Pastoral Backstory – October 29th, 2015

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Don’t forget to set your clocks back Saturday night!

 

October 29th, 2015

…my thesis is always the same, and it is very simply stated. First, contemporary America is full of fear. And second, fear is not a Christian habit of mind.

–Marilynne Robinson, in the essay, “Fear,” in her new book The Givenness of Things

 

RationingBoardNOLAVachonCIt began with sugar.

Soon after they added coffee.

By the end the list included:

  • Typewriters,
  • gasoline,
  • bicycles,
  • footwear,
  • silk,
  • nylon,
  • fuel oil & stoves,
  • meat,
  • lard, shortening & oils,
  • cheese, butter, margarine,
  • processed foods (canned, bottled, and frozen),
  • dried fruits,
  • canned milk,
  • firewood and coal,
  • jams, jellies and fruit butter

 

ration_posterSuch was the extensive rationing program instituted by the US government (and other Allied nations) during WWII to conserve precious resources so as to reallocate them for the war effort.

Our parents and grandparents were issued ration books they’d present to vendors for that month’s stipulated allocation. Their cars would be marked with stickers signifying how many gallons of gasoline they could pump each week. Advertisements would have been placarded in periodicals, on street corners and city buses, and in the previews at the local theater–all reminding the citizenry of the need and their civic duty to make these sacrifices of substance.

It was the way in which the folks at home could serve their sons and daughters in harm’s way. But  it was also some mystical way of connecting those stateside with those on foreign fields.

The latter would’ve been asked to give far more–and tens of thousands gave as much as they had. But there was for those who forsook those conveniences a similar shape to the sacrifice. In degree there was no comparison, but for both enlisted and domiciled there was a mutual decision, a shared point, to their respective renunciations.

 

This weekend you may get a rap, rap, rapping at your chamber door from oddly-but-endearingly-bedecked children clamoring for whatever confections you might have.

This weekend we will remember many things: the saints from whom we’ve learned, the souls who’ve journeyed on, and those who demonstrated notable courage in their desire for a renewed and vibrant church.

But this weekend also, Christians will die for the sole reason that they are Christians.

According to the infographic below from Open Doors USA, each month thousands of people come under some form of persecution–many losing their life–simply because they profess belief in the One who died to set them free.

 

infochristian-persecution2

This isn’t news to you likely. It isn’t news to me.

 

But as an American who is a Christian, I “understand” the daily and deep sacrifices made by Christians in other hostile territories not even as well as my aunts comprehended their brother’s–my father’s–sacrifices in the South Pacific in WWII.

And as that Christian in a location as close to a peacetime setting as possible (though I know some disagree–who also, might I add, sometimes exaggerate), I am confronted with the haunting question, “what can be done by those in contexts more amenable to faith either for, or at least in light of, those who are paying a steeper price for walking faithfully?”

There is of course, prayer–which we did last month and will again in a couple weeks. One can easily take this morning’s reading from the Daily Office and turn the Psalmist’s words for himself into prayers for the persecuted.

Psalm 140 – Deliver [them], O LORD, from evil men;

preserve [them] from violent men, 

2 who plan evil things in their heart

and stir up wars continually. 

3 They make their tongue sharp as a serpent’s,

and under their lips is the venom of asps. Selah

Guard [them], O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;

preserve [them] from violent men,

who have planned to trip up [their] feet. . . .

 

In fact this Sunday is an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

Or one can easily petition their local congressional official to act on behalf of persecuted individuals, or give to other organizations that advocate for such. Last Sunday Peter Dishman both preached to us and shared with us his vision for campus ministry in Colombia, a nation which has its fair share of persecution against Christians.

One may even take up the same mantle as their persecuted brethren and go to those places where Christ and His people are despised. That happens. Every day.

But for those who are here, and for the foreseeable future, might there be a similar shape to the sacrifice of our persecuted brethren, even if it can’t be matched in degree? Might we ration something either for the sake of those who are sacrificing more, or at least to honor their sacrifice through a renunciation of a sort?

INF3-96_Food_Production_Dig_for_Victory_Artist_Peter_Fraser

British War Rationing Poster

I think I know of one way. A renunciation, not of a commodity, but of something we hold dear–often too dear.

This Sunday we’re going to look at the next passage in Acts where we’ll find (I know you’ll be shocked) Paul, et al engaged in a “reasoned” explanation of the Gospel. It’s who he was. It’s what he did. He will be met with more than one kind of response in two cities along the Aegean Sea.

Regardless of the outcome Paul was willing to ration something he might prefer to retain: he gave up his claim to being universally well thought of.

He wasn’t out to be obnoxious. Neither truculence nor insufferableness suddenly became his virtues upon being claimed by Jesus and the gospel.

But sacrifice he did his interest in being regarded as merely nice and genteel.

Neither of those attributes–or for that matter, affability or winsomeness–are antithetical to walking in the grace of the gospel. But to the extent we so value them that it keeps us tight-lipped about what most animates and comforts us we hoard what is not worth keeping.

You may not suffer violence, or see your property pillaged, or lose your life. But in keeping with the shape of the sacrifices our brethren in harm’s way are forced to make, our connection to them, if not our support for them, can come in the form of a self-denial that gives public voice–to be sure with “gentleness and respect”–to Him whose both speech and silence served to honor His Father.

Fear is likely what most keeps us holding onto what needs to be rationed. But as Robinson put it, “Fear is not a Christian habit of mind.” Sunday’s text gives us two postures and one motive we need for the sake of witness. We’ll come to the Table, and we’ll need the Table. See you Sunday.

 

rationbook

 

We mentioned last week how some of our newly-commissioned Mercy Cohort would be heading to Ft. Worth for a conference on Mercy. Here’s Kevin Gladding’s summary their time.

Mercy Cohort first class 2015In advance of CtK’s formal recognition of the Mercy Cohort, three of its members – Wanda Williams, Glen Machlan, and Kevin Gladding – attended a “mercy conference.” Hosted by the PCA’s Mission to North America (MNA), this conference offered a variety of workshops that addressed how the church might engage God’s world with the intention of displaying and disseminating His mercy. These workshops covered a wide range of issues, from prison ministries to refugee ministries and challenged churches to consider how God is calling them to respond. The 3 CtK folk who attended have returned with a host of notes and printed materials from the different ministries that presented. So if you have questions or want to know more, they would be happy to answer questions or expound upon what they learned. What remains true for them and for the rest of the MC is their excitement in being part of this ministry of mercy in and through CtK. Please pray for them and for the MC as they begin this inaugural season and as they assess how they and CtK might best fulfill God’s call to be faithfully present by being mercifully present.

MercyCohortLogo

There’s always new items on the community bulletin board on The City site for CtK. Prayer requests, a W2W Prayer Brunch, a weekend drama, and even a word about Advent. Being spread out over vast distances, it takes everything we’ve got to keep in touch and be present to one another. The City is one way we do that.

city

 

and it wouldn’t be Reformation Sunday if we didn’t reprise that now (in)famous ode to overturning encrusted and erroneous encyclicals:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Patrick

Pastor of Christ the King Church (PCA)

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