What a remarkable couple of weeks we have experienced as a nation. I was not with you in worship with you last Sunday and if I had been there, I'm still not sure what I would have said. I generally do not use the sermon as a place for political conversation or dialogue on social issues. I have often said that to do so amounts to a verbal hit and run, a ten to twelve minute message where you have no opportunity to ask questions, respond, or give your own testimony (By the way, adult education, meals, and home visits can provide an opportunity for such dialogue). That having been said, weaving throughout the current events of these past weeks has been an emphasis on love and God's amazing grace. So with Independence Day approaching (and likely here or passed by the time some of you read this!), let us give thanks as God's children for:
- A nation where we enjoy the kind of freedom that many people in other nations can only dream of and can barely comprehend. Free speech, free enterprise, and many other human rights are a result of the vision of our founding fathers and the sacrifice of many lives. We are so grateful for those whose lives have guided and protected the freedom we enjoy.
- A church where we can freely worship, pray, learn, serve, and invite others to be a part of our life and mission together. There is much talk about how American Christians are losing their rights and are being persecuted. In my view, this could not be further from the truth. While the church once enjoyed a much more privileged place in our culture,still today the government does not prevent us from assembling and in fact our freedom to confess our faith is protected by our government. We do not suffer from widespread threats and taking of lives for being a Christian, something that far too many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe experience. (Which is why we should be ever mindful of the persecuted church and keep them in our prayers)
- A faith community where we can agree to disagree on some issues and continue to work together to lift up Jesus to the community on worship, education, and service. Unfortunately, American media thrives on examples of Christians with a protest mentality as opposed to the millions of faithful people who are far too busy embodying the Gospel in words and actions with people who are hungry or hurting, lonely or filled with despair. As a people of faith, we need to continue to look at our words and actions and ask if they build up communities or tear them down. Are we a voice of judgment and division or a voice of compassion and understanding? Jesus held laws, traditions, and piety up to this lens quite often as he tightened the law or loosened it. He discerned what was needed for God's love to be known and his kingdom to be revealed.
If you are away this weekend, I wish you safe travels, If you are celebrating on the 4th, may it be a blessed day of giving thanks and enjoying the good gifts of God and our nation. I also look forward to seeing many of you in worship on Sunday as we celebrate God's amazing grace in our lives, In times of dramatic change for our communities, our nation, and our church, we are blessed and truly have what we need to see God's presence and promises in the days ahead.
Giving thanks for you - grace and peace,