The Gospel and Politics
As we near the end of one of the most difficult and divisive elections our country has faced since the civil war, I want to make a few Biblical observations that I believe shape our worldview and political conversations as followers of Jesus Christ.
Seasons and Rythms
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1
Because summer vacations end, school starts, and new ministry initiatives commence, September has always had “new year” feel. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that rhythms and seasons are a gift from God to help us work, grow, rest, reflect, play, laugh, mourn, live, create, repent, and thrive. Here are a few personal practices and rhythms to consider as we head into the Fall:
This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost which is so named for the fifty days since Jesus’ resurrection. Instead of writing a reflection on its significance, I am including the scriptural account of Pentecost from Acts, Chapter 2:
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel*: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ […] 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them,“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
You can also learn more about Pentecost here.
Rejoicing in the Holy Spirit with You,
In some ways, Easter seems like it was just yesterday, but in others, it seems like it was ages ago. The ebbs and flows of the church calendar tend to have that effect on my sense of time. But something that stops me each year in the post-Easter season is Ascension Day. The celebration of Jesus’ ascension into heaven has its roots in the earliest days of the church on the 40th day after Easter Sunday, which was yesterday, Thursday, May 5, this year.
What about the Ascension gives me pause? Well, honestly, it’s one of those stories in the Bible that I have a hard time wrapping my head around. It seems like a pretty incredible and unbelievable thing. Of course I absolutely trust the veracity of the Bible’s account of this and other miraculous events, but it does give me pause nonetheless.
But it’s not just the wonder, amazement, and miraculousness of this event that prompted the apostles and early church to institute this celebration as a part of the church year. What does the Ascension teach us about who Jesus is and our place in His Kingdom? When Jesus ascended into heaven, He was seated at the right hand of the Father. He returns to the place from which all of humanity had previously been barred because of our sin, to reign as the King of kings over all the earth and to prepare a place for us to live with Him and His Father for eternity. Not only this, but God “made us alive together with Christ—by grace [we] have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:5b-6). So not only is this something that we have to look forward to for eternity, but we have power, assurance, and identity in that position now. This is amazing and good news!
While the Ascension is the last thing that Jesus did in His earthly ministry, He was not finished with those who were left on earth. He promised that the Holy Spirit would come and baptize them as they had been baptized with water, and He delivered on that promise just ten days later on the day of Pentecost (which we’ll celebrate nextSunday, May 15). But He had said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not comeuntil He returned to His Father in heaven.
So this Sunday, we’ll sing songs and say parts of our liturgy that recount this part of Jesus’ story. My prayer for you and for myself is that in doing so we might inwardly digest this oft-looked over part of Jesus’ time on earth, await with holy anticipation His return “in the same way as you saw him go,” (Acts 1:11) and get a foretaste of our eternity united with Him and His Father in heaven.
This weekend we welcome the Dean President of Trinity School for Ministry, The Very Rev. Dr. Justyn Terry to Resurrection. Justyn, a gifted pastor and teacher, has been serving as Trinity’s Dean President for the last 8 years. In that time he has strengthened the faculty, increased enrollment, expanded online courses, and successfully led a $15.3 million dollar capital campaign.
Trinity School for Ministry is an Anglican seminary in the evangelical tradition. Established in 1975 under the leadership of Bishop Alf Stanway, Peter Moore, John Guest, J.I Packer, and John Rodgers, Trinity has trained over 400 rectors and church leaders in its short history. A key part of
the Anglican renewal movement, Trinity is uniquely positioned to train leaders for the next generation of Anglican churches.
I had the privilege of receiving my Master of Divinity at Trinity in 2005. Resurrection hired summer intern Ethan Harrison from Trinity last summer. We will also welcome 2016 Trinity graduate David Pennylegion to our staff as a pastoral resident in July. Resurrection annually supports Trinity financially and recently made a $10,000 pledge to the Trinity Campaign from our outreach tithe.
Justyn Terry has been a stalwart ambassador for the gospel, for Anglicanism, and for Trinity School for Ministry. He will be stepping down from leadership in June to return to his native England to pursue pastoral and teaching leadership in the Church of England. I am currently serving on the search team for the new Dean President.
It is a wonderful privilege to have Justyn with us this weekend before he leaves Trinity. Please join me in welcoming him and praying that the Lord richly blesses him, Trinity, and our weekend together.
“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Isaiah 25:6). Thanksgiving Feasts are a foretaste of heaven . . . friends and family around a table, old stories and jokes revisited, great food, perhaps a roaring fire in the fire place, with laughter, joy, delight and gratitude abounding. However, Isaiah’s next verse is also just as encouraging:
“On this mountain [The Lord} will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations - He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces.” (vs 7)
The reality for many is that holidays like Thanksgiving are not always a time to rejoice. Memories of loved ones who have died, past mistakes, broken relationships, illness, or financial stresses can make holidays a painful time. What a promise the Lord makes to us: All those who have received His beloved Son Jesus will one day be invited to the feast of all feasts at the end of the ages in His honor. And for those the promise is given: death is defeated, tears of shame, regret and remorse are wiped away forever, and the Lord will indeed “make all things new”.
As we head into Advent and Christmas, may the God who has in store for us more than we can ever hope or imagine sustain us through the joys and sorrows of this present life until we reach the Great Banquet and feast with Him forever.
King David had a passion to build God’s temple almost all his life. But God said “no”, it was not for David to build but for his son Solomon to do so. So David made plans for the building of a temple he would never worship in. He mobilized the federal treasury and gave billions of dollars. Then, he opened up his personal finances and gave extravagantly. From there, he gathered the leaders and invited them to ‘consecrate themselves to the Lord”; ie give themselves to God’s work. They caught the vision and gave abundantly and willingly. When the people saw what was being done, they rejoiced at the “free and wholehearted” giving of their leaders. David praised God for the privilege of being able to give.
In I Chronicles 29, we see a biblical pattern at work: The vision, determination, willingness, and the generosity of leaders to do God’s work sets the tone and opens the door for people to follow. Willing and cheerful sacrifice leads to more willing and cheerful sacrifice. David's wholehearted commitment, vision, and sacrifice is contagious. And the people rejoice. No one is coerced, no one is manipulated. When leaders catch a vision for what God is doing, there is a sense of immense privilege for being able to join God in a great work. When God calls for a big ministry offensive, one that requires faith, obedience, commitment, and sacrifice, He starts working on the leaders, pouring out faith, changing hearts, and giving wholehearted commitment to what He is doing. In the end, people are moved to realize all they have is God’s and offer back to Him what is rightfully His.
Pray for Baltimore
As we watch the events in our city unfold, let us pray:
Life is busy. Filled with people, obligations, work, information, and endless opportunities, it is hard to stop or rest, or regain perspective on what is important. We are not inclined to create space for ourselves or God. Our margin is eaten up by the internet, responsibilities, anxiety, guilt, food, or tv. It is much easier to keep going and going and going and never recalibrate. It's why many we wake up toward the end of life with more regrets than Bill Buckner or the founders of New Coke.
Lent: Creating space for more of God. Putting a stopper in the revolving door of life in order to reconnect with Christ, the source of Life. Saying no in order to say yes. Coming clean in order to start fresh. Who doesn't need time to recalibrate the soul, heart, and mind, and learn again to see life from God's perspective? Its time to embrace Lent as the gift it was meant to be. Will you accept the invitation of Lent to make more space for Christ in your life?
Miracle on the River Kwai
During my study time this week I re-read Miracle on the River Kwai, the story of the miraculous renewal of faith, hope, and love that happened to many allied troops in the Japanese prison camps of Burma during World War II. Scottish prisoner Earnest Gordon, later chaplain of Princeton University, wrote,
"I realized again I was witnessing saving grace in action. More and more men began to help one another. The less sick cared for the more sick. The few who could walk fetched water and gave baths to the dying. We began to lose the bitterness towards our ruthless captors. When we prayed, 'forgive them as you forgive us', we were released from hatred and given a new love and freedom... All this came to a head when, during one of the brutal marches, we came across wounded Japanese soldiers left by their own on the sides of the road to die in their pain and filth. Without a word, most of the officers in my section unbuckled their sacks, took their rations, and a rag, with water canteens in hand, went over to the Japanese to care for them. I regarded my comrades with wonder. Eighteen months ago they would have readily joined in the destruction of our captors had they fallen into our hands. Now these same men were dressing the enemies' wounds. We had experienced the grace of Christ and the power of God to break the barriers of prejudice and hate. We experienced the wonder of the Kingdom of God as we began to see His grace in action among us."
When we catch a glimpse of Kingdom servant leadership in action, when we look at Jesus and what He gave up for us, and then see selfless service by His followers in action, it can be life changing.
About the ResBlog
Members of staff and Vestry will be posting on the ResBlog to help us think through who we are in light of the gospel so that we might “spur one another on to love and good deeds.”