First Presbyterian Church’s Handbell Choir, directed by Cathy Ferrand Bullock, has become extremely popular in Cache Valley and has a reputation for excellence in a variety of music– religious, patriotic, classical, or show tunes. More than twenty ringers comprise the interfaith group, enjoying the challenging teamwork of playing five octaves of bells and chimes. Anyone is welcome to join when vacancies occur. The bell choir plays several times a year during worship services at the Church, as well as for Christmas programs at the Logan Tabernacle, and for other organizations.
October means many wonderful things in our lives. The beauty of red, yellow, and orange fall colors, and clear blue skies. Apple cider and early snowfalls at high elevations. Warm sunny days and cool nights. All of these things make me excited about the season.
October also means we are one month away from our upcoming elections. Presidential debates, campaign advertisements, and twenty-four hour news coverage of every minute detail down to what the candidates are eating for lunch (although somehow often still skipping the fact-checking…). I am not so excited about these things. Even with the beauty of autumn I feel this impending gloom that is associated with election season. I even feel lucky that we don’t live in a true swing state like Ohio or Florida, where we might have five times more of the political advertisements pushed in our faces.
Rather than political candidates, I am more concerned about the voices we don’t hear about on the nightly news.
Blessed are the poor… blessed are the hungry… blessed are those who mourn…
Jesus keeps going until those who are usually despised and excluded by society are also blessed. These words from the sermon on the mount resonate with us even today. These words were spoken by Jesus under the oppressive political power of the Roman Empire, one of the most powerful empires in history.
Upon further review, I wonder how meaningful these words of are for us Jesus today? I think they are meaningful for you and I, but what about our nation? Do we think of them when we are casting our votes?
We live as part of another of the world’s most powerful empires—the United States of America. As a nation what do we make of Jesus’ words? If there was a reenactment of the Sermon on the Mount on the television right after a presidential debate, would anyone tune in? Would it alter our thinking? Even if it rang true in our minds, would it alter our actions?
I don’t like to be alarmist—not one bit. But it is true that there are so many things going on in our world today that seem to be divisive. We have trouble understanding each other. We place labels on people based on the color of their skin or the place of worship or what their clothing looks like. We don’t even know how to engage in respectful political discourse. I’m as guilty of that as anyone. I cannot watch the award-winning political dramas on television because they reminds me too much of how broken our political systems are.
How do we try to fit the gospel back into our socio-political-economic empire?
Is there a danger when Christians have more in common with Empire than with the teachings of Jesus? Should we have closer ties to the gospel or the government?
In October I will be starting a sermon series titled Gospel and Empire, exploring this question in the areas of environmental justice, human rights and human dignity, social justice, and economic inequality. These are challenging things to preach about, and I’m just a little bit nervous getting ready for these sermons. But I think that’s a good thing. If the message of the gospel doesn’t make me at least a little bit uncomfortable, then maybe I’m missing the message.
I look forward to seeing you in worship in October.
Peace and grace to you all,