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I need to go to Church

July 30, 2016

I’ve just finished two weeks of watching political conventions and the result is that I really need to go to church.  Each party in their own way outlined a vision for the future and while, politically, I lean more to one of them I found the tone and tactics of both to be hard to take.  Each candidate made our options clear.  It boils down to our need to chose:

  1. Apocalyptic horror, trials and tribulations, disaster for our country like it has never seen before, perhaps even the complete destruction of our country as we know it.

-or-

      2.  Them.

Donald Trump made this the clearest when he told us that he is the only one who can save us from the horror to come but Hillary Clinton, who always speaks like a lawyer, got the same point across in more nuanced terms.

Frankly, the only inspiring remark I heard from either party was when one speaker – and I will leave it to you to decide which speaker at which convention – challenged us to not be like “Those who say so much about what God says so little, while saying so little about what God says so much.”

So I need to go to church.  Not because my church alone is the one teaching me to vote my biblical principles, I suspect many will tell their people how to do that and they will frequently differ.  Not because I see church as some sort of Sabbath requirement.  But because I want the Word of God to wash over me and sink into me.

I am not foolish enough to think that I (or anyone else) come to the Bible as a blank slate.  Cultural or subcultural biases, other people’s opinions, even my own emotions and experiences, influence how I interpret the Bible.  As much as I want to see the Bible as straightforward in what it says and that, if I read it, I will easily able to determine its meaning, I know that is not true.   I (and everyone else) cannot escape allowing my deeply held beliefs on politics or race, or gender or sex or money to affect my interpretation.   Which is why I use the terms “wash over” and “sink in.”  This is not about careful exegesis; it is about letting the Bible cleanse me.

Here is the passage that I’ve chosen for this washing, Isaiah 58:3-14.  I am quoting from the CEV, although I’ve read it this morning in 7 other translations.  I am happy to say that the verses do not include the words Republican, Democrat or even evangelicals.

3 You wonder why the Lord pays no attention when you go without eating and act humble.  But on those same days that you give up eating, you think only of yourselves and abuse your workers.

4 You even get angry and ready to fight.  No wonder God won’t listen to your prayers!

5 Do you think the Lord wants you to give up eating and to act as humble as a bent-over bush?  Or to dress in sackcloth and sit in ashes?  Is this really what he wants on a day of worship?

6 I’ll tell you what it really means to worship the Lord.  Remove the chains of prisoners who are chained unjustly.  Free those who are abused!

7 Share your food with everyone who is hungry; share your home with the poor and homeless.  Give clothes to those in need; don’t turn away your relatives.

8 Then your light will shine like the dawning sun, and you will quickly be healed.  Your honesty will protect you as you advance, and the glory of the Lord will defend you from behind.

9 When you beg the Lord for help, he will answer, “Here I am!”  Don’t mistreat others or falsely accuse them or say something cruel. 

10 Give your food to the hungry and care for the homeless. Then your light will shine in the dark; your darkest hour will be like the noonday sun.

11 The Lord will always guide you and provide good things to eat when you are in the desert.  He will make you healthy.  You will be like a garden that has plenty of water or like a stream that never runs dry.

12 You will rebuild those houses left in ruins for years; you will be known as a builder and repairer of city walls and streets.

13 But first, you must start respecting the Sabbath as a joyful day of worship.   You must stop doing and saying whatever you please on this special day.

14 Then you will truly enjoy knowing the Lord.  He will let you rule from the highest mountains and bless you with the land of your ancestor Jacob.  The Lord has spoken!

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