Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

-- BCP, page 230


2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27; Psalm 130;
2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

As we approach the 242nd anniversary of the founding of our nation, I am reflecting on my 34-year-long commitment never to preach politics from the pulpit. That is part of my compact with myself, my God, and my Church. I abhor the stances of preachers who tell their congregants who to vote for, endorsing candidates from their pulpits and telling their people that voting for the other candidate means that they are not Christian. I am very clear, for gospel as well as for constitutional reasons, that this is improper, abusive, and wrong.

Once in a while someone has taken me to task because he or she thought a sermon was "too political." Indeed, there have been times when I dealt with current events, e.g., after a mass shooting or during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. While I grant that I could possibly go too far on any given occasion, my commitment has been unwavering.

Clarity about not preaching politics from the pulpit does not mean that our faith is apolitical. Not preaching politics is about not being partisan in the pulpit, which is very different. I believe with all my heart that everything is political. Politics is not just the art of the possible -- that is the "how" of politics. The what-for is that politics is all about human relationships -- how a community chooses to live together, and the values, laws, policies, and actions that it embraces as a result.

Michael Gerson is an evangelical who served as a top aide to President George W. Bush. I commend to you his June 21 opinion piece in The Washington Post, titled "A Case Study in the Proper Role of Christians in Politics." He argues that, "The proper role of Christians in politics is not to Christianize America; it is to demonstrate Christian values in the public realm."

Gerson says that

... religious leaders have a moral duty to oppose the dehumanization of migrants -- something that violates the vision of human dignity and equality at the heart of the Christian faith (and other faiths as well). Human beings, in this view, are not merely arrogant hominids, programmed for sex and death. They bear God's image -- and, in the Christian view, their flesh somehow once clothed God himself. This means that cruelty, bullying, and oppression are cosmic crimes.

He also hazards a sermon suggestion for the "audacious borrowers" that preachers are. I have to tell you, he didn't sound very different from what I preach!

I make no claims to originality, to be sure. My preaching and teaching are about Jesus and his example, his grace, and the power of love he gives us. The only question is sorting out how to follow faithfully in his footsteps in our own time. This is not always obvious, though there are times when the options are very clear.

As we celebrate the birth of our nation and pray for its well-being (note the third verse of America the Beautiful: "God mend thine every flaw"), I invite us to reflect on who we are as God's beloved children in Jesus and how we may help our country live more fully its foundational commitment to the proposition that all persons are created equal.

A Collect for the Nation (BCP, p. 258)

Lord God Almighty, you have made all the peoples of the earth for your glory, to serve you in freedom and in peace: Give to the people of our country a zeal for justice and the strength of forbearance, that we may use our liberty in accordance with your gracious will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
God bless you. God bless the United States. God bless the world.

Fr. Daniel+

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