In the poetic opening of Genesis, the Bible says God formed man out of the dust.
Cosmologist Carl Sagan famously said, “We are made of starstuff.”
It is both incredibly humbling and beautiful to recognize the God of the cosmos crafted our bodies out of the same material found at the heart of a star and in a thin-film at the base of a windowsill.
In Ecclesiastes, the aging King Solomon says “all come from dust, and to dust all return.”
We all come into the world the same way, and we will leave it the same.
In dust, we are united. And in dust, Jesus defended the life of a woman whom – according to the Bible – was guilty of death.
At this point, we’ve followed our protagonist – Hugh Glass – for nearly two-and-a-half hours as he journeyed through an icy version of Dante’s Inferno in search of the man who killed his son.
But when Glass finally achieves vengeance, it is hard for the audience to feel any sort of satisfaction.
We’re worn out. Beaten down. Bruised and bloodied.
In the final frame of the film, Glass – mortally wounded and alone – hauntingly stares directly into the camera, and we are left with the uneasy realization that having our blood lust satiated is not at all what we imagined it would be.
Welcome to the grim conclusion of the Presidential Election of 2016.
The election has taken its toll.
Relationships between friends and family members are frayed. We’re more cynical, suspicious, and distrusting. We sharpen our words like knives, and doggedly look for opportunities to use them.
Whether or not your candidate won in the 2016 election, we can all mourn for what it did to us.
If we learned anything over the previous eighteen months, it is that the message of Jesus is just as scandalous in 2016 as it was 2,000 years ago.
It is scandalous to welcome the refugee with open arms.
It is scandalous to protect the rights of the unborn.
It is scandalous to defend the weak.
It is scandalous to respect the freedom of other religions and lifestyles.
And it is scandalous to love our enemies, even as they persecute us.
We can mourn, but let us not lose hope. Our hope should not be wrapped up in an American flag. Our identity is not found in how we vote. And we are not defined by our allegiance to a political candidate who doesn’t even know our name.
But we have to understand that a lot of people woke up scared on November 9th.
Scared that their mother and father may be deported.
Scared they may be sent back to a refugee resettlement camp.
Scared to come out as gay to their parents.
Scared of being labeled a “terrorist” simply because of their religious affiliation.
Scared to finally admit they are a survivor of sexual assault.
Scared of losing their healthcare.
And solely based on some of the rhetoric to come from this campaign season, some of these fears are completely legitimate.
For many people in America, they feel like strangers in their own country for the first time. For others, it is how they have felt for the past eight years.
I’m not a Christian because I believe it makes sense.
I’m a Christian because when I look at the life and teachings of Jesus, I see God.
I see a God who is constantly showing up in the most unexpected of places.
He is the guy at the wedding feast who turns ceremonial jars of water into jugs of wine.
He is sharing a meal with drunkards and tax collectors. He is touching the ones His society has deemed “unclean” because of a disease. He is preaching redemption to the irredeemable.
Jesus is always on the side of the weak and marginalized. You can find Him on the frayed edges of society. He is with women and the children. The lepers and the whores. The outcasts and beggars.
And nothing has changed about our God.
He is weeping with the woman who felt like she had to get an abortion. He is comforting the homeless teen who was kicked out of his house for telling his parents he is gay. He is wailing with the other Syrian refugees in the resettlement camp as they learn about another air strike that killed their family members.
He is the God of the Have-Nots. Throughout history, He is on the side of the underdogs.
And when he rubbed shoulders with the political and religious elite, He frightened them. Because he preached a message about a new Kingdom.
A Kingdom in which the first were last, and the last were first.
A Kingdom that turned their carefully constructed world upside down. Outsiders became insiders, and the gentle souls inherit the Earth.
And so they killed Him.
The beauty of Jesus’s life can be captured in any number of moments. But it is best illustrated in His death.
A crucifix is the last place you would expect to find a God. Jesus willingly died for His enemies. And He died forgiving the people who killed Him.
Sometimes, it is hard for me to believe in a God who would allow so much evil to flourish in the world. But then I look at the life of Jesus.
I look at His message. I look at how He treated people. I look at His death and resurrection.
That is a God I can get behind.
How then shall the Church move forward in a world post-Election 2016?
And by the Church, I mean the unified body of Christ who continuously place their hope in the Kingdom that was established on Earth through Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Not the “evangelical Christian” voting demographic.
I think the answer is as easy as it is daunting.
We comfort the widow. We care for the orphan. We model our lives on the life (and death) of Jesus.
We love our enemies. Even the enemies who don’t love their enemies. We repay evil words with kindness.
We lay down our weapons – both physical and verbal – and start repairing the bridges we have burned over the past eighteen months. Because we all have blood on our hands.
And we should be prepared to stand in the gap for all the people who feel frightened, lonely, and unloved. We seek to meet people where they are, and show them the same grace, mercy, and acceptance Christ showed to us.
Or, we can continue to pursue and protect our own self-interests.
According to an ancient Sumerian creation myth, the night sky is simply a dark sheet that is hurled over the horizon every night. The stars are merely holes in the sheet from which light from the sun bleeds through.
We are star dust. It is part of who we are.
Made from dust, and to the dust we shall return. All infused with the breath of God, and all the dignity and respect that comes with that.
If nothing else, let the world rediscover Jesus in the margins of society. The tattered edges of our culture. And let them find us there with Him – caked in the dust of our humanity and shining like the stars we are, with love in our eyes and condemnation far from our lips.
We have a lot of work to do.
Let’s get to it.