I need not feel embarrassed about never having heard of Sarah Palin before this week. I do not think too many others had either, unless they lived in Alaska. But I have followed her story, and I found reading her speech to the Republican Convention a very moving experience. But there has been something entrancing about her story of becoming a vice-presidential candidate which I am trying to put my finger on. I think it has to do with the elements of unexpected blessing. Someone with experience as mayor of a very small town (even by New Zealand standards!!), and governor of a state with a tiny population does not expect to be within cooee of being a heartbeat from the presidency of the United States of America. A family subject to harsh media exposure and criticism does not expect to find warm support from millions of fellow citizens who decide not to join as usual in the stone throwing but to say, ‘Hey, stop picking on them, they are just like us’. But perhaps the greatest element of unexpected blessing is the particular context of this presidential contest.
For many gruelling months Hilary Clinton slogged it out with Barack Obama in an attempt to become the first woman presidential candidate with the added bonus that at the end of eight years of Bushism this must surely hand the presidency to her. Whatever we think about Hilary Clinton – I loved a comment in an article recently that, should Obama become President, dealing with Putin will be no problem because he has stood up to the Clintons – we recognise that no one worked harder to achieve her goal, except perhaps Obama himself! What irony, then, to find that from seemingly nowhere, with no effort at all on her part, Sarah Palin is on a presidential ticket with the added bonus that McCain being an older guy, cancer survivor, etc, she could be the first woman president. Grace has succeeded where works were in vain! The blessing has fallen unexpectedly on the undeserving one.
In our Anglican contests, working hard to secure whatever outcome we are working towards by way of a better church than the one we see today, it’s easy to neglect the extraordinary possibilities of grace. Sarah Palin’s story encourages us to look afresh to the God of grace who is Lord of the church.