EXERCISING FAITH IN SUFFRAGE
ByPastor Mark B. Augusto, Minister for Students and Campus Chaplaincy

(Sermon delivered May 8, 2016 at the Udarbe Memory Chapel.)

Luke 4: 16-20

Good morning! I'm not here today to endorse a Presidential candidate or Mayor. Nor to endorse someone as you exercise your right to suffrage. I am here to challenge each one of us to exercise our faith in suffrage. The basic question that guides me in writing this reflection is: "What is the role of our faith in our exercise and participation of the upcoming electoral process?"

As a protestant church, we only comprise a sheer minority of the voting population. And being so founded on democratic process in our structure and polity, we do strongly respect the individual democratic rights of all members especially in the exercise of suffrage.

Nevertheless, allow me to contribute my reflection with the upcoming elections, with my hope and prayer that faith will play a vital role in this exercise. I would like to approach this task by outlining the basic tenets of our church (UCCP).

Salient provisions from the UCCP Constitution and By-Laws: The Declaration of Principles of the UCCP, in Section 5, Article 2 of its Constitution and By-Laws, so provides that "the fundamental values of love, justice, truth and compassion are at the heart of our witness to the world and our service to the Church."

This principle is re-enforced by the fifth article of our Statement of Faith that also states:

"WE BELIEVE that God is at work to make each person a new being in Christ and the whole world God's kingdom in which love, justice and peace prevail. That the Kingdom of God is present where faith in Jesus Christ is shared, where healing is given to the blind, and where liberty is given to the captive and oppressed."

Together with the other documents of the Church, the UCCP laid down the tenets of its faith based on the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, specifically in Christ's declaration of his ministry as found in the Gospel of Luke 4:16-20.

Thus, without tedious theological analytical processes, it would come out that our church (UCCP), in accordance with its declaration of principles and Statement of Faith and, in its committed attempt to emulate its Lord and Savior, would support the following advocacies, among others:

1. Advocacy on love, justice, truth and compassion.
2. Kingdom-of-God advocacy where the least are served and the lost are found -- Servant Leadership.
3. Advocacy for the care, protection and restoration of the integrity of Creation.
4. Advocacy for the respect and protection of women, children, and the marginalized.

Jesus Christ, the head and Lord of the Church, no less exemplified these tenets during His ministry, in which he has shown what it means to be the Messiah. Thus, all those who therefore present themselves to serve the Filipino constituency, especially those who claim to be Christians, should likewise show adherence to such principles and the servant leadership Jesus exemplified; more so because these politicians purport themselves and promise to serve the electorate once elected.

The paradigm of servant leadership therefore should be foremost in the platform and lifestyle of any political candidate; the service to others should be their priority and not self-benefit and personal glorification. It is very frustrating to realize however, that we find almost all of our candidates the very opposite not only of this parameter but likewise of the very statement they have uttered.

How many of our candidates became such simply by virtue of political inheritance? How many of our candidates became millionaires not long after they held a political position so much so that their difficulty in explaining their wealth lent unto them a comedy of errors? I can go on and on of these political woes but I am pretty sure that no amount of litany can discourage them from running. Thus, we, the Filipino people, should wake up and bear the challenge and responsibility of choosing the kind of leaders we want to run our nation and locality.

While in the heat of the campaign period, the Filipino faced the most blatant of insults; by someone who claims to be poor but such wealth cannot be explained; by someone who claims to be the kin of Filipinos when at a leisure denounced it; by someone who claims to be honest and righteous when in fact the push is only motivated to thwart any legal suits that may be hurled against those who now sit in power; and even by someone who has a dirty mouth and questionable integrity especially in relation to women.

Their campaign lines seem to assume that Filipinos are dumb and does not have any faculty for right judgment. And it is very sad to say that except for a very few, most candidates did not propose in their platforms agenda that would bring in genuine, equitable and participatory development. Rather, perhaps stirred in their own mediocrity or on their presumption of the callousness of the voting populace, they make a mockery not only of the voting process but the very people they say they will serve.

But at the end of the day and come election day, I know for sure that we have no viable solutions but more with the task of choosing from among the candidates, especially the Presidentiables, who have presented themselves to us.

But then again, in this exercise, be guided by the principles set by Christ and exercise your faith in suffrage. Here, we are charged that may our votes promote virtue, suppress vice and support people of "proven wisdom, integrity, justice, and holiness." Above all, let us thank God for the opportunity that this election year puts before us, for us to exercise our solemn duty not only to vote, but to influence countless others to vote, and to vote for the right candidates.

Let us all be awakened. Let us all realize that while politics is not our salvation, our response requires that we be politically active. For we are not called to be a community that is passive about the world around us, but rather a community of faith renewing the world. May this realization make us all more committed to being faithful citizens on earth and of the Dumaguete community and of our beloved country. Exercise faith in suffrage! Amen.