I found this article written by James Emery White to be timely. While I am not completely comfortable with his last statement, I do think that we need to strive to live our lives by values of Jesus. His words and actions reflected the values and ideals of the Kingdom of God. These values are not in opposition to values in other religions. For example, every religion/philosophy has a form of the golden rule. I do think James Emery White does a good job of answering the question below.
|Once upon a time there was a nation founded by Christians, established on Christian principles and ideals, in order to be a Christian nation. A city upon a hill; a new Jerusalem. God smiled on this nation and placed His hand of providence on her. He led her and helped her grow. Soon, she became the greatest nation on the planet and took stands against moral evil and political tyrants. She came to the rescue of other nations and fought against the spread of godless ideologies.
But then, that nation turned away from God, chose leaders who didn’t honor God, passed laws that didn’t honor God. That nation gave herself over to sin and deception. It soon went from a new Jerusalem to a new Sodom and Gomorrah.
As a result, God took His hand of blessing off of her, waiting for her to repent and once again turn to Him. To once again elect the right officials, pass the right laws, do away with accepting sin and immorality, and again become the Christian nation she was established and intended to be.
Since then, good, God-fearing, country-loving Christians have had a singular target on the wall: to get their country back to being a Christian nation through any and every means possible. The lowest-hanging fruit? Doing it from the top down through the political process. In other words, get a Christian in office—or at least someone who will stand for and vote for Christian values.
Does that story sound familiar? It should. It’s the essence of “Christian nationalism,” and it is marking Christians as never before as tragically evidenced in the recent assault on our nation’s capital (not to mention countless less sensational ways).
The idea of “chosenness” and “special blessing” from God has been a constant theme throughout the history of the United States, beginning with the Puritans and their desire that, in the words of John Winthrop in 1630, “wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill.” As historian Conrad Cherry writes:
|“Throughout their history Americans have been possessed by an acute sense of divine election. They have fancied themselves a New Israel, a people chosen for the awesome responsibility of serving as a light to the nations.... It has long been... the essence of America’s motivating mythology.”
|So, are the ideas behind Christian nationalism true? We need to look at the answer in three ways: 1) Is it true historically; 2) Is it true biblically; and 3) Is it true culturally?
Let’s begin with history. The history of early America does not deserve to be considered as being uniquely, distinctly or even predominately Christian. Not if you mean a state of society reflecting the ideas presented in Scripture.
This doesn’t mean Christian values were absent from American history. There has been a great deal of commendable Christian belief, practice and influence in the history of the United States and the colonies that formed our country. Christian goals and aspirations were part of the settlement of North America. Christian factors contributed to the struggle for national independence. Christian principles played a role in the founding documents of the United States.
But the larger truth was that we were a religious country, but not necessarily a uniquely Christian one. And even when our forefathers and foremothers were attempting to flesh out Christian principles, they weren’t always very consistent. For example, when you think of the Puritans of the 1600s, do you focus on their desire to establish Christian colonies and live by Scripture, or do you focus on the stealing of Native American lands and their habit of displacing and even murdering those Native Americans when it was convenient?
Now to our second question: Is Christian nationalism true biblically? Yes, Israel enjoyed a special status as a nation under God but, since the coming of Jesus, Christians have disagreed as to whether the modern state of Israel remains special as a nation to God, much less whether the Jewish people are still God’s chosen people. Regardless, is it appropriate to look at the United States as unique among the other nations of the world as the special province of God and agent of God?
There are some interesting Scriptures to look at here, beginning with a scene from the Old Testament where Joshua, the great leader of the people of Israel and successor to Moses, was leading the people into the Promised Land.
After crossing the Jordan river, the first city they encountered was the city of Jericho, a city hostile to the coming of the Israelites. It soon became clear this was going to be an armed conflict, but God had something else in mind. To demonstrate that the Promised Land was going to be His gift and His doing, He told Joshua through an angel to march around the city seven times, blow his horns and then the fortified walls of the city would miraculously fall down.
But something happened just before the angel delivered that message. When Joshua first engaged the angel, before being told of the marching plan, they had an interesting discourse:
|“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’
“‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’” (Joshua 5:13-14, NIV)
|No sides were being taken in the political back and forth of human affairs. It’s not that they didn’t matter – the angel actually came to tell Joshua what to do to take Jericho – it’s just that helping Joshua was not about taking a side in human governments. The greater redemptive drama was at hand.
You find similar political distancing in the life of Jesus. After the feeding of the 5,000 when the people were ready to force Jesus to be their king, He immediately left (John 6:14-15). Then again, toward the end of His life as He stood before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Jesus made it clear that His kingdom was not an earthly kingdom. “If it were,” He said, “my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36, NLT). In fact, making His mission about the kingdoms of this world – about ruling and nations and politics – was one of the temptations Satan put before Jesus at the start of His ministry. It was actually the last of the three recorded temptations (cf. Matthew 6:8-10) that Jesus resisted.
Now to our final question: Is Christian nationalism true culturally? Meaning, is it the savviest, best way for Christians to work for the Kingdom in our day? Let’s be clear that politics do matter. We are to be salt and light, and that includes being salt and light politically. How we vote matters—there are values we should work to uphold. Who is president, who is a senator or representative, who is on the Supreme Court – their values, worldview, decision making – matters.
But – and this is an important qualifier – is the ultimate goal a Christian nation or a nation of Christians? I believe the answer is unequivocal. The ultimate goal is a nation of Christians which, I might add, will make the nation more decisively Christian than anything that could ever be legislated. If we had the same passion for sharing the message of Jesus as we do for sharing our political views, this truly would be a changed world.
And this is what is most important to remember. Most people who embrace the idea of Christian nationalism truly care about their nation and want to see it turn to Jesus. But the truth is that you can’t legislate morality. You can’t pass a law that changes a human heart. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote in his epic work, The Gulag Archipelago:
|“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.”
So as much as we might pick up the political mantle and work for things that would reflect a Christian nation,
… the heart of the battle is working for a nation of Christians.
Stay safe, warm and well.....Shalom,
Hymn of the Month by Beth Kerzee
Hymn #700; O love that casts out fear
O love that casts out fear,
O love that casts out sin,
Tarry no more without,
But come and dwell within?
True sunlight of the soul,
Surround us as we go;
So shall our way be safe,
Our feet no straying know.
Great love of God, come in!
Wellspring of heavenly peace;
Thou Living Water, come!
Spring up, and never cease.
Love of the living God,
Of Father and of Son;
Love of the Holy Ghost,
Fill thou each needy one.
Composer: Henry Thomas Smart, 1813-1879
Henry Smart (b. Marylebone, London, England, 1813; d. Hampstead, London, 1879), a capable composer of church music who wrote some very fine hymn tunes (REGENT SQUARE, 354, is the best-known).
Smart gave up a career in the legal profession for one in music. Although largely self-taught, he became proficient in organ playing and composition, and he was a music teacher and critic. Organist in a number of London churches, including St. Luke's, Old Street (1844-1864), and St. Pancras (1864-1869), Smart was famous for his extemporizations and for his accompaniment of congregational singing. He became completely blind at the age of fifty-two, but his remarkable memory enabled him to continue playing the organ. Fascinated by organs as a youth, Smart designed organs for important places such as St. Andrew Hall in Glasgow and the Town Hall in Leeds. He composed an opera, oratorios, part-songs, some instrumental music, and many hymn tunes, as well as a large number of works for organ and choir. He edited the Choralebook (1858), the English Presbyterian Psalms and Hymns for Divine Worship (1867), and the Scottish Presbyterian Hymnal (1875). Some of his hymn tunes were first published in Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861).
By: Bert Polman from Hymnary.org
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.”
I John 4:18
Love that Casts Out Fear. From Br. Jonathan Maury
We have some fears built into our DNA that have helped preserve us as a species, whether it be a fear of pitch darkness or some other phobia. I believe that the true, deepest fear that we have is that of losing the loving regard of those close to us, or of even God.
Our human existence is plagued with fears. We have some fears built into our DNA that have helped preserve us as a species, whether it be a fear of pitch darkness or some other phobia. We also deal day to day with our fear of the unknown or the unfamiliar, which comes up again and again in small ways. But it is in these fears that we forget the perfect love which casts out fear.
But I believe that the true, deepest fear that we have, the greatest fear that we have, is that of losing the loving regard of those close to us, or of even God. When I feel myself to have, by my words or actions, caused my loss of the loving regard of others or of God, I’m already punishing myself with self-inflicted wounds. But what does the letter say? The letter says, “there is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear, for fear has to do with punishment.” God is by nature that Perfect Love, the perfect love which comes in Jesus. Jesus’ actions and teachings are rooted in this truth. In the twelfth chapter of John’s gospel we read Jesus speaking: “Now is my soul troubled and what should I say: Father save me from this hour? No, it was for this reason that I’ve come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”
Jesus knows that by keeping up relationship with God in prayer and in openness of heart, his fears will be calmed and dispelled and healed. And Jesus by example teaches us to rely also on relationship with God, who is the perfect love casting out fear. Let us pray today for Jesus to grant us memories of those times when our fears have been dispelled by the perfect love which casts out fear, by the remembrance of God which has come to us either in our life of prayer or in our relationships with others. And we might also bring our present fears before the Father, as Jesus brought his fear so that that perfect love which is God, God’s presence, may be imparted to us, that we may glorify God’s name this day in ways great and small, ways particular to us and reflect that perfect love which is without fear, that perfect love which is God.
Ash Wednesday - Beginning of Lent
Noon - Ash Wednesday Liturgy
For those who would like to have Ashes
1:00 - 2:00 - Drive-by Imposition of Ashes
If you wish to have ashes brought to you, please email the church at email@example.com
|This will be an unusual Ash Wednesday. Some churches won’t use ashes to mark the beginning of Lent this year. We at St. Paul's will give those who wish to drive by the opportunity to have ashes imposed. It will be done with a q-tip and of course wearing our masks.
Fortunately, our Book of Common Prayer does not require ashes. In fact, “The First Day of Lent” is a valid title for what we usually call “Ash Wednesday” according to our prayer book. The primary focus of getting our Lenten journey started is our awareness of our need to repent. And the whole season flows from that.
For more information on the imposition of ashes click here and read about Ash Wednesday and imposition of ashes by by Bishop J. Neil Alexander.
We are deprived of our usual Lenten customs this year. But perhaps there is an invitation for us to focus on our need of repentance, of our need to draw closer to Jesus Christ. Maybe we will have a deeper experience of growing into the full stature of Christ as we depart our comfortable, familiar places.
Beginning February 24th
Wednesday Nights @ 7 on Zoom
Link and information to come
The topic will coincide with the Stewardship program
Mark your calendars
New Book for the Book Study
Beginning on February 18th @ 4:00
An extraordinary story set in the first century about a woman who finds her voice and her destiny, from the celebrated number one New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Invention of Wings
In her mesmerizing fourth work of fiction, Sue Monk Kidd takes an audacious approach to history and brings her acclaimed narrative gifts to imagine the story of a young woman named Ana. Raised in a wealthy family with ties to the ruler of Galilee, she is rebellious and ambitious, with a brilliant mind and a daring spirit. She engages in furtive scholarly pursuits and writes narratives about neglected and silenced women. Ana is expected to marry an older widower, a prospect that horrifies her. An encounter with eighteen-year-old Jesus changes everything.
Their marriage evolves with love and conflict, humor and pathos in Nazareth, where Ana makes a home with Jesus, his brothers, and their mother, Mary. Ana's pent-up longings intensify amid the turbulent resistance to Rome's occupation of Israel, partially led by her brother, Judas. She is sustained by her fearless aunt Yaltha, who harbors a compelling secret. When Ana commits a brazen act that puts her in peril, she flees to Alexandria, where startling revelations and greater dangers unfold, and she finds refuge in unexpected surroundings. Ana determines her fate during a stunning convergence of events considered among the most impactful in human history.
Grounded in meticulous research and written with a reverential approach to Jesus's life that focuses on his humanity, The Book of Longings is an inspiring, unforgettable account of one woman's bold struggle to realize the passion and potential inside her, while living in a time, place and culture devised to silence her. It is a triumph of storytelling both timely and timeless, from a masterful writer at the height of her powers.
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Things to do to benefit the church and the community during the Coronavirus Restrictions
1. THE MARFA FOOD PANTRY IS EMPTY! - Keep bringing food donations...our doors are open 24 hours and you will find a basket at the back of the church.
2. Pray for Rudy and Allison.
3. Pray for our country.