first woman was elected president.  It did not pass our notice, however, that this morning’s New York Times might have a headline similar to the “Chicago Daily Tribune’s” on November 3, 1948, announcing “Dewey Defeats Truman” only to realize Truman defeated Dewey.

Last evening started out with lots of cheering and merry-making, lots of words really.  As the evening wore on and the returns from state after state started to roll in, words subsided, at least at the Clinton gathering.  There was an eerie silence as we rode the subway home.  One pastor wrote that she had not seen anything like it since 9/11.

I know I should have lots of words tonight, but I confess I really do not know what to say.

I am reminded of a story told of the venerable Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary at 123rd and Broadway.  A dear friend had just died and he went to visit the family.  It is said that Rabbi Heschel walked through the front door, took a seat in the living, stayed for forty-five minutes and, at the end of his visit, stood up and said farewell.  Apparently, he never said a word during those forty-five minutes.

Grief can do that to you.  Anger can do it. Confusion can do it as well.

Another reason I feel at a loss for words tonight is that I am mindful that our nation has spoken in favor of a candidate I know was not the choice of quite a few of you here tonight.

How do we move forward?  How to do we, as Saint Paul urged us, work for the good of all?

Working for good can be very tough especially when our emotions are raw.  When a candidate called those we love nasty names, ridiculed whole classes of people, belittled those down on their luck, and even called some of us hateful names, we feel justified in resorting to similar tactics ourselves.

Will we resort to such vicious tactics ourselves?

On Sunday, I preached about listening to one another.  That is not particularly easy when you fear your liberties might be snatched from you any minute.

What I failed to note on Sunday was that we need to listen to God as well as to one another.  Perhaps that is what Rabbi Heschel was doing when he visited that grieving family and was rendered silent.  Perhaps that is what we are called to do this night as well: to listen for God’s voice so we don’t get drawn into the fuming cacophony of bitterness, anger, and rage.

If we listen carefully for God, we will almost certainly hear Jesus speaking to us in words we might not think to use in a million years on a night like this.  Listen carefully to those words once again: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Let us never forget that Jesus spoke these words, not when everyone was congratulating him on being Christ the King, but on the night before he died.  This alone should render us silent.

The Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard said, “The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.”

Whether we celebrate tonight or are more dazed than we can remember, let us not forget that we gather at the feet of a very unusual leader, one who invites us to love our enemies, who claims that the poor are blessed, who tells us to turn the other cheek, who begs us not to sue one another.  Perhaps that is why it is best simply to be quiet tonight and to listen to the one who implored us with some of his very last words here on earth, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

Sermon: Christmas 2b – January 4, 2015

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 147; Ephesians 1:3-14; John 1:1-18

I thought that I was being creative, even unique.  When I was deciding how to begin this sermon I came up with this: Three little words.  I love you.  So I looked around on the Internet.  It turns out that there are many popular songs that sing about those three little words.  I am not being unique.  Being more of a copycat, I guess.

Except.  That if the words I copy are those – I love you – maybe copying is a good thing.  (more…)

Sermon: Advent 3b – December 14, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 6:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8; 19-28

If you’ve heard me preach over the last two weeks you will not be surprised that I long ago grew tired of talking about Advent as a time to prepare, a time to simply wait.

I don’t mean that dislike the season.  I love it.  I love the cold weather here in New York Advent.  I love the huge umbrella of darkness off of which the lights of the city and the lights of the heavens reflect.  I love the hymns and the prayers.  Especially the prayers.

“Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.”  You might remember that I’ve said that there was a time in England when women would go home from church on the first Sunday of Advent and stir up their fruitcakes.  It was time to stir up. “Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.”  The priest had said so.

Last Sunday we prayed, “Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.”   We moved from praying that Christ would be stirred into action, to praying that we would be stirred into action. (more…)

Sermon: St. Luke (transferred) – October 19, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 43:8-19; Psalm 124; 2 Timothy 4:5-11; Luke 1:1–4; 24:44–53

Poor divided Luke.

We pay lots of attention to St. Luke’s gospel.  We spend every third year with it.  We think of him fondly as we name parishes after him and see his symbol, the ox, displayed prominently in church iconography.  He’s even right here on this magnificent pulpit.  Luke the ox.  We think of him as a writer of scripture.  We think of him as a teacher.  We think of him as a follower.  We think of him as a physician.  We think of him as a writer of icons of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

We think of him in so many ways that I am prone these days to simply think of him as poor divided Luke.  Maybe we have too many bits and pieces of information about him.  Too many to make him look singular in focus, but too few to paint him as a whole person. (more…)

Sermon: Pentecost 18a – October 12, 2014

The Rev. Dr. William Heisley

Lessons: Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 23; Philippians 4:1-9; Matthew 22:1-14

I’ll call her Patsy.  I visited her in a nursing home outside of Philadelphia a few years ago.  I’d known Patsy for nearly 29 years. She was in her 90’s now.  In fact, she served on the committee that recommended I be called to my first congregation.  And she was secretary of the congregation for years, a powerful woman.

Her husband was the treasurer.  I’ll call him Duane.  They never had children.  They just had money.   Duane doted on Patsy.  New precious gems every year, furs, travel, Cadillacs.  They lived well. And they shared their lives.  They became something like parents to me.  Back in my first parish I needed parenting.

Duane died some years ago in the room they shared in that austere nursing home. Their money was gone.  He had doted on her because she was his frail, precious flower.  He died.  She lived.  I always thought she was stronger than the rest of us combined.  She was. (more…)