Pastor's Blog

Moving on ...

My Election Day began early enough for a few miles on the treadmill, a solid breakfast and then complete my grooming by wearing a bright white shirt, bright red sweater and my darkest "blue" blue jeans.

All by 4:45 a.m.. All so that I could be the Polling Site in Penfield, New York at 5:00 where I would work as an Election Inspector. Polls opened at 6:00 and would close fifteen hours later at 9:00 that evening.

Long day. Voter turn-out at our Polling Site exceeded 70%. We were well-equipped and handled the process - I thought - admirably. Working a Polling Site is my purposeful way of engagement in the political process sans partisanship.

But I did have a "moment" yesterday. A good moment!

I was working the voting machine itself, where - in Monroe County - the paper ballots are scanned and recorded. We are trained to avoid seeing the actual ballots as they are being cast. But sometimes, in order to help the voter, we do see their choices.

Yesterday a man (probably) in his late 50's to early 60's asked for my help. He was wearing the traditional garb of some mountain tribes: baggy white pants, a long, flowing coat with a stole around his neck reaching to below his knees. He was excited. His eyes glistened with tears.

"I am new citizen. This is first time I vote. I know I vote only one time. I have one vote. But I trouble with eyes. Will you help me? I know I want vote for this person."

He said all of this in a rush as he showed me his ballot. He had taken the "one vote" dictate to an extreme. The ballot had columns for all the offices being contested yet this eager new citizen had literally voted for only one person on the whole ballot.

He was entirely within his rights to vote for only one person on the ballot. Others had already voted only for their Presidential choice, leaving the rest of the ballot blank. How did I know this? They had asked me if they were required to vote the whole of the ballot. "No, the machine will only count the votes you cast and that choice is up to you."

I thanked the man for being conscientious with his single vote. But, sensing an opportunity in his enthusiasm, I told him he was entitled to vote for the other offices on the ballot if he so chose. Did he know that? Did he know casting his single vote didn't mean only one vote for the whole of the ballot, but one vote for the person of his choice for each of the offices? 

He looked up at me through thick lenses and his eyes became thick with tears. "You mean I ... I (and he fisted his chest, thumping repeatedly) vote for President? For ... Senator? I get one vote for them?"

"Yes, sir. This whole ballot is your one vote. You only get one ballot. But you get to vote for one person for each of the offices shown on the ballot. I will help you ... "

He interrupted: "I ... get vote for President? Me?"

"Yes, sir, if that's what you want to do. You're a citizen and you're registered to vote. That's your right."

The man gripped my arm. He took off his glasses and wiped his eyes. "I never vote for leader. Never. First time in life I vote for leader. America! God bless America! I get to vote."

He went back to the little privacy booth. It was obvious the man had trouble because he labored over his ballot, head down and shoulders hunched with eyes close to the task at hand. Yet, when finished he stood in my line and when the moment came, stood proudly with his completed ballot. I didn't ask him any questions but only smiled, inviting him to insert his ballot into the voting machine.

When the ballot was successfully cast I asked, "Do you want an 'I Voted' sticker?"

"Oh, yes sir!" But he didn't want me to peel it off. "Tear paper for me? Please? Don't take off paper. I want keep. Want remember first time I vote in America."

"I can let you have more stickers, if you like." I showed him a small sheet of round 'I Voted' stickers, twelve of them stuck to a page ready to peel. "Let you have a whole sheet if you like."

"No sir. Just one. For me. I vote in America. First time. I remember. Always."

I said, "Sure," and tore off one 'I Voted' sticker from the corner of a page. He took it and put it in his wallet. Then he walked away.

My memory from yesterday's election will not be limited to who won or lost. Old retirees exhaust themselves in the service of elections many of their fellow citizens take for granted. My memory will include the humble patriotism radiating from one of my newest fellow citizens. We live in a great country. 

My God is Sovereign. He was surely at work in yesterday's election and I praise Him for it. But I dare not limit His "work" to only the outcome of the vote. God was at work yesterday and He is certainly at work this morning, as our country adjusts to the new realities. Was His work yesterday an act of His judgment upon us? An occasion for renewal? Only time will tell. I am yet unwilling to regard yesterday as either judgment or renewal. Too soon, I feel.

But I am confident God will gain glory and do so in ways none now foresee. Steadied by that conviction: the Election is over and our national life (thankfully) moves on. 

I will pray and I will act.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

 

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with 0 Comments

Christ Who Dies

I write this on my birthday. 

I was born on November 7, 1960, at the Jefferson County Hospital in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. That was a Monday, too. I was born the day before John F. Kennedy was elected President. Tomorrow voters across our great land will elect a President. If you're reading in this on the Monday it was written, then ... please vote.

I'll be shameless about this: if for no other reason then vote as a birthday present to me. I sincerely hope, my face crimson with embarrassment, that  you will vote for far more important reasons than my birthday. God knows there are a gazillion more important reasons! But, whatever. If scribbling my birthday to the bottom of the list of real reasons will tip the scale and provoke you to vote then so be it. Just go vote.

If you're reading this on a later day then I hope you voted. If you did, thank you. If you did not, well, you should have. And yes, I do hope you feel guilty for not voting. Come on: it was my birthday! Once every 28 years my birthday comes before election day. How could you forget that? You can redeem your negligence in 12 years. The election falls on my birthday in 2028. Mark it down. Don't disappoint me.

What does this have to do with Philippians 2.5-11 and "Christ Who Dies"? Not a darn thing. My birthday and who sits behind the desk in the Oval Office is, really, not important. My birthday comes once a year and this will remain unchanged until either I die or the Lord Jesus Christ returns in glory. If the Lord tarries then I'll be another year older. Glad for it and I hope future observances results in happiness and good meals. 

Elections and who sits where and is thus empowered to do this or that for a time: in our current circumstances these days come every four years. I take a rather jaundiced view. You may not. I do. 

"Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as dust on the scales;
behold, He takes up the coastlands like fine dust.

Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.

All the nations are as nothing before Him,
they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness."
Isaiah 40.15-17

Kind'a humbling to our vaunted sense of national exceptionalism to find ourselves lumped in with the rest of "the nations." Dust? Us?

Yep.

"Nothing and emptiness"?

Yep and more yep. Deal with it. God rules.

Figuratively, God in His sovereign power stands feet planted athwart the ravines and peaks of world history; nations rise and fall, powers come and go: God reigns in awesome majesty! Do you doubt this? Are you willing to say, "No, God does not rule over all times and all places and all peoples?" You may be willing to say that. I am not willing say that. 

At the center of all time and history one event - one singular event - dwarfs all else. All else either gains or shrinks in significance relative to this one event. What is this one event? My birthday? A quadrennial election? Heavens, no!

Jesus - God the Son - broke the plane of eternity and entered our world, lived in humiliation as a servant and died on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for sin. God raised Him from the dead, eternally affirming our forgiveness in Christ and securing our salvation in Christ.

Loved ones, many events may rightly be considered as important in their day and worthy of our responsible diligence. Wisdom ought inform our stewardship of these "many events." Vote your conscience as God has given you freedom and opportunity to do so. Celebrate special days ... like my birthday or your birthday.

But, above all, make most important in your life what actually is most important to your life. And ... spoiler alert: it's not a birthday and it's not an election. 

Christ upon the cross: the Savior slain for sinners!
Christ raised from the dead: King of kings and Lord of lords!

 

 

 

Posted by Tim Alexander with 0 Comments

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