Texans are three days from the beginning of early voting related to the Nov. 3 election, and 24 days away from Election Day itself. This past week, I have heard supporters of both presidential candidates say, “I cannot wait to cast my vote as soon as allowed!” Anticipation and enthusiasm like this are positive for the nation.
The writer of Psalm 130 penned the words, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in the Lord’s word I hope ... For with the Lord there is steadfast love and great power to redeem.” This waiting for the Lord is not passive in nature, but active, including diligence, patience, stamina and perseverance.
My father was a small-town attorney and a Presbyterian — a descendant of the group to which, in 1776, King George III and his supporters referred, describing the unrest in the North American colonies as a “Presbyterian rebellion.”
Supporters of the British monarchy used a religious term to stereotype colonists who desired independence from the Crown, meaning that certain colonists were passionate, anti-monarchial rebels because Presbyterians in Scotland, France and Switzerland were anti-monarchial and anti-authoritarian. Presbyterians were known for favoring decision-making by citizens debating and voting, including voting to choose office-holders from the “common” citizenry.
In June 1979, I began serving as an associate pastor with a suburban San Antonio Presbyterian church. During the next two years, I became acquainted with two attorneys in their mid-50s, who, like my dad, attended law school after their military service concluded.
Blair Reeves was county judge of Bexar County at the time. Judge Reeves, a Marine veteran, had maintained mobility in a wheelchair since the day in 1945 when a bullet from an enemy rifle pierced his spinal cord on the island of Okinawa. Although a member of First Presbyterian downtown, with sincerity and a smile on his face, he once explained to my pastor colleague and me: “I divide my tithe, with half to the Presbyterian Church and half to the Democratic Party. Betty (his spouse) doesn’t necessarily agree, but I figure the church can reach out to God’s people in ways the Democratic Party cannot; and the Democratic Party can reach out to God’s people in ways the church cannot.”
James Baskin, also a member of First Presbyterian downtown, had been a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy during World War II, receiving his officer’s commission in 1946. In 1981, during a regional church meeting in Corpus Christi, he sat with a seminary classmate of mine and me, neither of us yet 30 years old. During a contentious debate, he whispered to us: “Frank, Ted: in this heated argument, both sides are arguing for what they want. It’s our work as voting commissioners to decide what follows the Presbyterian Church’s rules, considering both those in the room and those who are not in the room. You don’t have a crystal ball, but ask yourself: ‘Who’s got an investment in this decision beyond this proceeding? Who else is affected? How do I think those not present here need this to be decided for justice and mercy to occur?’ ”
Reeves and Baskin were public servants and in-the-pew-theologians. Both could face winds of opposition and remain steadfast. Both worked toward the middle politically, with a tenacious sense that God’s steadfast love in Jesus Christ is extended to every person with respect and to every community, regardless of how many miles or continents away. If physically among us today, they too would be “waiting on the Lord” as citizens daily exercising diligence, patience, stamina, and perseverance, serving God among God’s people.
Ted V. Foote Jr. has been pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Bryan since 2007.