June 18, 2017: Be Strong!

Posted on : Jun 15th, 2017 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

A few weeks ago, someone asked me what I thought it took to be a person of faith in today’s religious and political climate.  I thought for a moment and said, “Be Strong.  Be You.  Be Careful.”  A little later in that conversation I said, “I don’t think it’s much different today, than it was for the first Christians who followed Jesus.

The good folks who followed the Way (the Way of Jesus) found themselves between a rock and a hard place.  The rock was a good portion of their ancestral Jewish community of faith that did not recognize Jesus as the long awaited “Messiah,” and the hard place was the Roman Empire, which was very skeptical of this itinerant preacher whom the masses called “King.”

The reality of our faith is that the beliefs, values and teachings of Jesus offended just about everyone in the mainstream establishment of both religion and the political order.  Jesus was always speaking up for the poor, the marginalized, the powerless, those who were not valued by their community or culture, the sick, women, those who were differently-abled and those who restricted people’s access to God with rigid rules and too little grace.

Being a Christian, being a follower of Jesus, being a disciple of Jesus, being a participant in the Way was not an easy task.  It wasn’t then and it isn’t today.  So it shouldn’t surprise us that today we find ourselves in that same situation of being between a rock and hard place.  There are however, three things that have defined Christians throughout the centuries.  Those are the ability to:   Be Strong.  Be You.  Be Careful.

This Sunday we are going to focus on the first of those: “Be Strong.”

There is a lot of talk today about being strong.  The current majorities in Congress and the President want to add billions of dollars to the Department of Defense spending and pay for those increases with cuts to human services.  Those who want these increases are sure if we only spent more money, we’d have more military strength; and then, we could control the chaos that our world is in and perhaps win a war.  Note to self:  In spite of the trillions of dollars we have spent on wars, the United States has not won a war since World War II (1945).  So reflect on this:  It is estimated that the Iraq/Afghanistan wars cost the US over $1 trillion dollars.  It is also estimated that we could end extreme poverty in the world with $175 billion dollars.  That’s about 17.5% of what we’ve spent on the longest war(s) in American history, with no real end in sight.  Which of those two do you think, as Jesus says, “are the things that make for peace”?

Being strong is not about military might or physical strength.  It is about finding our strength in God and then in ourselves.  The words of the Psalmist in the 27th Psalm (just 5 Psalms after the beloved 23rd Psalm) address this very situation.  The Psalm begins and ends with the same advice:  My strength is in God, not adversaries, not oppressors, not the mighty.  “God is my strength and my salvation.  God is the stronghold of my life.”

Friends, our strength is in God and when we have strength in God, we find strength in ourselves.

More on Sunday!

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Psalm 27

Triumphant Song of Confidence

God is my light and my salvation;

    whom shall I fear?

God is the stronghold of my life;

    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me

    to devour my flesh —

my adversaries and foes —

    they shall stumble and fall.

Though an army encamp against me,

    my heart shall not fear;

though war rise up against me,

    yet I will be confident.

One thing I asked of God,

    that will I seek after:

to live in God’s house all the days of my life,

to behold the beauty of God

    and to inquire in God’s temple.

For God will hide me and shelter me

    in the day of trouble;

she will conceal me under the cover of her tent;

    he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up

    above my enemies all around me,

and I will offer in his tent

    sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will boldly sing praises to God

Hear, O God, when I cry aloud,

    be gracious to me and answer me!

“Come,” my heart says, “seek God’s face!”

    Your face, O God, do I seek.

    Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,

    you who have been my help.

Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,

    O God of my salvation!

If my father and mother forsake me,

    You will take me up.

Teach me your way,

    and lead me on a level path

    because of my enemies.

Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,

    for false witnesses have risen against me,

    and they are breathing out violence.

I believe that I shall see Your goodness.

    in the land of the living.

Wait for God;

    be strong, and let your heart take courage;

    wait for God!

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