Playing Politics

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S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. 11 My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. 12 What I mean is this: that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? 14 Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! 16 Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. 17 Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.

O (Observation): Paul’s letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians) is all about how to help the different factions of the followers of Christ to get along and to be of the “same mind and same purpose.”

They tend to identify with the one who baptized each of them: Apollos, Paul, Cephas, etc.”. Yet the one doing the baptizing is NOT the focus. Paul reminds them of this. Paul reminds them that in Christ we are baptized. And that is enough. No one else need be identified in baptism.

A (Application): Everything is political. I’m not just talking about parties or independents… I’m talking about “lowercase ‘p’ politics.”

We all struggle with three main desires: Identity (Who am I?), Belonging (Where do I fit in?), and Purpose (Why do I matter?).

Unfortunately, we want to “play politics” and to shape these desires by pointing people to ourselves. We want to define who people are (by what they don’t have). We want to define where they belong (by telling them you don’t want to be “one of those”). We want to define someone’s purpose (by what they can do for “me”).

This is exactly backwards. And Paul knows it.

Paul wants them all to be identified as being “in Christ”.

Who am I? You are God’s child.

Where do I belong? You belong to God, in the body of Christ.

Why do I matter? God will do great things through you, just like Jesus taught the apostles.

Do you believe this?

P (Prayer): Gracious God, define our identity, belonging, and purpose. Thank you. Amen.

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God in the Everyday

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S (Scripture): Luke 20:20 The legal experts and chief priests were watching Jesus closely and sent spies who pretended to be sincere. They wanted to trap him in his words so they could hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21 They asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are correct in what you say and teach. You don’t show favoritism but teach God’s way as it really is. 22 Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

23 Since Jesus recognized their deception, he said to them, 24 “Show me a coin. Whose image and inscription does it have on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

25 He said to them, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

O (Observation): So you’re trying to paint me into a corner, huh? Trying to get me to pry apart faith from the rest of my life. Trying to get me in trouble…start a riot if I say, “No.” Get my people to hate me if I say, “Yes.”

I see how it is.

Well…everything is spiritual. My decision to pay taxes doesn’t mean I’m against good order and government as a general rule. Nor does it mean I pay all allegiance to the rulers of this world. The Law does not say “yes” or “no” to paying taxes.

One can obey the Law and receive the grace of God while still paying taxes. They are not mutually exclusive.

A (Application): We can easily be distracted into making decisions that isolate our faith from our public life. We can easily be distracted by forgetting God in the equation of our daily decisions.

Keeping God in the center of our everyday lives is important. Whether it’s paying taxes or grocery shopping or driving down the road. God is there, too. Guiding us, correcting us, giving us grace. In everything.

God is with us when dealing with politics and faith and fun and work and everything in between. And that is a blessing to us!

From my friend, Delmer Chilton, in a 2014 Living Lutheran article:

Jesus calls us back from the brink of a serious mistake. In the midst of rendering unto Caesar, of doing your civic duty to the best of your ability, do not confuse your politics with your religion, nor neglect your God in the midst of your public service.

We are people of faith, which means we don’t rule from a position of absolute power nor do we neglect the directions our faith calls us.

We respond with respect and humility in our everyday interactions. Never neglecting our faith. Nor letting our faith rule in absolutes.

P (Prayer): Lord, guide us in our everyday decisions. Amen.

Mockery & the Way of the Cross (or Faith and Politics)

S (Scripture): Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm, not a man; people insult me and despise me.

7 All who see me taunt me;
they mock me and shake their heads.

8 They say,
“Commit yourself to the Lord!
Let the Lord rescue him!
Let the Lord deliver him, for he delights in him.”

O (Observation):  The psalmist feels abandoned by the Lord.   The psalmist is faithful, but is being challenged by the current situation.   

Others are mocking him for his apparent faith.  Their call to trust in the Lord is a mocking, not a testimony of their faith.  My commentarys says thus (regarding v.8), 

“This statement does not necessarily reflect the enemies’ actual belief, but it does reflect the psalmist’s confession. The psalmist’s enemies sarcastically appeal to God to help him, because he claims to be an object of divine favor. However, they probably doubted the reality of his claim.

A (Application):  A lot of my friends are having a hard time in the realm of politics these days.  And thus, their very faith is affected.  It all ties together – faith and politics.  We cannot separate them.  And yet, our faith should not dictate our politics, nor should our politics dictate our faith.  

Faith and politics occupy different spheres that will always overlap.   We will give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we will always give to the Lord what is the Lord’s.  (That’s Jesus’ saying, not mine…if you’re keeping track at home : )

We can live in a world in which we are challenged by the politics of the day, but that doesn’t mean we must sit by idly if we see injustice.  We act, within the realm of the law…and when the law causes injustice, we speak out against it…act out against it.  And maybe, just maybe, we make a statement by breaking that law in order to bring about justice.  

I don’t advocate for stealing or rioting or such, only that we bring justice and fairness to all who roam this earth…that forgiveness and hope and generosity lead the way, so that we might break systems that already broken, in order for them to be re-built for liberty and justice for all.  

Whatever happens, we trust in the Lord.  As followers of Jesus Christ, we will be mocked.  We will be misunderstood, but it is not for us to explain the way of the cross.  Only God can help someone understand the way of the cross.  It looks foolish to the world, but we take up our cross daily, knowing that, in Jesus, the yoke is easy and the burden is light.  

Rise up.  Speak out.  Stand with your neighbor in need.  

P (Prayer): Lord, give me strength.  Amen. 

Cooperation or Coercion?

  

S (Scripture): Daniel 6:14 When the king heard this, he was very upset and began thinking about how he might rescue Daniel. Until late afternoon he was struggling to find a way to rescue him. 15 Then those men came by collusion to the king and said to him, “Recall, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no edict or decree that the king issues can be changed.” 16 So the king gave the order, and Daniel was brought and thrown into a den of lions. The king consoled Daniel by saying, “Your God whom you continually serve will rescue you!” 17 Then a stone was brought and placed over the opening to the den. The king sealed it with his signet ring and with those of his nobles so that nothing could be changed with regard to Daniel. 18 Then the king departed to his palace. But he spent the night without eating, and no diversions were brought to him. He was unable to sleep.

O (Observation):  What King Darius had heard was the Daniel was caught praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and NOT Darius.   

These other wise men mentioned in the text were advisors to King Darius, much like Daniel himself.   And because of the gift of insight that God shares with Daniel, the others are jealous.  So they collude to setup Daniel.  These other advisors convinced King Darius to make an interdict to prohibit prayer or worship to any God or person, except to King Darius alone.  

Daniel is caught praying, and King Darius is caught in a pickle.   He can’t go back on his interdict – what becomes law must stay law.   But he also respects Daniel.  

The result:   Daniel is thrown in the lion’s den, and King Darius is upset with himself. 

A (Application):  Ever felt coerced by others?   Jesus got this type of coercion all the time, but was able to see through it…able to shift focus of conversations towards what God desires and what God calls him / us to do.  

The political upheaval in this country is palpable.  I know plenty of liberal/progressive friends and plenty of conservative friends.    Both can be pretty outspoken.    

We are all torn by politics as well as compassion.   

I recently attended an event at the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, just days after the Paris and Beirut attacks.   The event was scheduled for months in advance, and the topic:  The Policital Ideal.  How poignant a topic.  

We heard from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian perspectives.  Suffice it to say that the conversation was collegial and bridge-building in its nature.  Disagreements stand, but so do friendships.  

I hope that none of us becomes so afraid as to let stand the bigotry that exists between our varied cultures in America.  We are indeed a melting pot.   

Those of us who are part of the body of Christ are called to be compassionate and caring.  We are called to care for the widowed and orphan, the naked and thirsty.  

We don’t need to be mindless about welcoming refugees and rooting out evil, but we also don’t need to be coerced into shutting people out who seek refuge from terrorism.  

Let us be diligent in our security, but let us not allow political power to stand in the way of charity and compassion.  

What are your thoughts about these attacks or the political pressures you see in America?

P (Prayer):  Lord, we lean solely on you for wisdom, and endurance, and grace.   Help us through these difficult times, and remind us that you’ve seen us through already, in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Amen.