Precedence

A copy of a brief message I gave at my school’s chapel service today;

Presidents. We elected a new one just yesterday, maybe you caught it on the news? Presidents are awesome because they are public servants. At many points in the last eight years I almost forgot that fact; that presidents are charged with responding to the will of the people. It’s as if they are to ‘preside over’ their constituents. After all, it was people, not presidents, that signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

WE. We the PEOPLE, the true governing body of the United States of America.

I am a bit familiar with service. I spent over six years of my life in service to our country. Today, some 1.2 million others are serving as I once served, many of who are far from home, from their families and from safety. In the Army, our defining values were:
Loyalty
Duty
Respect
Selfless SERVICE
Honor
Integrity
Personal courage

Service.

As Christians, we should be familiar with this concept. We are called to be the least, the last, the lowest, the most servile of the world in order to inherit the Kingdom. Our leaders, Deacons to be exact, were called in Greek “doulos,” which translates to English as “slave.” The writers of many Epistles called themselves slaves and servants of Jesus Christ. We too are called to serve our fellow man (and not to be eaten, like that old Twilight Zone episode…).

Jesus, however, mentions “serve” in an interesting way a couple of times in the Gospels. In Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8, He says we are to serve God ONLY! Who else would we be serving that would distract us from our service to God? Whenever I was entering my unit Chaplain’s office, the motto I always saw above his door was “Pro Deo et patria;” a common phrase in the military meaning “for God and country.” But the Bible often tells a different story. It says “for God” [period].

The Deuteronomist said [10:14] “the highest heavens belong to the Lord your God, also the earth and all that is in it,” and other canonical contributors felt similarly. Heck, Psalm 47 even says the kings themselves belong to God! What is left to render to the president?

I mention all this not to reduce our nation in your eyes, not at all. I bring it up to elevate God to his proper position. It is only from HIS authority that governments derive their own. If we pledge allegiance to the flag, we must remember that our primary allegiance transcends national borders, skin colors, accents, and cultures. When other nations hear us boast “In God we trust,” they wonder why we need so many nuclear weapons to prove it. Palestinians I met in 2006 were quick to ask me to remind my president that the Man he prays to asked him to be humble, to make (not merely enjoy) peace, and to love (not shock and awe) his enemies.

Well, we elected a new one yesterday. Things are about to “CHANGE,” right?

Maybe you were one of the many Christians who are refusing to veer left or right on issues, instead going deeper; discerning how we are called to be IN but not OF this broken world. Perhaps you elected not to vote yesterday, finding more profound spiritual meaning in practicing your right to abstain from a fallen human political system. Or maybe you felt convicted by the holy fire of patriotism and voted enthusiastically; certain that our most effective tool to create change is to participate in our civic duty. No matter what your decision, I am sure you gave it a lot of thought and came about it finally with humility and reverence. It certainly was no easy task.

Election seasons can be stressful periods. This time around we had a huge hurricane, an economic crisis, and several historic candidates with colorful backgrounds (not to mention a costly, two-front war). Personally, I dealt with the craziness by watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report almost religiously. At least I got to laugh at the madness, you know? In all of it, in all the debates, advertisements, campaign slogans, and promises, did you notice anything that we can truly look to for “hope,” or is it just the latest political catchphrase? The current president-elect has gone on record as saying that America is the last, best hope of the world…

Isn’t that role already reserved for another Commander in Chief?

A friend of mine recently co-wrote a book in which he says that the devil is not in that which is ANTI-God, but those things that are ALMOST-God; subjective terms like “freedom” tempt us to serve earthly masters just short of God. He goes on;
“coveting begins with appreciating blessings
murder begins with a hunger for justice
lust begins with the recognition of beauty
idolatry begins when our seeing a reflection of God in something leads us to think that the image bearer is worthy of worship”

Do we follow an elephant and donkey, or a slaughtered lamb?
Do we salute a flag or bow to a cross?
Have we served the country at the expense of God?
Have we placed our hope in presidents, casting a vote of no confidence in God as our king?

These are tough questions the Body of Christ must always consider.

Today, the day after Election Day, the first day of the rest of our lives, I urge you to consider your allegiance, to remember your baptism (if you have taken that leap of faith). You won’t find our President on Capitol Hill, but at Calgary. He did not drape himself in red or blue, but was mocked in purple. Our vote was not only cast Tuesday, but on Monday, today, and tomorrow. We vote with how we live as Disciples of Christ. We put our Candidate on the ballot every time we love your neighbors, bless those that curse us, and forgive those who have wronged us. When we do that, we offer them the chance to vote for the only President upon which we all may truly place our full faith and allegiance.

One thought on “Precedence

  1. I really liked this piece. Did you concider submitting it to Sojo? I’m really digging the last paragraph. It really sums it up.

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