Our new president cast a Vision for America. It was of "America first." Of America protecting its people, its jobs, its prosperity - trade - deals, individually, with other nations.
The greatness of any country is its vision of itself. In its sense of who it is. Of what it is called to be. Of the reason for its existence.
Its most enduring sense is from above. The sense of being led by a heavenly hand. A sense of God's purpose for a nation's life. The sense of a gift given by God to be lived out for His people, and through them, for all people.
I come from a little band of Englishmen who felt compelled to live a life free from the restraints of the State Church and the State government. They thought of themselves as "God's free people." People made free by God's hand and Spirit to follow Jesus into fashioning a new community committed to living Jesus' life on earth - a life marked by love for each other and love for all people.
They crossed a forbidding ocean in a small ship - Mayflower, to make land on a shore they called Plimoth, intending to be people of light as Jesus said they should be ("You are the light of the world. Don't hide your light."). John Winthrop who followed them to Boston, quoted scripture, saying, "We are as a city set upon a hill, with the eyes of the world upon us."
They saw themselves as journeyers, pilgrims, shining for others as servants of the world - a nation serving all people by offering freedom to follow Christ alone, in a redemptive fellowship of healing and restoring and helping all who came to them to be whole - no longer broken, persecuted, or threatened. They would be a new community on earth.
Having a day being faithfully celebrated as "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day" in America, brings so much to mind and heart. These days are, of course, so we will remember important days and courageous people - especially those that continue to form us as a country, into being people like the folks of courage who gave their lives witnessing for truth, and right.
My great memory is of the phone call that came not long after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Edina Schools' Superintendent, Dr. Spencer Myers, said they were gathering the high school students and faculty together in the gymnasium the next day, and they didn't know what to say to them. "Could Arthur come to speak to us?" was their request.
They knew that Colonial Church cared about the kids of our community, and had preached peace and justice, and acted peace and justice in that tumultuous decade of so many tragic assassinations. They wanted a word of faith for their students, some message of hope and love.
I went, of course. It was an honor to go on such a day to speak hope and healing to the young generation of Americans.
I am sad to realize that they might not ask a minister to speak on such a day today. But they did then, praise God. And that is part of Edina's history, and my history, and maybe America's history.
Written on December 26
I've had four weeks of Christmas. The Church calls it Advent. The beginning of the Christian year. It is the season first, of waiting, of expectation. A time of mystery, of something within the air. A season of signals from heaven, telling what's about to happen on the earth.
It is the time of star-gazing, of guessing at the meaning of things, of wondering about what God's doing, what He has in mind for His world, and about what is the great plan being put together that will affect the world so profoundly.
We know and love the Baby story, the star story, the shepherd story. We love the host of angels and their message. And the shepherds' race to Bethlehem to "see this thing that has come to pass." We love the thought of "wise men" searching, and finally humbling themselves at the cradle in the barn in Bethlehem.
What we often don't let ourselves see is the deep mystery of this time. Not just the historic time of Jesus' birth two millenia ago, but this profoundly deep time of mystery that repeats itself every year. What we need to understand is that it IS a time of angels. It is a time of Jesus in His Holy Spirit, coming very close. The air is alive with His presence. the night is bright with His coming.
Just as I sat writing this, with a certain wonder in my own heart, my phone rang. A brilliant, intellectual friend of mine was calling to say he had encountered a minister in a Holy Spirit church in the city, who had picked him out of a small congregation, saying, "I want to pray for you. You are lucky to be alive." My friend knew it was true because he had recently survived a very threatening accident.
My friend wanted me to know. He had to tell something. Clearly, he was in the hands of the Spirit of God, being led, dealt with, touched, guided.
I believe that happens to all of us, often without our really knowing it.
We are much more visited people than we realize. And, the mystical season of Christmas, of our remembering Christ's coming, is in fact an annually repeated season of His actually coming to confront us, tap us on the shoulder, saying, "I am here with you, dealing with your life. Wake up. Look around, I am here."
Think about it, friend. About how true it is. And bless your remaining days of Christmas.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES
All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. . ."