Friday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 387

Return, O Israel, to the LORD, your God;
you have collapsed through your guilt.
Take with you words,
and return to the LORD;
Say to him, “Forgive all iniquity,
and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.
Assyria will not save us, nor shall we have horses to mount....

This passage from the Prophet Hosea inspired Gregory Norbet’s familiar song, Hosea, #672 in Breaking Bread, 2016.
The prophet urged his Israelite people, “Assyria will not save us!” In fact, Assyria eventually invaded and destroyed the nation. The people were deported and, unless you believe the LDS story, never heard from again.
In the political arena today I hear President Obama appealing to the American people not to respond in fear to the terrorists. He argues that we should stick to our principles. If we act in fear we become the enemy and terrorists will have succeeded. 

Our principles include freedom of religion, assembly, speech and the press. We include everyone regardless of race, national origin, religion or sexual identity. We believe in representative democracy. We need no kings, priests or tyrants to rule us. 
We believe that a “nation so conceived and so dedicated” must succeed; but a nation driven by fear will collapse. Frightened people do stupid things. They suffer a plague of demagogues, each struggling for power and unscrupulous in its maintenance. Our history and our literature from ancient Greece to modern times are filled with tragic stories of demagogues and tyrants.

I have no quarrel with the President but I have little confidence in principles. They are only standard operating procedures, ways to run a spiritual machine. I find no guarantee in religion or philosophy that a well-managed democracy must inevitably succeed. It’s an experiment, a beautiful one; and inspired by Christian principles; but not guaranteed.
Hosea urges us to turn back to God, “Take with you words and return to the Lord.” 

Our God is not a principle; our God is a Father who promises to guide us through difficult straits. He offers us principles to show us his governance is not arbitrary. They assure us that we don’t have to keep him happy as we might a dangerous or vindictive demagogue.
But we should never be so enamored of our principles as to think they stand in God’s place. That is the atheist’s fantasy. Rather, we turn to God for reassurance and relief and the extra help we certainly need. We cannot manage on our own, and our principles are poor excuses for protection when the enemy wields an AR-15.
With confidence in God, Christians adapt certain principles that seem to border on madness: “I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” Clearly, Jesus' idea of security is not America's. Christians face sickness, accidents, violence and death like everyone else; we meet opposition, suspicion and hostility. We may be imprisoned, tortured or put to death.
our recent MountFest
The scriptures and innumerable martyrs attest to these fearful threats. And they also assure us we shall know unimaginable confidence amid such difficulties. They have shown us that freedom is not freedom from fear but freedom to trust in God amid dreadful circumstances. The most free man we have ever known was nailed hand and foot to a cross. Even there he could not be persuaded to hate or fear. Even there he trusted in the inscrutable ways of his Abba.
We should love our nation. It is a grand experiment in democracy. It can never succeed; it can always fail. It must hover forever between those two poles, neither completely successful nor utterly defeated. 

(Come to think of it, we face the same ecological dilemma. So long as we populate this earth we will have to manage its resources of air, water and earth. If human beings survive another thousand years our experiment will be successful -- so far.)  

Christians were sent to the United States to support it by our faith in God, our responsiveness to changing times and circumstances, and our uncanny ability to face withering opposition cheerfully and fearlessly.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.