Tag Archives: Church and State

Distracted

IconStJohnBLiving in the Spirit
July 11, 2015

Scripture Reading: Mark 6:14-29

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known. Some were saying, ‘John the baptizer has been raised from the dead; and for this reason these powers are at work in him.’ But others said, ‘It is Elijah.’ And others said, ‘It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.’ But when Herod heard of it, he said, ‘John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.’ –Mark 6:14-16

We always face the consequences of our own actions even if the consequences are only our haunted guilt. The story of John’s beheading seems out of place in the scripture. It is an aside comment on the depravity of society at the time.  Herod apparently took to heart some of John’s proclamations, knowing them to be truth, but these truths could not overcome his pride and need to prove his power. When this man Jesus came along, drawing even more attention than John had, Herod saw the same truth in Jesus’ message and feared him too.

Beheading is apparently still a tool of derision used by terrorist today to intimidate and plant fear, but we who view ourselves as more civilized tend to use words to inflame fear and hatred.  More often than not, like our story today, issues blown out of proportion have little if anything to do with real areas of concern. They are most often limited in scope, diversions to distract us from dealing with realities impacting the Common Good. Our legislature in Oklahoma this year spent a lot of time on such diversions while failing to adequately fund most areas of government and we are all paying the consequences for their inaction.

We are called to do justice. Jesus stressed the importance of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, helping prisoners, and welcoming strangers. He did not get caught up in the intrigues of the day or get distracted from his quest to fulfill God’s plan for a kingdom of love. He set a good example for us to follow.

Prayer: God of Wisdom, help us to see the full picture as we struggle to bring about the Common Good through our responsibilities as citizens and show us the way to meld that role with our role of being part of the Body of Christ in the world today. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Christian Nation or Not

Reflecting GodLiving in the Spirit
October 28, 2014

Scripture Reading: Joshua 3:7-17

While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. — Joshua 3:17

When our hearts and minds are in sync with God, amazing things can happen. When entire nations’ hearts and minds are in sync with God, amazing things can happen, also. There has been much debate recently about whether the United States of America is a Christian nation. I really do not know what that means. Does it mean that if we took a vote on what kind of nation we are, those who identify themselves as Christians won or lost? Voting outcomes do not mean much in our country anymore. Less than half the eligible voters actually even vote in most elections. We are a democracy, so being a Christian nation surely does not mean that people of other faiths or no faith at all have no say in our system of government. Does being a Christian nation mean that as a nation we reflect the values of Jesus Christ? We cannot agree on what those values are among the various churches that identify as Christian. How could we expect a nation as diverse as ours to identify its values in that chaos?

On the other hand, if all people are created by one God then surely we have the capacity for creating the common good, the purpose of government, in the midst of our diversity. If we, as individuals, are each striving to be in sync with God then shouldn’t that shine forth from our governmental system whether we intend for it to or not? What I see happening in the USA today is government at all levels placing too much emphasis on what can only be classified as personal behavior. I do have faith that I will have to account to God at some point for being out of sync regarding my personal behaviors as will we all, but my government is not accountable for my personal behaviors unless they impinge on the rights of others. Thus, citizens have the right to smoke all they want but they cannot do it in places where others will reap its dangerous results. The first is a privacy issues the second is about the common good and justice. However, our failure to provide for the common good is often the result of the common sins from which most of us can be found guilty at one time or another: greed and miss use of power. I haven’t seen legislation about either of those recently?

Our country was founded on the basis of freedom of religion. This is a precious right that we should never take for granted. It does not mean that our faith should not shape how we vote. It also does not mean that our vote should take away the freedom of religion of another person. Jesus never, ever instructed us to force anyone to follow him or to behave in any way that does not embody love. It is not important whether we identify ourselves as a Christian nation. What matters is whether God does and God judges by our love, our justice, and our humility.

 

Prayer: O Lord, help us be protector of justice and purveyors of love as we fulfill our civic responsibly. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Called as Advocates

AdvoccyLiving in the Spirit
August 25, 2014

 Scripture Reading: Exodus 3:1-15

 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. — Exodus 3:1-6

I worked for the State of Oklahoma for 35 years. When I began, I signed a form acknowledging that I understood, as a state employee, I had to be very careful about any participation in politics. After retirement, I became a full time commissioned clergy person and worked at a local church where ethical considerations and our tax exempt status once again placed me in the position of being very careful about politics. I was, throughout my career and still am now, a very strong supporter of the separation of church and state whether those exact words are in our official government documents or not. I consider myself to be a member of the nation of God while I am also by birth a citizen of the United States of America.

Because of these almost 40 years of negative reinforcement, I find it very difficult to take a public stand for a given candidate, although I have worked for some in the background. I am becoming more publicly vocal about specific issues. I get all these emails and other social media pieces asking for my support on some issue or another, to which I may respond in support, but almost all of them say send this to all your friends and I just somehow cannot do that, yet. At some point my guess is, a justice issues about which I have very strong feelings will garner enough of a gut level response in me that I will forward it. Part of my hesitancy may be because I do not want to cause the same negative reaction I have when I receive such mail pushing political philosophies that are totally alien to me.

Moses got his gut check at a burning bush. He had been reared by Pharaoh’s daughter and his first rather knee jerk reaction of killing an Egyptian for his abuse of a Hebrew netted Moses a trip into the wilderness. That history had probably squelched much of his advocacy fervor. Yet the great I AM said “Moses, you are to be my advocate” and Moses was. Even with his fear and lack of self-confidence, Moses led the Israelites out of bondage.

There is a great sense of ennui in our land today. People are hiding their heads in the sand even as they suffer or watch others suffer with poverty, stagnate incomes, no health care, poor education systems, overcrowded prisons, a volatile world, and enormous debt while our elected representatives do nothing but point fingers and make personal attacks. They are our employees. It is our job as citizens to hold them accountable, but that requires us to become savvy voters and not be jerked around by issues that have little if any impact on the common good our governments are commissioned to provide.

Prayer: Great I AM, fully enable my participation in your kingdom as it progresses toward your governance and help me see the avenues of advocacy you are setting before me in meeting the common good of both my country and the world. Amen.

All scriptures are quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of American. Used by permission. All rights reserved.