Sunday, February 5
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
“... wee must Consider that
wee shall be as a Citty upon a Hill,
the eies of all people are uppon us....”
-Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop, a Puritan preacher, in his sermon, “A Model of Christian Charity,” preached while at sea, on the way to America aboard the ship Arabella in 1630.
Can we get past the way people wrote, four hundred years ago ? [modern English translation: “...we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us.”]
Can we get past the sad and shameful way that the Pilgrims failed to see the native Americans as fellow human beings, but rather treated them as brutish savages, even though the native people helped them to survive ?
Can we get past the fact that the Pilgrims were members of a traitorous, disloyal group which fled their homeland as refugees and exiles ?
Can we get past the way this quotation was famously used by John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Mitt Romney in major speeches ?
Our Bethel might possibly possess some lenses, through which we may see beyond the layers of stuff that history has heaped onto those old words. Maybe by God’s grace we can cut through the mists of history and experience, to hear directly what Jesus is telling us today.
† Since 1931, when the “Christian Church” movement merged with the Congregational Churches of New England, our Bethel learned to share in the Puritan heritage of the Congregationalists which was brought to these shores in the 1600s. At the core of their beliefs, the Puritans sought to strip away the sixteen-hundred years of stuff that the church and the world had heaped on top of Jesus’ teachings. The Puritans often failed to hit the mark— they were only human, as we are— but it was a worthy goal.
† Among the founding principles of Bethel as a part of the “Christian Church” movement was this: “The Holy Bible is a sufficient rule of faith and practice.” Perhaps we could go directly to the gospel, to Matthew 5:14, where Jesus’ words are recorded about his followers being “a city built upon a hill.” We have our own Bibles, in many translations and versions, and we have freedom not only to read them but also to meet and discuss the deep questions, “What is Jesus saying to us, in this passage ?” In Sunday School, in Bible study groups— shoot! even, possibly, in the occasional sermon, for heaven’s sake!— : we are free to hash these things out through reading, discussion and prayer. [N]o one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God.
1 Corinthians 2:11-12
Lenses to see through the mist; sharp tools to cut through the crap: Lord Jesus, speak to us today !
You, dear reader, are most likely a U.S. citizen: that is a privilege sought after by oppressed people all around the world. Nearly all of you are blessed to have potable water, food, shelter, and basic personal safety: these are blessings which most of the world’s people enjoy to a lesser degree than we. And you have been privileged with ample access to not only the teachings of Jesus, but what’s far more important, a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus as Lord: that is the ultimate heavenly privilege for a mortal creature. So...
“You are the light of the world....
let your light shine before others,
so that they may see your good works
and give glory to your Father in heaven.”
-Matthew 5:14, 16
In our day, when the winners close the borders, limit access to healing, and claim God’s blessings only for a select few who are like themselves, we followers of Jesus may need to declare days of fasting, as the prophet Isaiah declared on God’s behalf: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your Vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” -Isaiah 58: 6-9