It’s Tuesday, but Wednesday’s Coming
It’s hard to look past election day for most of us because our future has been cast in increasingly apocalyptic terms. One gets the impression that no matter who is elected, it’s all over. The level of alarm, panic, and anger is as high as I’ve ever experienced.
It’s felt like that Tuesday has been looming over us for months. In fact, it’s felt like the whole year has been an increasingly vicious battle, one long and terrible Tuesday we’ve been living in for so long we’ve lost sight of the fact that there will come a day after.
It’s Tuesday, but Wednesday’s coming.
Well, that sounds like sweet relief, though there will surely be weeping and gnashing of teeth. But after the attack ads fade and the angry posts recede and the votes are tallied, Wednesday is going to come and we’re going to realize that we’re stuck with each other after all. We’ll walk the battlefield littered with broken relationships and tattered friendships and the bruises we’ve inflicted and the wounds we’ve suffered. We’ll look at what we’ve done and we’ll realize what was true all along: that no one could destroy us but ourselves. Our day of disaster was never predetermined; it was our own self-fulfilling prophecy.
It’s Tuesday, but Wednesday’s coming. It’s time to begin planning for Wednesday. What words will I be able to live with on Wednesday? What friendships will I want back? What will be left to us?
For months now—maybe even years—we’ve been stuck on Tuesday as if that were the only day there was, an eternal present of anxiety and conflict and contortions. As if we thought Tuesday was a crescendo leading to nothing. But Wednesday’s coming. And it’s time to start writing that melody before we’re pushed into an explosive cacophony of dissonance and hostility.
So I want to suggest how we might rehearse for Wednesday. Because what will be true, especially for disciples of Jesus, is that we should pray. Actually, for disciples of Jesus there is much less latitude in this area than in whether or how you vote. There are people who are good and wise and compassionate who will vote for one candidate, just as there are good and wise and compassionate people who will vote for the other (and the others). We can even agree on what is good and just but disagree on how we can get there and who can lead us.
But there is one area in which we have no freedom to deviate, one area where scripture speaks clearly about what all disciples—even all churches—are to do. St. Paul writes to Timothy, whom he had left in charge of a network of churches in Asia Minor, some instructions for what those churches should do when they gather together. In 1 Timothy 2 he says that we should pray for leaders, kings, and everyone in authority. For Paul, this meant directing the churches to pray for the very people who would later kill him.
Now this isn’t new, and many churches do this. But as I looked back at this text recently, I realized that I had a blindspot. There is a word there I hadn’t noticed and that I don’t think I had ever heard even in churches where we took seriously the call to pray for our leaders.
Requests, prayers, intercession, and… thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving. We are commanded to offer thanksgiving for all those in authority over us. Thanksgiving. Really. The Bible doesn’t tell me who I should vote for, but it does tell me what I should do once a leader is elected. Thanksgiving. Eucharistias. Genuine eucharistic ways of praying that are filled with sincere thankfulness and not passive aggressive spitefulness.
Whoever is elected, since I am a disciple of Jesus who takes scripture to be authoritative, I am commanded and compelled to offer prayers of thanksgiving for that person. Not only that, but since I am a pastor who takes scripture to be binding in its timeless teachings about the work of the church, I am commanded and compelled to plan for a time of offering prayers—including prayers of thanksgiving—during morning worship on the Sunday following election day. I am not at liberty to do anything different. The only two choices are obedience or disobedience.
Prayers of thanksgiving fall under the category of blessings (you can see that from 1 Corinthians 14.16). Invoking God’s presence and power for the good of the person being blessed so that God’s good future will draw near in their lives. Bless and do not curse, St. Paul says in another place. Bless when cursed, Jesus says. Call on God to be good to those who have not been good to you. Ask God to give life to those who have sought to take your life. Pray that God would grant peace to those who have been your tormenters.
It’s Tuesday, but Wednesday’s coming. The question is not whether we will be saved or destroyed by the person who is elected. The question is whether faithful prayer and genuinely Christian worship will still exist when Tuesday finally gives way to Wednesday. The question is whether the disciples of Jesus are still committed to blessing their leaders and neighbors and even their enemies as fiercely as their enemies persecute them.
Like I said, I think we’ve got a little rehearsal time left. Here’s what we could do:
- Overflow with thanksgiving. That’s what St. Paul told the Colossians. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Begin, continue, and end each day with gratitude. Then let that start to change the way we speak.
- Begin to offer thanksgiving now for each of the candidates. You might begin with the one you like best. That will be a little easier. But I’d practice blessing the one you don’t like just in case. Again, bless and do not curse. Call out the good in them and call down God’s good for them.
- Offer thanksgiving for the friends you’ve lost along the way. Don’t know who to bless? Write a list of the people you’re angry with. Write down people you’ve unfollowed, people you hope you don’t run into in public, people you’d love to see get what’s coming to them. St. Paul told the Corinthians that love does not delight in evil. Root out any desire to see harm come to anyone, which is another way of saying leave no room for evil in your heart. Don’t give the devil a foothold. I think we’ll find as we bless others, if we pray with genuine faith, that we will begin to desire and even rejoice in God pouring out good things in their lives.
It’s Tuesday, but Wednesday’s coming. Thanksgiving has the power to lead us to peace. The only question is whether we can get our mouths to say the words. That alone will determine what Wednesday brings.