Rita and I attend a Nazarene church pastored by a good friend, Tharon Daniels, when we are visiting in Arizona.
Tharon’s sermon this morning was so compelling, from Jeremiah 29, that I am compelled to share the highlights with you in this blog.
Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles, living in Babylon, in a godless and dark culture. The false prophets were saying that God would soon restore the fortunes of Jerusalem and return all the exiles to their former glory.
In sharp contrast, the word of the Lord to the exiles through Jeremiah was…
* …you are going to be in exile for a long time
* …so settle down and establish your households
* …raise children and grandchildren to love God
* …be salt and light in the middle of the darkness
* …and pray for the shalom of the city, so you can serve God in shalom there.
Tharon said that the people of God in Jesus’ day faced very similar challenges as the exiles in Babylon.
1. The Zealots believed that a violent uprising against the government of Rome would make Israel great, again.
2. The Sadducees believed that collusion with the government of Rome would make Israel great, again.
3. The Pharisees believed that, if they circled the wagons, kept themselves from the contamination of Rome and followed their code for holiness, they would make Israel great, again.
4. The Essenes believed that, if they totally removed themselves from the surrounding culture, and followed God, they would make Israel great, again.
Do you notice these first century reactions to living under Roman control are alive and well inside the American church today?
Especially during this crazy election cycle!
But all is not lost.
This may just be our finest hour.
It all depends on how the people of God choose to live, right now.
Tharon quoted a story about a 17th Century church, built in the village of Staffordshire, England. There is a plaque in the church, dedicated to the man instrumental in building the church, that reads…
“In the year 1653, when throughout the nation all things sacred were either demolished or profaned, Sir Robert Shirley, Baronet, founded this church, whose singular praise it is…to have done the best things in the worst times.”
That is exactly where we are today!
One more powerful quote from Tharon’s sermon: Former Senate Chaplain, Richard Halvorson wrote,
“In the beginning, the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise.”
There is only one way for America to ever be great, again.
And, based on Jeremiah 29, I would venture to say that it is God’s will for our nation to be great again…but ONLY if by greatness we mean the shalom of God, where the things associated with God’s Kingdom can thrive in our everyday lives.
The future greatness of America will depend on two things…
1. That the people of God begin to live the shalom of God’s Kingdom, being salt and light in our world and not be coopted by insipid nationalism.
2. That we devote ourselves, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to praying passionately for the shalom of our nation, even if it is against all odds.