“In the same way, let your light shine before people, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 (NIV)
I was raised in a deeply Christian, pietistic home. We had daily prayer and devotion times. We memorized scripture. We sang hymns and Christian choruses. Prayer before each meal was a must. Worship on Sunday morning followed Sunday school, worship on Sunday night before youth group, prayer meeting on Wednesday (the mid-week service), and other opportunities for Christian growth and service shaped my early years.
I was also raised in what I thought was an apolitical home. Even though I remember seeing the “death count” on the evening news during the Vietnam war, I don’t remember open conversations about the war, political figures, social activism or much of pop culture. It wasn’t until much later that I began to question the point of origin of my assumptions that because JFK Catholic we was suspect, or that Johnson was bad and Nixon was good, or that Martin Luther King Jr. was up to no good. It must have oozed into me from the environment of my supposedly apolitical home.
Following college and seminary, I was ordained to be a “Minister of the Word and Sacrament” in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). My heart then as well as now was to share the good news of God’s love and grace with a world in need, invite people to follow Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, and to teach and preach from the Bible, God’s road map to direct people in lives that honored God. I believed then and still believe today that this is a noble and worthy calling.
As I ministered within my denomination I found others who felt an additional calling. Many of my colleagues were part of an activist faith. They took literally Jesus’ direction to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” They honored our founders who signed the Declaration of Independence and of whom King George of England said the American Revolution was “just a little Presbyterian revolt.” They walked with Martin Luther King Jr., against the injustice perpetrated against a portion of our nation who were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26, 27). They worked tirelessly against injustice and to see equal rights and human rights available for all people.
This pietistic Christian, raised in a supposedly apolitical home, found himself serving amongst activist Christians and feeling very uncomfortable. Over the years I have asked myself, Why? Why an activist faith? Why be a voice within the politics of a community, nation, the world? Why?
For me, I found the answer in The Lord’s Prayer. I know many of you know it. For those who don’t you might want to Google it. Siri knows it from her electronic memory. The prayer reminds us that it is not sports nor politics that should be Number One… “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” It reminds us of the true hope, the eternal hope that should be the focus of our lives… “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” And it reminds us where the focal point of God’s answers should be lived… “On earth as it is in heaven.” A vision of God’s eternity should direct our actions and attitudes today, especially in a democracy where we have the right and responsibility to act.
Now, this is a long way to get to my main point: It is not just women and men in the past who have prayed and lived this prayer. In our political season, fall 2018, there are many women and men who are living it. I am proud of all those who have taken the risk to step out of their comfort zones, expose themselves to political conversation, debate and critique, to serve our community with hopes that it might better reflect God’s kingdom. I am proud of members from the church I serve: Dennis, Rene, Kim, and Jason, who stepped up and offered themselves to serve. I am proud of those who have chosen to make their homes a place where God and God’s kingdom is honored and shapes the home and family. I am proud of those who have worked to make their businesses a place that reflects the truth and justice of God’s kingdom here on earth.
My hope is that the piety that shapes our souls and prepares us for our eternal home will build a passion that shapes our behaviors as we live in the here and now. “Thy Kingdom Come.” Amen.
Paul E. Hayden is a pastor with First Presbyterian Church.