The election is over. For the Oval Office, one winner, one loser. But neither is a loser. Both are people who offered themselves for public service, and have lived under a microscope, under intense scrutiny, with a schedule that would exhaust the most energetic of us.
Winning voters are tempted to strut, to gloat; losing voters are tempted to sigh, to rage, to shudder with disgust. This is fine, and serves as an index into the fact that we care, we are invested as citizens, we hold deep beliefs. But the election is over, and we have a new President, and a coterie of other public servants. Do we remain stuck in our giddy delight? Or in our exasperated disappointment? Not as the people of God, not for those who believe we might in some way be "one nation under God."
George Bush left a handwritten note in the Oval Office for Bill Clinton in January, 1993, saying "I wish you great happiness here... Don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course. You will be our President. Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you."
What if God left a letter for us today? God would remind us it is time to be one nation, one people, to throw all our support and hopes behind the democratically elected officials who will lead. The alternative is forever to oppose, to subvert, to grouse... but is the Spirit in us when we do?
You'll recall that my grandparents, back in January 1961, took down the photo of President Dwight Eisenhower in their den and replaced it with one of the new President, John Kennedy. They prayed for their President. Imagine if all the people in America who claim to believe in God actually prayed for their leaders? Or spent one-tenth as much time in seeking the heart of God as they do in griping?
If you believe that the election of Candidate X will be catastrophic, if you think Candidate Y's policies are faulty, then you would be wise to begin to pray, today, that you turn out to be wrong. The morning after an election - and every morning for the believer, prayer is in order.
And citizenship. We harbor this foolish belief that just one person can change everything. Leadership really matters. But leadership requires active following, not passive spectatorship or hostile criticism. If there has been energy and passion around this year's election, it will have been wasted unless we translate that into consistent citizenship, involvement, each person doing his or her part to work at the problems and hopes before us, every organization - and especially the Church getting engaged with what's going on with compassion, justice, an optimistic spirit, and a dogged zeal.
So let us conclude by recalling the immortal words of Lincoln, trying to lead a divided nation, and make them our hope, our prayer, our marching orders: "The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes... With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds."