Pastor’s Friday Comments (06.05.20)

For ten years I pastored a church with an impressive facade – twelve tall columns (one for each Apostle?) and three sets of massive doors on the main portico. A member of the congregation once politely asked if he could have a professional photographer take his wife’s picture on the front steps for a political brochure. She was running for some local office. I politely told him that he could not. He politely moved his membership to another church, which was too bad, but I stand by that decision.

The church is not a prop. Our buildings were never intended to be used as a backdrop for someone taking a partisan political stand. It is too likely that people will infer that the person standing in front of the church has the endorsement of the faithful people who gather there to learn how to practice their religion in a secular world. It is also likely that the person in the picture hopes that is exactly what happens.

The offense is even more egregious when the person posing for the photo op is spouting threats of violence and domination, appealing to people’s fears and seeking to assure them that he will protect them, no matter what force has to be used to do so. The church building represents the body of Christ on earth, God’s people, and that’s not our message.

Similarly, the Bible is not a prop. Holding one aloft doesn’t in any way mean that you have read it, much less applied it to how you live your life.

In my morning prayers, I always try to remember to thank God for the Bible. My prayer is along these lines: “I thank you, God, for your wisdom, as it is revealed through your holy, written word, the Bible. May I feast upon it, draw strength, encouragement, and direction from it, seek to teach it to others, and may it lead me to your living Word, Jesus Christ.” That’s a lot to ask for, but it is what God has given us in the sacred texts. We are spiritually fed, strengthened, encouraged, and guided by its precepts, but only if they are actually read and applied. Most importantly, they can lead us into a relationship with the full revelation of God on earth, Jesus Christ.

Other than a little shaming that will never reach their ears, there isn’t much I can do about politicians who seek to hijack the Church and the Bible for their own purposes, but I can continue the never-ending uphill battle to convince the followers of Jesus that we are to take him seriously. We are to love unconditionally, renounce violence in all forms, seek to serve, wait at the back of the line, forgive our debtors, and work for peace. There are Scripture passages to back up every one of those imperatives, but you have to open The Book to find that out.