if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14
There is so much to talk about this morning! But first I need to remind ourselves that it is Monday, and it is the first day of a new month. This particular June, in 2020, has all the potential to be any kind of month we want it to be. And this time around, in the context of all the troubles and unrest right in front of us, I’d say we should think hard about how, and where, and why we will contribute light and love.
Not “if” we contribute light and love but “how” we will go about it.
Yesterday the preacher in my house hit the whole issue head on. Not only that but she did a very un-Presbyterian thing and preached almost 40-minutes (click here). That, in our sound-bite world of limited attention spans, is not exactly the norm.
Basically, she preached the whole Bible! By that I mean she started in Genesis and traced a particular theme all the way through, up to the day of Pentecost and beyond. You could say the entire weight of the scriptures rests on the central idea from her message.
But first I want to make this pitch for interesting, scholarly, moderate, strong “mainline church” preaching. Because I believe with everything I hold dear that this voice absolutely must be reintroduced to the heart of our ongoing conversation as a nation.
Moderate Christian voices must be reintroduced to the public square:
We can argue all day long as to the intention of The Founders when it comes to the idea of “A Christian Nation.” But one thing that’s strikingly obvious is the centrality of moderate Christian voices in shaping our thinking, our behavior, and the forward motion of our social conscience as a people.
Preaching remained alive in the public square – and an important voice in our nation’s character – because the voices of leading preachers were, essentially, politically neutral… But, partisan politics in many churches has made preaching essentially irrelevant…
Preaching remained alive in the public square – and an important voice in our nation’s character – because the voices of leading preachers were, essentially, politically neutral. Today, however, the loudest and most visible voices in the room (and on the airways, and in great auditoriums) too often sound as if they are firmly tied to a party agenda.
Why would mainstream America want to listen to preachers Sunday morning when they can get the same set of talking points from some angry voice on the radio or a podcast the other six days of the week?
In other words, partisan politics in many churches has made preaching essentially irrelevant. When the good news about the lavish, non-partisan, generous love of God comes in a distant second then the church has lost its way.
But the good news….
But not all preachers. And this is my pitch for shutting out the compromised voices of what is little more than a lightly Christianized religious nationalism, and – instead – tuning in to sermons such as the one Rebekah preached yesterday morning.
Because if America continues to distance itself from the voice of The Church then the heart and soul of what makes the nation truly great will no longer be a part of our conversation! Scholarly, moderate, strong – and hopefully interesting – preaching is an important element of our national psyche.
So I urge you, even if you do not consider yourself to be a Christian, find a healthy, mission-minded, growing Presbyterian Church like ours and listen to the preaching. If you’re lucky you will find a preacher as interesting and powerful as Rebekah.
And turn off the voices of the preachers who try to rope God in as a prop to endorse their partisan politics. That is not the gospel. There is little of Jesus there and even less of love, grace, truth, light, mercy, and promise.
Our nation needs to make a sharp turn back towards God. And it certainly isn’t a right turn, nor is it a left turn; it’s a 180 and it begins with Jesus.
In love, and because of love – DEREK