The Covenants We Make

The idea of covenant – an agreement or promise between 2 or more entities – can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures from their very beginning. “I will be your God and you will be my people” exists from the Torah through the Prophets and into the Christian Scriptures. Covenant appears over and over as God renews God’s relationship with people who, flawed and selfish as we are, keep straying. Covenants can also exist between people; marriage vows are one example. And while those vows can be broken or bent, they can also be renewed and deepened. That is the beauty of a covenant; it can be reanimated.

So, to those who have been elected to public office, I would offer the idea that you also have made a covenant. That covenant is central to what you are about to begin in your new term. First, though, I want to say a little about what a covenant is not. It is not a way to shape your jurisdiction into your image. It is not fealty to a political party or leader. It is not an opportunity to take rights away from people you disagree with. It is not a way of enriching yourself or your family and friends. Your election does not make you our leader – it makes you our servant.

Your election to office, regardless of that office’s scope, gives you the privilege of protecting and defending the Constitution. Not what you want that document to be, but what it presently is. You can work to make it better; we’ve been doing that since it was written almost 240 years ago; but you can’t ignore it. You should have studied it and taken a class in it and deeply considered how your life will change because of it before you even thought about running for office. You should have the wisdom and humility to understand that it has endured for over two centuries and will continue to do so after you and I are dust. You should have the courage – even if that puts your next election at risk – to stand up to those who would attempt to subvert and abuse its centrality to our existence as a nation.

You have decided to make a sacrifice for this country we love so much, and for that, we thank you. This step into service is not a power grab; it is a way of releasing the power for good that benefits all people, no matter how different they are from you. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with a person’s sexual orientation or gender – it doesn’t matter if you don’t like the language someone speaks – it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand the many different religions practiced here. You are no longer answerable to yourself – you are answerable to us. And if you are a religious person, you are answerable to God, because God expects you to treat everyone the same. You represent all of us, not just the people who elected you. Good luck. And do the right thing. We will be cheering for you, and we will be watching you. Do what’s best for all of us. That’s your job now.

Prayer – God of every part of creation, we ask that You guide our public servants to do what is just, not what is self-serving. Amen.

Today’s art is a voting rights mural entitled “Voting Rights are Human Rights” in downtown Milwaukee by Shepard Fairey.