Parish Newsletter Column on Talking Politics

May/June 2024

Dear People of Bethania,

Several weeks ago (Easter 4B Sermon) I issued an invitation for everyone to attend the Church Council meeting on May 7. The occasion involves my preaching on God’s politics, in stark contrast to typical human politics. I’m aware that the sermon tends to be a one-way form of communication. Understanding God’s politics vs. human politics is too important to leave off in a sermon. Deeper understanding comes through conversation. So I am here extending the invitation once again to begin the conversation at the May 7 Council meeting.

The Council meeting will offer the opportunity for you to give your feedback on talking about politics in any form. What are your questions and concerns? But we will also want to begin strategizing on how to continue the conversation. I suppose we could also decide to drop the conversation, but I believe that would be a costly mistake. Let me briefly explain why.

I have come to believe over the past forty years that the version of the Gospel with which I grew up is in serious need of revitalizing. Some of the gravest consequences of a too-small Gospel, focused mostly on the afterlife, have been political. Christians have largely failed to speak out against injustice, and even more so to act with God’s justice, to the costly tune of genocides and World Wars over the past couple centuries. I believe that we now stand in the position of losing our democracy to authoritarian control. The two-hundred-forty-year American experiment of living into the ideal of all people being created equal could come to an end. The cost of our too-small Gospel has already been extremely high in recent centuries. We may pay an even higher price in the months ahead if we lose the best thing going for us, our democracy.

What do I mean by a too-small Gospel? The four Gospels in the Bible all tell us that God sent the Messiah Jesus to make clear to the world what God’s reign looks like – something extremely different than what typical human reigns look like. We human beings have always relied first and foremost on the power of military force. God’s reign in Jesus the Messiah relies first and foremost on the power of love, which is the power of life itself. It is the true power which created all things. If we were to switch our allegiances, our faith, to the power of love rather than military force, then it would mean nothing less than being human in a new way. It would mean a new start for the rest of creation, too, because we would finally assume our proper roles of working with God to care for creation. Grace upon grace, God has gotten started on this project of being human in a new way with or without us – mostly, without us, especially since the dawn of “Christendom” under the emperor Constantine. Nevertheless, the Gospels and St. Paul portray Easter as the launching of God’s reign on earth, as nothing less than New Creation.

Is that the Gospel you grew up with? I know I didn’t. It’s been the exciting journey of my life in faith to have it be my job to learn about the exciting ways of reading and understanding the biblical faith anew. It’s something I’m very passionate about passing on to you. Since it’s all about God’s reign coming on earth through Jesus the Messiah, politics is at the center of it. So learning to talk about politics in a very new way, I firmly believe, is a must. The alternative is to remain stuck in our too-small Gospel. And to have the world continue on its current path to self-destruction. Please join the conversation at Church Council on May 7. Grace and peace, Pastor Paul

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