Today we are focusing on the UCC's, "Our Faith, our Vote, our Voice" campaign. Now this campaign is not about endorsing or opposing a certain political candidate or political party. We are not allowed to do that. Our founding fathers were very clear about the separation of church and state. That's why I'm so surprised to see several well known evangelical pastors openly endorsing one political candidate and opposing a certain political party, right from the pulpits of their own churches. We are not allowed to do that as churches. That is against the law.
So the UCC's Our Faith, our Vote, our Voice campaign, is not about supporting or opposing a certain candidate or political party. Rather, its focus is on the importance of voting and making our voices heard. Back in 2016, many Americans did not make their voices heard. In fact, in the last presidential election, more than 100 million Americans did not vote. That is absolutely outrageous. I believe that voting is not only a civic duty, but that it is a moral imperative for us. One of our UCC national officers, the Reverend James Moos, says that voting is an act of love. He says it is a way for us to demonstrate Jesus's greatest commandment -- to love our neighbor as ourselves.
We in the UCC have a rich history of striving for social justice. Back in the 1960s, we marched with civil rights leaders. In the 1970s, we advocated for women's rights. And we have supported LGBTQ rights. These past two decades, the UCC has also been committed to economic justice, and to creation justice.
The reason we in the United Church of Christ are so passionate about these issues is because we are a Christian church that is serious about following the way of Jesus. Jesus' message for us was to go and build a just world for all people, a world where he said the last would be first, where the first would be last -- a world where Scripture says the lowly will be lifted up high, and the rich and powerful will be pulled down from their thrones.
Jesus said, "When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you visited me. And when I was a stranger, you welcomed me." And when one of the righteous said, "Jesus, when did we ever do these things for you?" He said, "Whatever you do, for the least of your brothers and sisters, you do for me."
Jesus' message for us was very clear. He wanted us to stop looking solely at our own self-interest, and to start caring for the interests of others, especially the least of these in our midst.
Reverend James Moos goes on to say, "In following Jesus's commandment to love my neighbor, I reach beyond my own self interest. And I consider the interests of my neighbors and what their needs are. And who is my neighbor? It is the low income worker who works multiple jobs, but can't make ends meet because pay is inadequate. It's the child whose options in life are limited because he or she is attending a substandard school. My neighbor is the undocumented worker, the Muslim, the refugees. The decisions we make on election day will impact their lives. So please vote and think beyond your own needs, and think about the interests of your neighbors. That is why voting for me is an act of love."
Now, we have people in our congregation who are Democrats, we have people in our congregation who are Republicans, and we have people in our congregation who are Independents. The one thing that unites us all is the mission of our little church.
Our church's mission statement, which was written more than 15 years ago, says that we are a church that strives for justice. It says that we are an open and affirming church, that we are a creation justice church, and that we are a church that respects and celebrates people of other faith traditions. If you are a member of our church community, you have taken a vow to support the mission of our church.
So when you cast your vote, consider our church's mission statements. Consider the candidate you're voting for, and their party's policies. Do they support the environment? Do they support the LGBTQ community? Do they strive for justice? Do they celebrate and respect people of other faith traditions?
The choice is yours. So before you cast your vote, make sure you do your homework on these issues.
Many of you love our UCC “Be the Church” banner, which is hanging above our altar today. The banner says, “Be the church, protect the environment, care for the poor, reject racism, fight for the powerless, embrace diversity.” So if you love this banner, remember it when you cast your vote. Do your candidates and their political party protect the environment, care for the poor, reject racism, fight for the powerless and embrace diversity?
The other thing that unites us is our Christian faith. Our scripture reading from today is one in which Paul gives us the instructions for leading a good Christian life. So as I reread it for you again, please consider which presidential candidate for you best exemplifies these qualities. Paul instructs us to "be humble, gentle, patient with one another, making every effort to keep unity through peace. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another."
You know, anyone can call themselves a Christian. But the Bible tells us what the fruits of the Spirit are. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. So as a person of faith, before you cast your vote, consider which presidential candidate best exemplifies those fruits of the spirit for you.
You get to choose, you have a vote, you have a voice. So make your voice heard and put your faith into action. In the Bible, in Isaiah 58, verse 1, it says, "Shout out, do not hold back, lift up your voice like a trumpet."
My friends, in this election season, let us put our faith into action and make our voices heard, so that we can continue Jesus' mission and our church's mission of building a just world for all people.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
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