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Pastor Andrew's Message
I have spent much of this last week working on the papers that I need for ordination (gotta be done). One of the questions concerns how the Church has responded faithfully and unfaithfully to God over the millennia. As I wrote it, I considered how we as Christians are facing the same question that the Early Church made the wrong choice on.
I get why they made it, who doesn’t want to be accepted by the powerful and the mainstream. On top of that, it meant an end to persecution. Besides, it wasn’t a choice that was made in a day, but a gradual change over several decades. In the 300s, the Church was becoming accepted and eventually embraced by the Roman Empire. As the Church was given more access to power, it began to accept the excesses of Roman culture and adopt some of its customs. It became highly ritualized, mixing the magical thinking of the Roman religion with Judeo-Christian ideals. It also restored the barriers between God and humanity. The Church accepted the sword and used it to further its goals and numbers. What was once the Church formed of believers working and living in community, became an organization that was far more concerned with power and wealth. It gave up proclaiming the Good News and following the Way of Jesus.
Power and wealth are hard to turn away from. The Protestant Movement was able turn reject many of the issues of the Roman Church, but were unable to give up the connection and privileges with the State. They too picked up the sword and soon their hands became just as bloody as they fought one another, the Catholics, and their own people. The Radical Reformer’s willingness to give up the things of this world to better follow the way of God is a faithful response to the movement of the Spirit. At times we Radicals tended to completely reject all things of the world and seek a separate existence. We have also sought to help others and connect with our larger community.
I believe that we are seeing a resurgence in the acceptance of worldly power in the increasing acceptance of Christian Nationalism. Many denominations had become closed off from the world in the late-1800s and turn of the century, just as our nation sought isolation from the world. In the early-1900s, with the World Wars and the advent of technology like the radio and movies, the larger community became a lot harder for insular congregations to ignore. They were unhappy with what they saw. They disagreed with how American culture was changing. Some Christians became even more insular, however many others decided they needed to change things. Like the Christians of the 300s in Rome, they actively sought power and authority. This is Christian Nationalism, to grasp the sword and use it to shape the nation according to their culture of christianity, forsaking the Call of Christ for earthly wants.
There was another response made by many Christians, including the Church of the Brethren. They recognized that the call of Christ was not separation from or embracing the ways of the world, but engagement. Instead of seeking power, they sent help. Instead of giving orders, they listened. Instead of grabbing the sword, they washed feet. People like Dan West and Gladys Muir (to name a few) worked to make the world better by lifting up the world. We continue to be offered this choice, whether to hide, to grasp, or to wash. I urge you to consider this going forward and to resist the allure of the sword. I pray that you will instead reach for the towel and basin
Bible Study: Bible Study is taking a hiatus until September when it will meet Tuesday at 7:00 pm using Zoom. A Prayer Meeting will precede at 6:00 pm.