Living in Ordinary Time: Re-Gifting
The Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 31. 2016
Psalm 107; Luke 12:13-21
So, how many of you here this morning ever had a piggy bank, even if it was not shaped like a pig? I had been thinking about piggy banks this week, for a reason that will become clear in a moment and so I asked my father if he had had one. Yes, he said, it was a small metal box. In the top was a slot for the coins. But that was about all that he could remember. Chances are, that growing up during the depression, his parents had given it to him to teach him the value of saving. Well if that was their purpose then it worked. My parents, like many of you, made saving an almost religious-routine part of their lives. They saved for cars…always paying cash. They saved to pay for my, and my brothers college educations…savings bonds. They saved for retirement. And in the process they passed that ethic on to their children and grandchildren. Which brings me to my second question, how many of you save? Great, that says that we all value saving when and how we can. Which raises the point…why does Jesus seem so opposed to saving in this morning’s story.
To be sure that we are all on the same page…let’s recap. Jesus is out teaching. A man comes up to him and wants Jesus to insure that the man receives his fair share of his parents’ inheritance from his brother. A fair share is that to which he is legally entitled. We would think that Jesus would get the brothers together and help them work this out. Yet he doesn’t. And in fact he not only doesn’t intervene but he tells a story about a farmer who saves. The story goes like this. A farmer has a bumper crop. Rather than waste it betting at the chariot races in Capernaum, he decides to save. He hires a contractor; builds a bigger barn; stores his grain and then relaxes. It is time to enjoy the sweat of his brow…something that the book of Ecclesiastes says that he ought to do. As soon as he does so though, God shows up in the story and says to the farmer, surprise, you are dead. And guess what! All of that stuff that you saved is going to someone else. Somehow this does not appear to jive with the lessons we have been taught about saving…especially for retirement. So what gives? The answer comes in a single word…re-gifting. Let me explain.
When Cindy and I got married, everyone knew that we were headed off to seminary and that I was going to become a minister. They also knew that if there is one thing that all ministers do, it is to go to potluck suppers. They also knew that the one thing people who go to potluck suppers need is casserole dishes. What that meant was that when Cindy and I began to open all of our wedding presents, it seemed as if every other one was a casserole dish. Cindy estimates that we received between twenty-five and thirty casserole dishes. We had several choices. We could return some of them. We could save them all for that one potluck dinner where we needed to make twenty-five or thirty dishes. Or, we could re-gift them. For those of you unfamiliar with re-gifting, it is the process of taking what you have been given, usually in excess of what you need and you give it away to other people, which is what we did. I would guess that we were covered for wedding gifts for about ten or twenty years. I realize that some of you may think that we were cheap…but no…we were actually demonstrating two profound Biblical principles, which are: everything that we have in life is a gift and our task is to give away to others from our excess.
The first Biblical principle is that everything we are and everything we have is a gift from God. It is a gift because we didn’t create our bodies, our intellects, the rain, the earth or even the seeds that grow into what we eat. Those are all gifts. I realize that unlike the birds of the air and beasts of the field we have to work for a living. We have to take what God gives us and transform it into something useful. But still, what we do is manipulate…not create, thus it is gift. The second great biblical principle is that since these are all gifts, we are to re-gift the excess of what we have been gifted. We see this in the Torah where God’s people are commanded to not harvest to the edge of their fields but to leave the excess for those who are in need. This second principle tells us that on a regular basis we are to share what we have with widows, orphans, the poor and the stranger. There is even something called the year of Jubilee in which all debts are forgiven so that no one finds themselves forever in debt. We are to re-gift the excess of what we have.
This is what is at the heart of Jesus’ story about the farmer. The farmer thinks that he has created his bounty and he believes therefore that the excess is his, therefore he does not need to re-gift. We know this because Jesus carefully crafts the story. Jesus begins by making it clear that the land produced abundantly…not the farmer. Thus what was produced was a gift from God. The farmer misses this as we can see in his use of “I” and “my” in verses 17 and 18. “And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.” Thus the farmer is not criticized for saving. He is criticized for ignoring the two great Biblical themes, namely that all is gift and we are to re-gift. He assumes that the gifts of God that have come his way, the earth, the rains and the crops, are his and his alone and therefore do not need to be re-gifted. They do not need to be shared with those around him who are hungry and struggling for food.
Re-gifting - this is what we are called to do. And this is what we, meaning the Kenya mission team, will be doing over the next two weeks. We will be sharing with a congregation and a community in Kenya, some of the gifts that we as a church community have been given…by you and by us. We have been given gifts from the Vision Fund, First Foundation, individual donors and we are using our own funds as well to participate in this endeavor as we help to build a church and school. But we are not the only one’s re-gifting. The church members in Kenya have re-gifted sacrificially to pay their portion of the construction. The community where we will build the school has re-gifted a portion of the cost of construction. And in so doing we are all re-gifting for generations to come; generations of children who will learn; generations of worshippers whose lives will be changed by their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Re-gifting - it is what we are supposed to do. So here is my challenge for you for the coming week, to ask yourselves, how am I re-gifting from the abundance of gifts that God has given me; re-gifting so that this world looks more and more like the world God desires it to be?
Mexico Mission Meditations
Peter Miller, Julie Wagner, Wendy Wilkinson
July 24. 2016
Listen: there was no audio from Sunday, July 24
Scripture: Psalm 121, Matthew 5:13-16
Dr. Peter Miller: Reflection on the medical component of the Mexico Mission Trip
The 5 prior YPM medical missions I had been on were in conjunction with and run by the San Antonio First Presbyterian Church (SAFPC). The team usually was made up of approximately 25 adults. Physicians ( divided into specialties Gen med, GYN, and pediatrics), pharmacists, opticians (reading glasses), translators & a team ran simultaneous VBS type children's activities. The last SAFPC trip this past Feb provided for 600 pts.
This summer's trip was much lower keyed. I performed dual roles as the physician and the pharmacist. I joined up with the church’s very welcoming construction mission team. It actually worked extremely well in my opinion.
Backtracking; Why just me?
I had been unable to participate with last 2 SAFPC trips. This spring I decided to try to do a mini med mission targeting diabetes, a highly prevalent disease of the Mayans in the Yucatan. YPM was happy about the plan and Amy welcomed me aboard this summer’s mission team. Now the last task was to acquire medications and supplies. I was expecting this to be a big hurdle. I recollected a local charitable organization World Medical Relief (WMR).
They were a Godsend. I submitted my application. They were enthusiastic in their support. I was trying to limit the weight of what I would be taking in to Mexico. WMR provided much more than the oral diabetic meds, anti hypertensive med, Glucometer and test strips that I requested. Without an additional charge they added more, and it weighed 125 lbs. (While telling you of WMRs generosity. I want to also acknowledge the spontaneous generosity of the church and a friend's donation to WMR that covered the entire cost of the med supplies.)
I had acquired far more meds and supplies than I had expected; and fortunately was with a team able help with transporting them into Mexico.
Being a guest in a foreign country when you're bringing in a lot of medical supplies:
Psalm 121 says "the Lord is your keeper" but you still need to get thru Mexican customs. Unfortunately SA FPC had up to half their supplies confiscated at customs on their last 2 trips. I tried to be diligent with the paper work for the donation. Our documentation wasn't perfect, but fortunately not totally inadequate. We got everything through. It took time and a lot talking. Keep in mind that I don't speak or understand much Espanol. So clearly the Lord was our keeper on this trip through customs.
What was the light?
Provided care for 50 persons in 4 mornings of clinics. As well as ace wrapping Alex of Esperanza's mild ankle sprain sustained playing soccer at VBS.
Many diabetics in Leona run out of their medications. They have regular access to medical care and are given samples which is not enough to last a couple of months. They can’t afford to purchase their meds. Blood glucose checks confirmed their diabetes was out of control. We had taken plenty of Metformin and Glipizide to supply their meds until their next clinic appointment (up to 2 months forward). We dispensed 3000 tablets. On this type of med mission I treat a chronic disease hoping that today will be better than yesterday for the patient, with the clear knowledge that I don’t have the long term solution for the problem. I know the cycle is bound to repeat itself. But, for today the patient’s medical situation is better than having no meds at all.
Thanks to WMR’s generosity we had plenty of Acetaminophen, vitamins, and cough meds for the other patients. (Dispensed 2000 Acetaminophen, 4000 adult vitamins, and 4500 children's vitamins)
We left behind plenty of diabetic, antihypertension and antibiotic meds that won't expire for a year or two. (Good for two more medical mission trips)
I now have a better understanding of Mexican customs regulations for the importation of “in kind” medical supplies and equipment. I know we need to be more diligent in properly complying with the regulations. If we do that: clearing customs with our donations can be a problem solved rather than a potential vignette for a border security reality TV show and potentially turning off the light.
Mexico Mission Trip Reflection by Julie Wagner
The passage that Grace just read was our theme for the mission trip. We were charged with being the salt and the light.
“Sal con colores . Sal con colores. That is me and my limited Espanol, standing over my open luggage, opposite customs officials, at the Cancun, Mexico airport. I’m attempting to explain to the customs officials what the granular substance in the plastic bags is, amongst all the other Vacation Bible School supplies.
While in Mexico we truly experienced the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.
The Mexican workers, hired by our Yucatan Peninsula Mission hosts, Willian and Erly, shinned their light upon us constantly.
With Lucio, it was his infinite patience. He taught us how to build walls with mortar and cinder blocks. Lucio was cheerful and bright with each lesson and his eyes never rolled, but smiled even when sections of our wall needed to be taken down and re-built.
Juan’s light shown through his infectious friendliness. He forged a unique bond with Robert and Eddie. They were able to joke constantly, not hindered by their limited command of each other’s language. Juan watched out for us all, fearful we may fall asleep on our shovels, he asked Erly for the English words necessary to change the music, and liven up our work site tunes from mellow to danceable.
At times, our team was the salt of the earth. We were a well-oiled machine, manually mixing cement, no easy task, passing buckets along the chain to elevated Jevahirian boys pouring columns. There was so much light and power, the Electric Slide made its debut in the cement line. Between buckets, Christina was able to master the dance moves of the Electric Slide as expertly as she had mastered wall construction.
Our youngest team member worked hard and demonstrated a lot of leadership, much to the delight of his mother. On the work site, he mixed cement and worked well with our host, Erly guiding us on the placement of each wheelbarrow full of sand. On the play site, he singlehandedly convinced all of us to experience the pool slide. This was quite a challenge, as we were all aware of the bumpy design of the slide and the pain it would inflict on our weary bodies.
There was no wasting of salt and a keen respect for resources. We diligently watched out for one another, conscience of dehydration and muscle fatigue. On the material side, once the concrete columns were set, we disassembled the forms, saved the nails not too bent from extraction, and repainted the boards with diesel, ready for the next set of columns.
Not only could we see the light and taste the salt, but they could also be heard. Amy’s most genuine laugh told us all how loved we were and how unique this trip was, even though she has been on numerous mission trips. During our nightly devotions, hearing thoughtful prayers and beautiful voices singing Sanctuary, reminded us of God’s presence.
The brightest lights and tastiest salt may have been at Vacation Bible School. The smiles on the children’s faces were contagious. The language barrier was absent in the crafts and games so expertly designed by Jen and Heide. Collin became a movable playscape with the children climbing on his limbs. They were thrilled to have someone so tall, so blonde, and so eager to play with them. At times it was difficult to ascertain whom was having more fun, the Mayan village kids or us, especially Dr. Peter, who shifted from his daytime doctoring to VBS craft expert.
Increasing the volume of my phrase “Sal con colores” did not seem to help with the customs officials. So to explain that the granular substance in the plastic bags was salt, I tasted it for them to see. As said in Matthew 5, this salt had not lost its taste.
The text of Wendy’s meditation was not available at the time of publication: we will include it when it is submitted.
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 17, 2016
Genesis 1:26-31, Luke 10:38-42
Her name is Homa Hoodfar. My guess is that few of us know who she is. She is the professor emeritus of anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal. She holds dual citizenship of Canada and Iran. Over the years Hoodfar focused most of her work on the democratic rights of women in Islamic societies and how religious symbols and interpretations of those symbols have been used to both support and repress women’s rights. With family in Iran she often traveled back and forth from Canada to Iran for both work and pleasure. This past March, however something unexpected happened. The day before she was supposed to leave to join her family in London, Hoodfar’s computer, passport and her research papers were all confiscated by the Revolutionary Guard. They refused to allow her to leave the country and would regularly bring her in for questioning asking her, “Are you a feminist?” She has now been formally arrested and charged…though no one is sure with what since the indictment is sealed. Since her arrest she has been sitting in the infamous Evin Prison with no access to family, friends or an attorney. The official Iranian media has hinted at the charges by accusing her of fomenting a feminist revolution.
My guess is that to many of us this kind of behavior seems archaic and odd. In the 21st Century it might boggle some of our minds that a person could be arrested for being a feminist. Yet it ought to be a reminder of the power of culture and tradition. As Americans we live in a culture that has been in flux from the moment the first settlers arrived on this continent. We have in fact become a powerful mix of cultures which often clash yet somehow manage to hold together. As a recent Syrian immigrant said, as he travels on the subway to and from work in Boston, it is unfathomable how we as such a diverse nation hold together. That being said, this ability to hold together causes us forget just how powerful tradition and culture can be. In places like Iran, Afghanistan, India and elsewhere the culture and traditions clearly outline the boundaries for men, women and children. To step outside of those boundaries means one runs the risk of punishment by family, society or both. With that in mind then we have the background necessary to understand our story.
Mary and Martha understand clearly what their culture and tradition expected of them. They were Jewish women living in the first century. What this means is that they knew their place. As women they were to cook, clean and watch over the children. They were not to speak to or be around men who were not their relatives. When men come to the home, women were to stay outside unless they were invited in for a particular task, such as serving food or wine. To do otherwise was scandalous and was to invite not simply the anger of their spouse but the condemnation of the community. Only women of ill repute would violate these cultural boundaries. These were the culture and the traditions which guided Martha and Mary as they prepared for the visit of Jesus and the other men of the community. They knew what they had to do. And Martha did it well. She lovingly and carefully fulfilled her end of the societal social contract. Her sister Mary, on the other hand, decided to not only break that contract with tradition and culture but to shred it to pieces.
Mary’s actions were scandalous, revolutionary and so completely outside of the norm that it is remarkable that Luke would tell this story. Here’s why. First Mary did not fulfill her role as hostess. She should have been helping Martha to cook and serve. Second Mary refused to stay in the background. She placed herself in the presence of men who were not her relatives; in the presence of men who were strangers. Third, she placed herself at the feet of Jesus. What we need to know about this description of her location is that it is about more than simply the geography of the seating arrangement. To sit at the feet of a rabbi is to sit where not only where disciples sit, but where rabbis in training sit. It is the language used by the Apostle Paul when he describes his rabbinic training. He sat at the feet of Gamaliel the rabbi. What this means is that when Martha comes to Jesus says, “Make Mary help me,” she is not simply asking for help because she is overwhelmed in the kitchen. She made a plea for Jesus to put Mary in her appropriate place; to right the ship of culture and tradition; and to insure that the house of Mary and Martha will be respected in the village. Yet Jesus refuses to do so and in the process said that Mary had chosen the better way.
It is at this point that people go off in multiple directions trying to explain what Jesus meant by the “better way.”. Some, who are “Marthas” in this world, want Jesus to send Mary back to the kitchen because they understand what it’s like to have to do all of the work by themselves. They understand that there is something wonderful about working hard to show hospitality. Those who advocate for equality between the sexes see this as Jesus advocating for a first century feminism, releasing women from having to always be the perfect hostess and instead inviting them into the religious community as equal partners. Still others see this as simply reminding people that there are different kinds of spirituality. Unfortunately, all of these interpretations miss the key word in the story. And that word is “distracted.” In other words, when Jesus tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better way, it is that Mary has chosen to be focused on what matters; on the presence of Jesus and the kingdom that he offers. Mary has chosen to risk everything, her reputation, her place in the community and possibly even her life in order to discover this kingdom of love and grace that is unfolding in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus did not criticize Martha for following the traditions of her culture. He criticized here because she was so distracted by them that she could not see what was right in front of her…the messiah who was offering a peace that passes all understanding. What this means is that Martha did not need to quit serving, but that in the process of serving she needed to pay attention to the message that Jesus was bringing.
Being distracted is something to which most of us can relate. We live in a world of distractions: television, computers, tablets, phones, all of which bring us constant stream of entertainment and information. We live in a world of meetings, activities, schedules and obligations, all of which keep us in constant motion. It becomes difficult for many of us to stay focused on any one thing, for any period of time. And thus we run the risk of becoming “Marthas” who miss what Jesus has to offer, not because of custom and tradition but because we are those who are distracted from focusing on Jesus Christ and the lives he calls us to live. We find ourselves not being distracted drivers, but being distracted believers. For many it is hard to focus long enough to pray, to worship, to serve or to sense what God is doing in our lives, church and world. The challenge then becomes for us to intentionally focus our faith through practices such as regular prayer, Sabbath observance or scripture reading. The challenge is to stay focused enough that the love of Christ might be made real within us that it might be made real within the world.
My challenge to all of us this week then is this, to ask ourselves, how am I focusing on my faith such that I am not missing the love that Jesus Christ offers through the kingdom that is unfolding all around me?
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 10, 2016
Psalm 82, Luke 10:17-24
It was the original Mission Impossible. Jesus had sent seventy of his followers out on an impossible mission. Their mission, which they chose to accept, was to go throughout Judea and essentially tell people to love more and hate less. They were to go ahead of Jesus and offer the people of Judea the very peace of God. The peace of God that is possible regardless of the circumstances. And this mission was seemingly impossible because, as I explained last week, the people of Judea were in no mood to hear it. They were filled with anger and hatred toward their Roman oppressors and their Jewish lackeys. They were filled with hate because Rome and its allies were introducing a culture which was diametrically opposed to that of observant Jews. They were filled with hate became Rome and its allies were buying up all of the agricultural land and making people refugees. They were filled with hate because Rome taxed the people for the benefit of Rome and not for the local populous. And so it was into this moment of rising hatred and rebellion that the disciples went with a message of peace; of love more, of hate less.
What is remarkable about this story is that it would appear that they were successful. They return to Jesus all pumped up, filled with joy, saying, “Look Jesus even the demons submitted to us!” Meaning that the demonic forces of hate and anger had given way to the very peace of God, to the love that God had to offer. Jesus’ response was right in-line with their excitement. He said, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a bolt of lightning. See, I have given you the authority to tread on snakes and scorpions as well as over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you.” Jesus then reminded them that their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, in heaven itself. Who could ask for more? Who could ask for a greater victory. Let’s hang the championship banner, bring out the band and have a parade. Victory is ours, they seem to say. We can now retire because all is well with the world. Unfortunately, there is only one thing wrong with all of this…and that is, well, the last two-thousand years. For the last two-thousand years appear to have been about more hate and less love.
The last two-thousand years have seen hatred turn into mind-numbing violence. We have witnessed wars of conquest in the name of religion, national pride and ideology. We have witnessed genocide over and over again in every continent, driven by hatred of the other; of those we see as inferior or as a threat. We have watched the industrialization of slavery and the denigration of entire races of people because of the color of their skin. And even when we think like the disciples that we can celebrate because somehow we are beyond that, we are brought back to reality in the present moment. We are brought back by the death of five Dallas police officers who were killed because they were white policemen. We are brought back by the shooting of a Muslim physician on his way to prayers, the beating of two Muslim youth outside their mosque and the painting of the words, go home terrorist on a Muslim woman’s car. We are brought back by the attack of ISIS inspired slaughters of LGBTQ persons, and other innocent Americans in similar attacks. We are brought back by the often unjustified killings of people of color. We are brought back by anti-immigrant attacks in Great Britain following the Brexit. We are brought back by Buddhist attacks on Muslims in Myanmar. We are brought back by the attack of Palestinians on Jews in Israel…and of ultra-Orthodox Jews on Palestinians and on their own soldiers. We are reminded that in this world there often seems to be more hate and less love.
So what, we might ask, could Jesus and his disciples have been thinking when they were celebrating two-thousand years ago? What they were actually thinking and saying was that while they may have achieved a few small victories, the need for their proclamation was going to continue. I say this because all of the language in this story points us to the future, even though the church may have wanted to see it as pointing to the past. When the disciples returned they spoke of demons submitting using language that implies it will continue to happen…not just that it happened in the past. When Jesus says he saw Satan fall, he is speaking of continuing action, that Satan, that evil, may be down but it’s not out. When Jesus says he has given the disciples power, it is a reference to power that is intended for use in the future as they continue their mission to proclaim more love and less hate. Jesus understood that the mission was just beginning. He would still need to go to the cross to break the powers of sin and death. He knew that a new community based on more love and less hate would need to be created. He knew that he would have to send the Spirit in order to empower this mission. It was not over; it was just beginning.
Unfortunately, what happened was that the church forgot its main mission; the mission of the seventy; the mission to invite all persons into the Kingdom of God centered in Jesus Christ, who offers us peace and where there is to be more love and less hate. Instead we got busy seeking power and privilege. Instead we spiritualized our faith such that heaven mattered and earth didn’t. Instead we found it easier to hate than to love; to condemn rather than to forgive. And so if there was ever a moment in recent memory when we need to remember; when we need the seventy, this is it. In a time in which the shrill voices of hate seem to be all around us. In a time when love seems to be in short supply. We need to remember. We need the seventy. So where will we find them? Since you asked I will tell you. First, look at the person sitting next to you or near you. Second, say to them, “Hi I’m one of the seventy.” Yes, you and I, we are the seventy. We are those who are being sent on what seems like an impossible mission to teach more love and less hate. To offer the peace of God to all. And even though this may seem like a mission impossible, it is not. We know it is not, not only because of the disciples’ success, but because we know that love of God is the most powerful force on the face of the earth. It has the power to change lives, nations and the world.
That then is our task. It is to show in word and deed more love and less hate. My challenge to you then is this, to ask yourselves, “How am I, in word and in deed, proclaiming to the world more love and less hate, such that people will want to be a part of God’s new kingdom of peace.
Rev. Dr. John Judson
July 3, 2016
Psalm 146, Luke 10:1-16
He wouldn’t let them do it. Duncan would never let them decorate the sanctuary like a 4th of July float. Every year at my former congregation there were people who would go to my predecessor, Duncan Stewart, and ask to decorate the sanctuary on the Sunday closest to the 4th of July, so that it was awash in red, white and blue. Yet every year Duncan would turn them down, which was, at least on the surface, a bit odd. It was odd because if anyone loved this nation, it was Duncan. I say this because he spent 30 years in the Army, rising to the rank of Colonel. He had earned a bronze Star and purple heart in the Pacific in World War II. He then served in both Korea and Vietnam. In other words, this was a man who loved his nation so much that he had risked his life on multiple occasions. For whatever reason, I never had a conversation with Duncan specifically about this issue, but I think I have an idea why he declined to decorate in this way, and it had to do with his realization that we are living in two worlds…the world of nation-hood and the world of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
If that seems a bit obtuse I hope that our morning’s lesson will help shed some light on what I mean. As our story opens Jesus is heading toward Jerusalem and the final showdown with the religious and secular authorities. As he does so he can sense around him the growing calls for revolution against Rome. Throughout his life-time there had been would be messiahs who called upon the people to rise up and defeat Rome. The result was they and their followers had all died. (And unfortunately only about thirty-three years after his death the entire nation would rise up and hundreds of thousands of people would lose their lives in a futile rebellion.) So as Jesus proceeds he sends out a message that calls the people to peace and not violence. He tells them that the Kingdom of God is already present in and through his life and work. In other words, they do not need to be politically independent to be at peace. Thus when Jesus speaks of judgment against individuals and cities that refuse his peace, he is speaking of the coming cataclysm with Rome and not punishment from God. He has come as the Prince of Peace and not a military messiah.
These then, as I said a moment ago, are the two worlds in which we live. We live in the world of human revolutions that are waged for freedom; freedom to worship as we please, freedom to make our own laws, freedom to speak our minds and freedom to pursue our own dreams and destinies, the freedoms which we enjoy and often take for granted. This world is one that tens of thousands of men and women have fought and died for. This world is one that we are called upon to celebrate and appreciate. Yet we also live in the other world, that is in the world of Jesus Christ, who called upon us to love and pray for our enemies, not return violence with violence, to not hate, but to love, and to realize that true peace is not found in revolutions but is found in the peace that God gives through God’s only Son Jesus; a peace that passes all understanding. What Duncan understood was that our task is find a balance which honors both without allowing one to consume the other.
Here is what I mean. If we allow the world of revolutions to become the only world, then we risk being led down a path toward being a people who will do anything to anyone in order to maintain our national security. We will resort to torture and conquest. We will attack and seek to destroy anyone we deem to be the enemy. We will demonize “the other” because they are not like us. And in so doing we run the risk of losing our souls in the name of freedom. At the same time, we run great risks if we choose a pacifism in the name of the Prince of Peace. We risk allowing the real evil in this world to run amok, dealing death wherever it turns. We run the risk of allowing injustice to have its way, while we fail to protect the widow, the orphan and vulnerable. We run the risk of losing our souls as we watch the innocent suffer knowing that we could have done something to prevent it.
We live in two worlds. We live in the world of political freedom and obligation as well as the world of the Prince of Peace who calls us to a particular way of life. The challenge for us, as I said, is to find a balance between the two; which is never easy. It is never easy because there will always be competing claims upon us from both sides as well as moral decisions, whose appropriate outcome is difficult to discern. Yet we are still called to try to find that balance.
This Fourth of July weekend then I encourage you to do three things. First to give thanks and celebrate the freedoms that have been given. Second, to give thanks to God for the love and grace of God in Jesus Christ that offers us peace even in a war torn world. Thirdly, I challenge you to ask yourself this question, “How am I finding the balance in my life such that I honor the freedoms I have and the Savior of the world who gave his life for me?”