As we finished watching Washington Week on a Friday night, we flipped the channel to catch another recorded program and found ourselves in the middle of the fourteenth failing ballot of Kevin McCarthy’s quixotic journey to the speakership of the House of Representatives.
Glued to the screen we sat through a failed motion to adjourn and I remember commenting that these folks couldn’t even organize a bathroom break, and they’re going to run the country!?
The next thing, the camera zooms to McCarthy rushing to the podium waving a red card. Now someone’s going to change their vote. Within short order, having failed to adjourn, the House proceeded to a fifteenth vote. The holdouts, the Never Kevin folks, having had their demands met, had agreed to vote present, allowing the speaker to finally be elected with 215 votes. He was sworn in and in turn swore in en masse the rest of the body.
We had a government – of sorts.
I wondered what sort of reign this speaker might exercise given the extreme demands the Never Keven cabal had exacted from him to bring their support, or at least their acquiescence. Would anything get done in this 218th Congress?
What sort of acolytes would Speaker McCarthy be choosing to head committees? How many months would this tribe exhaust in investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop? Impeaching Dr. Fauci? Yeah, I know he’s retired…they know. Doesn’t matter. The COVID-19 vaccine was all a nefarious plot of some sort. That’s why we have to investigate, investigate, and impeach! And while we’re at it, let’s get those awful FBI thugs on the hotseat, too. And the 87,000 IRS agents who will be beating down your doors at three in the morning. Will we descend into the madness of Marjorie Taylor Green and the QAnon Crazies?
I was not much of a Reagan fan, but at least his conservativism had a smile. His was not the politics of resentment and vengeance. He found places of compromise to get things done.
The stark contrast to the melee on the floor of Congress was the gathering of Mitch McConnell and President Biden, along with the governors of Ohio and Kentucky and some other leaders of those states – all to celebrate an accomplishment for the American people.
The bridge over the Ohio River that spans the two states has needed replacement for many years. Obama tried to get the funding and failed. Now, after many years, this deteriorated span was going to be addressed. There were smiles, complements and handshakes to go all around. This photo op was the classic win-win situation. Out of the cesspool of our hyper-partisan politics, everyone came up smelling like a rose.
Over the politics of darkness, the light of cooperation and mutual interest broke through the dark clouds of bitter partisanship.
There were many points where I took strenuous issue with Reaganism. His abandonment of the mentally ill in California was despicable. When it came to the “least of these,” one pundit asserted, “The spirit of Marie Antoinette infuses the administration of Ronald Reagan.”
In spite of this, Reagan was progressive on immigration. He believed that immigrants made the nation stronger. He chose them to become Americans. He bristled at the idea of a border wall. “You don’t build a nine-foot fence along the border between two friendly nations.” An earlier draft contained his thought, “We cannot erect a Berlin Wall across our southern border…We are talking here not just about statistics but human beings, families, and hopes and dreams for a better life.”
This was the spirit that infused that meeting between President Biden and Mitch McConnell at the Brent Spence Bridge across the Ohio River.
Jesus was the messenger of Possibility and Flourishing – ever God’s will for humankind. This is a “we” operation. He needed a team, those who would commit to following him on the Way to a New Creation.
“As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their net and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John…”
He called the twelve and then called others – saints alive — and now he’s calling you and me.
Yes, it was Reagan’s disastrous foreign policy in the Central American countries which have brought about the massive flood of refugees, yet as blindly naive as Reagan was to the results of his policies, there was a spark of decency that allowed him to see these refugees as simple human beings, their hopes and dreams.
That is our mission as Jesus’ disciples. And none of us are in his class — we all bring our blind spots and sins of omission. I bring these up because, we are cut of no different cloth than those politicians we disparage. The main difference, they are often in positions where they can do far more damage than we mortals. We do share the same humanity. The same instincts for good and the same blind failings. Yet in God, all shall be blessed. Even my old nemesis, Tricky Dick.
Jesus calls them, calls us, to a vision as old as the prophets of yore, to the promise of Isaiah. All “living in a land of deep darkness, arise. Your light has come. You have seen a great light; on you it has shined.”
We are only here for a brief period. The gift of grace is the Light of Christ we shine unto those around, including oneself. The Light they offer to us.
Last Sunday evening we gave thanks for a great bearer of this same Light, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He walked the talk. This is the sort of disciple Christ raises up.
And you and me, to boot. Cut from the same cloth of frail humanity.
Death, more than anything focuses both mind and spirit. Brings to the forefront my need, our need, for this Light
Lately, I’ve been spending time with a good friend whose wife is in hospice. That, and finishing a novel about an incredible priest facing death among the people she has served, I find myself a bit weepy. But it’s a good weepy. It’s real.
We will gather in a little bit this morning to acknowledge the gift of life and joy a cherished wife, Blanca, brought to her family. In her way, she walked the talk.
This circle is given to the precious moment of sharing cherished memories of her time among us. A time to give thanks to the Author of all life who has brought us to this time and place. It doesn’t get any better than this. Beats the hell out of watching old sit-coms or moping around in the darkness by oneself.
The blessing of discipleship is the blessing of community. Whatever life dishes out, we don’t have to endure alone and in silence. We have a community in Christ to share it all. And be sustained. This is the bread of life that is offered every Sunday at Christ’s altar. This is the cup of blessing – it is to be in a community of blessing.
As imperfect as our politicians are, as we are, there are divine moments of flourishing. Joe and Mitch were at that bridge the other day because of something they received along their faith journey. That same spark enabled Reagan to see the humanity of those destitute at our southern border.
It enables us to look across a prayer circle and see the precious humanity in each one at this altar.
“Sent them out to witness, two by two,” and now sends us out to testify to the goodness we have known in his company. Two by two. It’s real. Believe me. Amen.
 Nicole Hemmer, Partisans: The Conservaive Revolutinaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s (New York: Basic Books, 2022), 39.
 Op cit., 37.
January 22, 2023, The Epiphany
“Jesus Called the 12 and then Called Others”
The Rev. Dr. John C. Forney, St. Francis Episcopal Mission
Isaiah 9:1-4; Psalm 27:1, 5-13; 1 Corinthians 1:10-18; Matthew 4:12-23