On Sunday, Nov. 8, the day after major news networks declared Joe Biden the apparent winner of the 2020 presidential election, I listened to sermons by Waco Baptist pastors. I was curious to see which biblical texts would be chosen for that morning and how pastors would speak to parishioners (in virtual pews, actual pews or parking lots) on different sides of the political divide that has torn the country apart.
While there were differences in tone and style, they each said:
No matter how you voted...
Things were characteristically upbeat during Toliver Chapel Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Jimmy D. Hunter’s sermon, based on 1 Samuel 17: 48-50, where David slays Goliath. Speaking from a mechanical lift in the church’s foggy parking lot, Rev. Hunter began: “We thank God he has brought us through another election. Keep those in leadership in our prayers. God will provide healing and reconciliation that our country needs.” Cars honked their discordant but joyous “amens.”
Rev. Ramiro Peña of Christ the King Baptist Church, preaching on Romans 8 in the church sanctuary, said, “I was on a Zoom call last night and I was asked ‘how do you fight discouragement?’ That’s a great question when so many are feeling discouragement right now.”
“In the end, it was no contest,” shouted Rev. Hunter. “From a human perspective, Goliath was quite a man. The giant was the singular problem that had undone the nation! Have you seen this man?” Honking from the parking lot. “Many of us have to admit that our giants cause us to cower in fear. Our giants try to overpower, overwhelm, and weaken us. But our God is bigger than any giant that we face.” Loud honking. “Those who attack the child of God have already made their fatal mistake. You better be careful how you deal with a child of God,” he cried. “God will procure a victory! When a child of God is under attack it is God who notices. When God is on notice, God will always come to our side. Heaven gets the word and God will send his angels. This is the day that God delivered the giant into his hand. The battle is the Lord’s! Have I got a witness?” Honking.
In Romans 8:35, preached Rev. Peña, we read: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or peril, or sword? Tribulation? An election that does not go our way? (Or maybe it did go our way?) What shall separate us from Christ’s love?”
Rev. Erin Conaway of Seventh & James Baptist Church began his live Facebook sermon on Romans 15 by telling a story about Benjamin Franklin.
“He adopted his son under a cloud of uncertainty. There were rumors of illegitimacy at a time when that kind of thing was lethal to a man. But this father was undeterred; he loved his son beyond any concern for reputation and as his son grew, he was like a friend. Their work in government placed in them across an ocean from one another but they wrote letters of affection often. When his father was fired from his position, his son wrote to him and begged him to come home and straighten out all the rebel rousers. ‘You’re the kind of man that can lead these people back to a proper life.’ Benjamin Franklin did return to America and while he jumped right into the revolutionary struggle, his beloved son, William, remained loyal to the crown. The two grew farther and farther apart. William started what today might be labeled a domestic terrorist group. He was eventually arrested, paroled, re-arrested, and spent two years in solitary confinement. His father could have intervened on his behalf, but he never did. After the war William asked for forgiveness from his father. The father wrote: ‘If you had done this quietly, I might have been able to forgive, but what you did in such a public way, I can never forgive.’ The father and son never reconciled.”
“Families are being torn apart,” said Rev. Peña, “by their hatred of politicians that other family members support. The devil has created hatred so strong that it gets directed to people around us.”
Conaway continued: We are far past the inaccuracies of rose-covered glasses. The division in America is real. A great deal at stake. This is not the first time we’ve had division in our history. We’ve been here before, even worse, and we survived. So, there is hope. It will require hard work. We — the Church — must lead the way. I wanted to share the Franklin story since there are broken relationships that will not be mended in this life.
The church has one voice
In this great political divide, Peña continued: “Don’t you think it would be great if our nation was baptized in love? Oh, but pastor you say, ‘They think this’ or, oh, ‘They think that.’ I am not taking a political position. God’s love is our banner over us.”
“It would be a lot easier to be around those who think like us,” concluded Conaway. “It would not be so tense if we weren’t around those who think differently. But that is not the life to which the Church is called. The Church has one voice — not united by a political party, country of origin, achievement, or social power — but united in Christ. Paul says to carry one another’s burdens as we travel together. And we need to remember that we are
all burdens. No one is weightless. But we hold up the weight of each other because of love. We are pack animals of grace, forgiveness, and mercy.”
“It doesn’t matter how big Goliath was, God was bigger,” Hunter shouted in benediction. “Your giant will never be bigger than God. Have I got a witness?”
A hundred cars honked their “amens.”
Blake Burleson is an ordained Baptist minister and a faculty member in the Department of Religion at Baylor University. The fifth-generation Texan enjoys carpentry, painting, backpacking and travel.