Pastor’s Friday Comments (01.08.21)

On The Day of the Epiphany, January 6, 2021, domestic terrorists breached the hallowed halls of American democracy in an attempt to prevent the certification of the lawful election of the President of the United States. They were incited to do so by the words of a duplicitous outgoing executive who claimed, without any evidence, that the election had been stolen and that they needed to continue the fight. While many of his followers were still inside the Capitol building, he tweeted, “We love you. You’re very special.”

Many of these terrorists claimed to be Christians. Many of their enablers – politicians, preachers, ordinary people on social media – claim to be Christians too. To be a Christian is to be like Christ. Make no mistake – there was nothing Christ-like about their actions.

On Wednesday night, during our midweek Zoom call, I briefly addressed the events of the day before offering a prayer for peace and the restoration of order in our country. I noted that The Day of the Epiphany not only represents the revelation through the coming of the Magi to Jesus that God loves everyone, but that it is also a time for us to receive our own epiphanies, new insights into our relationships with God and our fellow human beings. 

Here are some of the epiphanies I am praying that we will gain in these tumultuous times.

We are responsible for what we leave for future generations. I was listening to the news reports while we were returning our oldest granddaughter to her parents after a visit. Having her sitting directly behind me while the accounts of the carnage came through the airwaves gave me a particular perspective on what was happening. The decisions we make now, the behavior we tolerate, the values we espouse all carry over from generation to generation. We are not only living in the present moment. We are shaping the world we will leave for our descendants.

Democracy is a fragile blessing. All of us enjoy the blessings inherent in American life either through the accident of birth or conscious choice to relocate here. Either way, these blessings are not something we deserve more than people who live under repressive regimes. The ability to choose our leaders freely and by popular will is something that we cannot take for granted and must protect. Thank God for our democracy, but don’t assume it will always be there if we don’t take care of it.

Truth is truth. There are no alternative facts. To assert that there are weakens our ability to proclaim the ultimate truth of God’s love as revealed through Jesus Christ. For too long, nominal Christians have willfully overlooked deliberate falsehoods by political leaders in order to advance their agendas. Silence in the face of falsehood is complicity with it. They have sown the wind and are inheriting the whirlwind.

Words have power. As our incoming President noted on Wednesday, words can be used to incite or to inspire. As Christians we are as responsible for what we say as for what we do. We can join in the inciting to violence or we can use our words to soothe, to heal, and to love.

The world is watching the Church. The body of Christ on earth, the Church, and especially the evangelical Christian church in America, is in danger of losing all credibility with the people of the world. Continuing to propagate falsehoods, enable unchristian leadership, turn a blind eye to hatred, racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and make moral compromises in order to advance our agenda will only elicit the contempt of anyone who is seeking to live a godly life. When we fail to live as Christ lived, evangelism suffers.

Our ultimate allegiance is elsewhere. I am grateful beyond words for the incredible privilege of living in the United States of America. I want to be as good a patriot as my Christian faith will allow me to be, but my ultimate allegiance is to another kingdom. As Christians we must answer to a higher authority than any elected official of this country. We will give any duly empowered person the respect he or she deserves, but we cannot violate our Christian consciences because we have become enamored with any earthly leader. We are called to be followers of Christ first, last, and always.

Sometimes epiphanies come through hearing the words of others – perhaps even through columns like this one. But they come most often simply through our openness to God’s leading and a willingness to follow wherever that divine voice leads us. Pray for your own epiphanies.