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July 2023

the neutral zone

Sometimes fans of certain TV shows, musical artists, or sports teams will make lame attempts at interjecting those interests into conversations, or—God forbid—into sermons.  I can assure you this is not one of those lame attempts!  I have a very good reason for the title, “The Neutral Zone,” aside from the fact that it exists in the universe of Star Trek!

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For those who do not know, and especially for those who do not care, I will give a very brief explanation.  Between the United Federation of Planets and the Romulan Empire there exists a region, established by treaty, which is called the Neutral Zone.  Neither of those governments is supposed to send ships of any kind into that area without the consent of the other.

Now, here comes that very good reason to speak of the neutral zone!  It’s a concept presented in the book, A Door Set Open, by Peter Steinke.  He did a lot of work with congregations, including those who are either in conflicted or transitional situations.

He used the term in reflecting on work done by William Bridges, another consultant.  His theory is that “change is an event.  Our experience of the change is transition.  He cites three movements—endings, the neutral zone, and beginnings—in the transition experience.”[1]

We might think of “endings” as the chapter or the phase of life that is drawing to a close.  “Beginnings” would be the next step or the new reality that is now appearing.  It’s the middle one, “the neutral zone”—in which things seem chaotic and unsettled—that can really alarm us, even sending us screaming in the other direction!  It can have us confused.  Truth be told, some of us are more comfortable with ambiguity than are others.

We all know that caterpillars turn into butterflies.  While that critter is still in the cocoon, strange, bewildering things are going on.  At some point, it’s neither caterpillar nor butterfly.  It’s in a state of metamorphosis in which it’s neither one.  That little booger is in what we might call a state of transitional goo.  That is its neutral zone.

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We can see the people of Nazareth in chapter 4 of St. Luke’s gospel as being in their own neutral zone; they are transitional goo.

As we begin with verses 14 and 15, Luke presents Jesus returning from the wilderness, having endured temptation.  We see Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returning to Galilee.  It’s when he comes to his hometown of Nazareth things really get interesting.

Jesus attends “synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom,” and he reads the beginning of Isaiah 61 (v. 16).

I have mentioned before the television show, The Chosen, and how much I like it.  Season 3, episode 3 is called, “Physician, Heal Thyself.”  There is a twelve-minute scene in which this scripture reading is played out.[2]  The mood goes from light-hearted to deep affection to tense and very dark.

Jesus commences, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (vv. 18-19).  Jesus tells the people that “this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v. 21).

They are astonished by the way he addresses them.  They’re asking each other, “This is the son of Joseph, isn’t it?”  Dennis Bratcher says, “It seems at first that Jesus had won acceptance at Nazareth.  They marvel at the gracious words spoken by Joseph’s son now become a man.  But the people have not yet truly responded, at least not on the level necessary to engage the future that Jesus is bringing.  Beginning in verse 23…Jesus drives to the heart of the issue, and to the heart of the people.”[3]

It’s not long until Jesus reveals the feelings of ownership and control the people want to use over him.  “Hey, he’s from our town; he’s one of us!  He should do the stuff here he’s done in other places.”

But when they hear Jesus elaborating, attitudes change pretty quickly.  He speaks of beloved prophets, Elijah and Elisha, following the call of God and visiting foreigners.  During a severe famine in Israel, Elijah went to the widow in Zarephath in Sidon, a country to the north, part of modern-day Lebanon.  And though there were many lepers in Israel, Elisha went to Naaman, who was stricken with leprosy.  He was a commander in the Syrian army.

After all, Jesus has just told them, “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s hometown” (v. 24).  And it looks like they want to prove him right!

Luke tells us that “all in the synagogue were filled with rage.”  In The Message, Eugene Peterson said, “That set everyone in the meeting place seething with anger.  They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom” (vv. 28-29).  But it was not to happen that way, that day.  He simply walked right through the crowd.  We’re not entirely clear how that occurred.  Did he slip away, or was it in full view?

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I said earlier that the people of Nazareth experience their own neutral zone.  Change is going on, but their experience of that change has them emotionally paralyzed.  Families, communities, congregations: all of them can be seen as emotional systems.  Verses 28 and 29 show us that the people in the synagogue are emotionally stuck—and they want to stick it to Jesus!

The people Jesus is addressing understand all too well what he is saying.  He’s letting them know that their claim on him, and at a deeper level, their understanding of themselves as “the” people of God (that is, the only people of God), can no longer be defended.  This produces anxiety within them, but instead of handling their anxiety, their anxiety handles them!  And as we’ve seen, they want to handle Jesus!

Jesus would like to lead them in the change that is inevitable.  But as our friend Peter Steinke commented, “Leading change brings out both reactive forces and responsive ones.”[4]  That first one, reactive forces, is when we become extremely defensive.  Sometimes people speak of instinct, the “lower brain,” or the “reptile brain.”  We sense danger; anxiety kicks in.  Anxiety is an automatic reaction to a threat, whether the threat is real or imagined.

What happens when we’re anxious?  Are we relaxed?  Or perhaps, does our chest tighten up?  Actually, “anxiety” and “angina” come from the same family of words.  When we’re anxious, we want instant answers; we see things in terms of yes-no, either-or; we actually become narrow-minded.[5]  When we feel threatened, there’s no time to take a survey!  Everything within us is screaming, “There’s no time to think!  Just do it!”

That second one that leading change brings, being responsive, is when we are reflective.  This is learned behavior.  We are free to exercise reason and creativity and imagination.  We’re free to explore possibilities.  We’re using the “upper brain,” so to speak.  And it also has a physical response.  Instead of tightness, there tends to be a sense of calm.  We remember to breathe!

Both reaction and response are necessary for human life.  Without the “knee-jerk reaction,” we wouldn’t pull our hands out of the fire.  You know, when any body part is on fire, that’s not the time to assemble a focus group and brainstorm how we might weigh the options!

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So for all its benefits, the reptile brain, the lower brain, is not very useful in building community.  We need response that’s more elevated.  In a similar way, we’re reminded that “once anxiety runs a high fever…one can never rely on insight or reasonableness or even love.”[6]

Here’s a word of wisdom.  Never tell someone they’re acting out of the reptile part of their brain.  For some reason, that usually doesn’t go very well!  You might get snapped at.

Having said all that, I hope I haven’t given the impression that anxiety is a bad thing.  As I just said, anxiety is a normal part of who we are as humans.  It’s simply a part of us that can easily overwhelm us and drive our behavior.

I’ve touched on ways in which those in Jesus’ hometown synagogue are spending time in the neutral zone.  A good example would be Jesus’ refusal to allow them to “claim” him, but instead, to call them to a wider vision, to orient them in a different direction.  In various ways, the winds of change have swept through their lives and community.

That feeling of being in the neutral zone is not unfamiliar to a congregation in an interim period.  Feelings of anxiety would be expected.  What does the future hold?  What will we do next?  Or better, who are we, and who is God calling us to be?  How is God calling us to emerge from transitional goo?

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["Not all who wander are lost" photo by Thomas Welch on Unsplash]

So it’s true, the neutral zone can be a scary place.  But it’s also necessary, though not in the Star Trek sense of keeping enemies apart.  It’s necessary because that’s the time and place to re-orient ourselves.  We hold on to what is good and true from the past, but not so tightly that we cannot embrace the hopeful and hope filled future into which the Holy Spirit leads us.

 

[1] Peter Steinke, A Door Set Open (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2010), Kindle edition, chapter 7, section 5, paragraph 1.

[2] www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMO0ykVs8t4

[3] www.crivoice.org/lectionary/YearC/Cepiphany4nt.html

[4] Steinke, 2.8.8

[5] Peter Steinke, Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times (Herndon, VA: The Alban Institute, 2006), 8-9.

[6] Steinke, A Door Set Open, 2.8.8


do you see what I see?

During this calendar year of 2023, I have begun focusing on the months of the biblical year.  I have long known they existed.  They are mentioned in many parts of the Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament.  I just never paid much attention to them.

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I began with Adar, which is the twelfth and final month on the calendar.  This year, it began on Ash Wednesday.  It’s focus is joy, and it is demonstrated by the book of Esther.

Then there is Nisan, the first month.  The highlight is the premier feast, Passover (or Pesach).  It’s followed by Iyar, the second month, which is a month of transition.  The Israelites have been through the exodus and are in the wilderness. They complain of thirst and hunger.  They are still on the way.

Sivan is the third month.  It features Shavuot, or Pentecost.  Traditionally, the book of Ruth is associated with it.  There’s the all-night study session.  For that, you better have some strong coffee or Turkish tea on hand!

The fourth month in the biblical calendar is Tammuz.  We are more than halfway through it.  The theme, or the association, with Tammuz in Hebrew thought is vision.  It is a month of darkness and light.  It is the month of the eyes.  Guard your eyes, we are told; guard your heart.

The word “Tammuz” only appears once in the Bible (Ezekiel 8:14).  It’s mentioned in a passage in which the Lord is revealing to the prophet, who is in Babylon with the exiles, what abominations are occurring back in the temple in Jerusalem.  There is a lovely list of them, but here’s the one relevant to us.

“Then he brought me to the entrance of the north gate of the house of the Lord, and I saw women sitting there, mourning the god Tammuz.  He said to me, ‘Do you see this, son of man?  You will see things that are even more detestable than this.’”  Oh goody!

2 nuSo who is this Tammuz?  There are various versions of the story, but here’s a common theme.  He was a god of spring, and the myth regarding him told of his early death and of the descent of Ishtar his bride into the underworld in search of him.  The death of Tammuz symbolized the destruction of the spring vegetation by the heat of summer, and it was celebrated annually by seven days of women’s mourning, if that can be considered celebrating.

Some say he was a handsome god, the Babylonian version of Adonis, if we can set aside the fact that Adonis was mortal.  No wonder the ladies lamented so bitterly.

Here’s an obvious question: why name the month after a pagan god, indeed after an idol?

Look at the Ten Commandments.  Right off the bat, here’s the big number one.  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:2-3, Dt 5:6-7).  That would seem to settle it!

Again, there are many answers, but one recurring theme is a warning to avoid idolatry.  The message is to gain mastery over it.  The annual appearance of the month of Tammuz is a constant reminder of that lesson.

One story dealing with this month concerns the twelve spies sent into the land of Canaan by Moses.  (One representative for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.)  In Numbers 13 and 14 we see the command to “spy” out the region.  This is all about vision.  The spies were to use their eyes.

I like how the New International Version presents Moses’ volley of questions.  “See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many.  What kind of land do they live in?  Is it good or bad?  What kind of towns do they live in?  Are they unwalled or fortified?  How is the soil?  Is it fertile or poor?  Are there trees in it or not?  Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land” (13:18-20).

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Then there’s an editorial comment.  “It was the season of the first ripe grapes.”  That’s how we know this was the month of Tammuz, which is the time of the grape harvest.

When the scouts return, they admit the lushness of “the land of milk and honey.”  However, there are problems.  They report seeing cities which in fact are fortified—and what’s more, the people who live there are giants!  In comparison, we look like grasshoppers.  The land devours those who dare enter it.  Their advice: it’s not worth the risk.  Christine Vales says, “They believed the fake news from the ten spies network.”[1]  There’s a conspiracy to stage a coup and find someone to lead them back to Egypt.

On a side note, the ten spies network has a report concerning the descendants of Anak and the Nephilim.  Who are these Nephilim?  There’s a strange story in Genesis 6 regarding them.  We read, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went in to the daughters of humans, who bore children to them.  These were the heroes that were of old, warriors of renown” (v. 4).

So according to the story, celestial beings mated with human women, who gave birth to the Nephilim, who were giants.  Many cultures have legends about giants who lived long ago.

4 nuSpeaking of giants, if you travel along I-90 in southern Minnesota, you might encounter the Green Giant giant with a height of 55 feet!  (I think it’s still there.)  And in Nashville’s Centennial Park, there is a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, inhabited by a 42 foot-high statue of Athena, goddess of wisdom, the tallest indoor statue in the United States.

Let’s go back to the conflicting testimonies.  Joshua and Caleb have an alternate vision.  They acknowledge the difficulties but see a different destiny.  They aren’t blind, and they aren’t naïve.  Where the others see tragedy, they see triumph.  Their eyes and their hearts imagine a different reality.

Is it plausible, is it any way possible, during their mission of reconnaissance that Joshua and Caleb quite literally see what the other ten don’t?  As just mentioned, sure, they see the cities and the people.  Do their preliminary expectations alter what they can visualize?  I don’t know; perhaps not.  Regardless, I have been learning (or re-learning) for myself how my willingness to see affects what I truly see.  I think I’m moving closer to that type of leap of faith.

If I don’t want to see something, does that mean I won’t see it?  On the flip side, if I do want to see something, does that mean I will see it?  Maybe.

We humans are making it easier to play tricks on our own eyes.  Virtual reality opens up a whole new world of make-believe.  We can see things, whether we want to or not.  Virtual reality can present us with images, from our most heavenly dreams and from our most hellish nightmares.

In any event, it is safe to say our differences in vision run deeper than the technological.  I would suggest reliance on the technological, for good or ill (it can be either) is helping to re-wire our imaginations.  Artificial intelligence (AI) is able to not only trick our eyes, but what might feed our souls, by composing poems and sermons—tricking the eyes of the heart.

5 nuLast year, Rabbi Josh Franklin, who serves a synagogue on Long Island, preached a sermon written by AI.[2]  Before he began, he told the congregants he would engage in plagiarism.  He challenged them to guess who wrote the sermon.  “When he revealed that it was in fact written by a robot, Franklin said to the congregation: ‘You’re clapping, I’m deathly afraid.  I thought truck drivers would go long before rabbis in terms of losing our positions to artificial intelligence.’”

(Okay, I’ll confess, all of this is the composition of a robot.)

Joshua and Caleb want the Israelites to see.  This isn’t virtual reality.  Yes, there are fortified cities, and the people there are fierce.  They plead with them, “do not rebel against the Lord, and do not fear the people of the land, for they are no more than bread for us” (14:9).  We can eat them up!

See them.  Really see them.  “Their protection is removed from them.”  The word for “protection” is צֵל (tsēl), which literally means “shadow.”  They have no cover from the burning hot sun.  They are exposed.

Tammuz is a month for vision.  It is a month of darkness and light.

On that question of darkness and light, Sarah Schneider speaks of God in creation, “And God saw that the light was good” (Gn 1:4).  She shares a teaching from Kabbalah.  “In each instant of time, creation reverts to chaos and is born anew…  In each moment we are dissolved and reconstituted, faster than the blink of an eye.”[3]

In our darkness, when we’re not sure what we see…  In our darkness, when we find ourselves worshipping and weeping for a false god…  In our darkness, when we say no to the guidance leading us to the promised land…  In our darkness, the light is constantly being reborn, just as we are.

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Within the darkness of suffering, the light of healing is present.  It is present in Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

 

[1] www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL0YhAZz6ag (at 12:40)

[2] www.thejc.com/news/world/new-york-rabbi-delivers-full-sermon-written-by-artificial-intelligence-6BkwDEHc2ZWR63tmoOdvvf

[3] www.chabad.org/kabbalah/article_cdo/aid/2241467/jewish/Tammuz-the-Month-of-Darkness-and-Light.htm


Independence Day theological reflections of one American

The wording of my title has been carefully chosen.  First of all, “Independence Day.”  It is the one day of the year in which we’re especially called to be grateful for the gift of nation.

1 indThen there’s the word “theological.”  That speaks to questions like: how is God involved in it?  Where is God to be found?  And they are “reflections.”  I don’t pretend this is some universal truth that applies to everyone.  I’m speaking from my own experience.

And indeed, this is the viewpoint of “one” American.  But though I am one, I am an “American.”  In some ways, it’s fitting that I am an American.  Having been adopted as an infant, I didn’t know who my genetic ancestors were.  That is, until February 2018, when my birth mother tracked me down.

In a similar way, America as a nation has no single clear understanding of its genetic makeup.  After all, what does an American look like?  What does an American sound like?  Our political history mainly ties us to England, but as a whole, Americans look to all parts of the world, not to mention those who were here before the Europeans ever showed up.

Increasingly, there are many countries which lack a single clear understanding of their genetic makeup, but my guess would be the United States best epitomizes that.

So there’s that.  But I do have a better reason for saying, “It’s fitting that I am an American.”  It’s because I love my country.  I love America.

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For the first ten years of my life, we were a military family.  My dad was posted to various naval bases around the country, from coast to coast to coast to coast.  (The Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific back to the Gulf and then to the Atlantic.)  Obviously, that meant plenty of moving around, guaranteeing that I saw a whole lot of this country.  Add to that my college experiences and the churches my wife Banu and I have served.  That adds a few more states.

Like most of us, I was taught at an early age God has blessed America.  And I believe that.  However, my young mind—not so good with nuance—made the assumption since God had blessed America, we were better than people from other countries!  (I’ve since learned that Banu was raised with a similar belief about Turkey—that’s there’s nothing more glorious than being a Turk!)

There is still within the spirit of America a conviction that people have human rights, they shouldn’t be tortured, the government shouldn’t tell them how to think, they are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  That’s why it’s a shame when we don’t live up to those convictions.

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I realize that many say faith and politics should be kept separate.  (By the way, that’s a whole different animal from separation of church and state!)  When it comes to airing one’s political opinions from the pulpit—such as telling people who to vote for—I would tend to agree.  As Christians, we need to learn to think theologically, not just politically.  As I said earlier, “Where is God in this?  How do we think of God?”  That’s what the New Testament church does.

There is a question often asked during presidential election campaigns.  It is, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?”  Clearly, that would be asked by the challenger!  In my opinion, a better theological question would be, “Are your neighbors better off now than they were four years ago?”  I would love to see that reframing of the discussion.

The gospel is inherently political; it’s inescapable.  Words like “Lord” and “Savior,” in the first century, are political terms as well as spiritual terms.  “Lord” (κυριος, kurios) and “Savior” (σωτηρ, sōtēr) are titles attributed to the emperor.  Nero and Domitian, a couple of emperors with really big egos and serious self-esteem issues, are especially insistent about it.

When the early Christians call Jesus “Lord and Savior,” they are well aware of what they’re doing.  For them, it isn’t an empty phrase.  It’s not something to put on a bumper sticker or post on Facebook.  They are saying “no” to the arrogance of empire.  They risk losing their jobs, their freedom, or something even worse.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Give…to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (22:21).  Render unto to Caesar…  I wonder, what does that mean for us, on our nation’s 247th birthday?

We see some Pharisees and Herodians sending representatives to Jesus.  Understanding the mindset of those two groups shows what a strange combination this is.  Pharisees were single-minded in their determination to uphold the law of God.  Despite the broad brush of being boogeymen we see in the New Testament, there was diversity among them.  Many were sympathetic to Jesus and to the church that arose in the book of Acts.

Herodians, as the name suggests, had a political nature, seeing in Herod the better path for the Jewish people.  To put it lightly, they and the Pharisees weren’t exactly BFFs.  We have put on full display the dynamic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”!

Matthew shows how disingenuous they are by their opening statement: “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one, for you do not regard people with partiality” (v. 16).

I like the way Eugene Peterson put it in The Message: “Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don’t pander to your students.”

As we all know, flattery will get you everywhere.

The backdrop of our story is the payment of taxes to the Roman authorities.  Any loyal Jew, with any patriotic sensibility, considers being taxed by this foreign government reprehensible.  The enemies of Jesus have racked their brains, trying to come up with some way to get rid of this guy.  He’s drawing too much attention, and that can only spell trouble.

Somebody has one of those “aha!” moments, and says, “I got it!”  If Jesus teaches “the way of God,” let’s see what he says about the tax law.  If Jesus legitimizes paying taxes to Rome, he is in effect denying God’s sovereignty over the nation.

However, if Jesus says it’s not okay to pay the taxes, the Romans will step in and take care of him.  Either way, we win.

The characters trying to trick Jesus haven’t done their homework, or they might have guessed their plan won’t work.  Jesus is proactive, not reactive, about the job of reconciliation.  He is intentional. 

For example, among his disciples he’s included Simon the Zealot.  The Zealots are a group dead-set on following the Jewish law, and by “dead-set,” I mean violence is a doable option.  (You know, make my day!)  He’s also included Matthew the tax collector.  Tax collectors were especially hated because they helped finance the occupation.  So we have a revolutionary and a collaborator.  Not exactly birds of a feather.  Compared with them, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are a match made in heaven!

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Banu and I recently watched the TV show, The Chosen.  It is a series about Jesus and the people who met him.  It is very well done.  Not to give offense, but in my opinion, many Christian movies and shows have one-dimensional narratives and bad acting.  What we find in The Chosen is a show that creatively displays the stories we encounter in the gospels.

Season 3, episode 2 is called “Two by Two.”[1]  This is when Jesus sends the disciples out to preach the gospel, to heal, and to cast out evil spirits.  He pairs them up and indeed puts Simon and Matthew together.  There are some nervous and humorous exchanges.

In answering the question about paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus elevates the discussion.  By changing the perspective, by reframing it, he gets to the heart of the matter.  He gives the perfect answer to their question, one that invites them to challenge their assumptions.  As we see, they are left speechless.

Approaching from a philosophical perspective, in her book At the Existentialist Café, Sarah Bakewell tells a story from 1946 Paris, right after the war.  Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Arthur Koestler were having a lively time at a Russian nightclub when “the question of friendship and political commitment came up.  Could you be friends with someone if you disagreed with them politically?  [I would add, theologically.]  Camus said you could.  Koestler said no: ‘Impossible!  Impossible!’  In a sentimental buzz of vodka [this was a Russian nightclub, after all], Beauvoir took Camus’ side: ‘It is possible; and we are the proof of it at this very moment, since, despite all our dissensions, we are so happy to be together.’”[2]

In an unfortunate development, “Sartre and Beauvoir eventually came to agree with Koestler… it was not possible to be friends with someone who held opposed political views.  ‘When people’s opinions are so different,’ said Sartre, ‘how can they even go to a film together?’”[3]  Friends, is that us?  Must our differences always result in our barely standing each other?  Don’t answer that question!

In these past few years, the specter of intolerance has spread all over our nation, sometimes beginning with elementary school.  By the time students get to college, there increasingly is the conviction that only approved ideas are correct.  The concept of critical thinking is being tossed out the window.  If one even dares to utter an opposing viewpoint, let alone actually agree with it, that person is castigated, intimidated, shamed.  They might even get cancelled!

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We are called, both as Americans and especially as Americans of faith, to expand our vision, to look outward, to be proactive about reconciliation—to take the first step in peacemaking.  We’re called “to form a more perfect union.”  (That is, a more complete union, a more perfected union.)

And again, as the church, St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians, “if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (5:17-18).

Now, to recall my question from a few moments ago, how do we as Americans of faith live on the 247th birthday of our country?  There is quite a difference between being an American and an American of faith, just as there’s a vast difference between Caesar and Christ.

As Americans who are part of the body of Christ, we are called to actively celebrate the good and to challenge the bad, not only in our country, but in ourselves.  And in the church!  To say that each person is born with inalienable rights means respecting and honoring those who are different from us, in whatever way.

It also means not denying our identity in Jesus Christ.  It’s easier than we think to conceal the cross behind the flag—or to put the cross on the flag!  Remember, there is a difference between Christ and Caesar.  We mustn’t confuse the two as we rightfully remember, as we seek to be grateful to God for the gift of nation.

A hymn we all know is “O Beautiful for Spacious Skies.”  “America, America, God shed his grace on thee.”  One of the lines has this proclamation.  “O beautiful for patriot dream that sees beyond the years / thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.”  Indeed, friends, we’re not quite there yet.

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[photo by David Mark on Pixabay]

I spoke of the first century church calling Jesus “Lord and Savior,” and how that carries a great deal of political weight.  Still, without the living Lord within, the political stuff is but a dry husk.  I pray these words can be more than words and that the living Word will empower us to be those who seek a better homeland, that is, a homeland infused with the light of heaven.

 

[1] www.imdb.com/title/tt23028036/?ref_=ttep_ep2

[2] Sarah Bakewell, At the Existentialist Café (New York: Other Press, 2016), Kindle edition, Chapter 11, section 2, paragraph 4

[3] Bakewell, 11.2.6