We Worship and Serve God Alone

Dear Friends,

Last week was a difficult week for many of us as we watched the attack on the US Capitol. This happened on Wednesday, January 6th, the Day of Epiphany. Epiphany, a day that we remember the Light of Christ revealed and shining in our world, was instead marked by an event that was shameful, distressing, and violent, to say the least. It reminded me of the second part of Matthew’s Christmas/Epiphany story: Herod’s fear of Jesus, (the newborn king,) “and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt 2: 3).
 
Following the Magi’s visit, Herod realized his grip on power was slipping, which led him to order the slaughter of countless innocent babies in Bethlehem. Herod’s hope? To disrupt God’s reign and claim himself as the ultimate authority and power in the land. To be clear, I am not making a partisan statement. Nor am I comparing President Elect Joe Biden with Jesus. That would be just as inappropriate. I am, as a Christian pastor who tries to follow Jesus faithfully, speaking out against self-serving, violent action that not only goes against the way of “American democracy,” but most importantly, confuses where our ultimate allegiance belongs. We worship and serve God alone.

This past Sunday we remembered our baptism. We have been marked as God’s own in baptism and must lead a life worthy of our calling, in all humility, with gentleness, with patience and love. However, this does not mean quiet capitulation.

We cannot be silent in this time. The church must speak against idolatry and false gods. It must call out sin with an invitation to repentance. In other words, the church is called to be prophetic.

Theologian Walter Brueggemann said, “The prophetic tasks of the church are
✦ to tell the truth in a society that lives in illusion,
✦ grieve in a society that practices denial,
✦ and express hope in a society that lives in despair.”

Presbyterian pastor Carol Winfrey Gillette is a contemporary hymn writer. Below is a hymn text she wrote around election time, 2020. The tune is “Beach Spring” (#422 God, Whose Giving Knows No Ending). Join with me in speaking or singing this prayer as we go about the coming days and weeks.
 
God of Love, We’ve Known Division
1. God of love, we’ve known division 
and we’ve seen its awful cost.
We have struggled as a nation,
and there’s much that we have lost.
We have been a house divided
and, divided, we can’t stand.
May our nation be united;
give us peace throughout this land.
 
2. Turn us, Lord, from what divides us—
fear that drives us far apart,
greed that leads to great injustice,
racist ways that break your heart.
May we seek what brings together
hearts that bear each other’s pain,
care and mercy toward our neighbors,
love that welcomes strangers in.
 
3. May we all, in conversation,
speak the truth and listen well.
May we hear, across this nation,
stories others have to tell.
May we learn from other cultures
and be blessed by their world-view;
May we serve with one another
loving others, loving you.
 
4. You have challenged us to goodness;
you have shown a kinder way.
It’s your love that now inspires us
as we seek a better day.
May we end our harsh division;
may we stop the hate and fear.
Make us one, Lord, as a nation;
may we be united here.
 
Grace and peace, dear family of Christ.
 
Pastor Nancy
Rev. Dr. Nancy Jo Dederer,
Transitional Pastor