I don't get to read Mercatornet.com very often. But my friends pass me things of interest occasionally that are a great encouragement. Good things come from surprising sources sometimes.
Recently a speech was quoted from the Attorney General of the United States about the need for religion in our national life.
He goes back to the founding fathers, acknowledging that they wisely understood humankind's penchant for selfishness. They took a traditional Christian view of human nature, understanding that while we had great potential for doing good, humans were also capable of evil. There needed to be some form of restraint. But, it should not be the government.
So, the Founders decided on a "great experiment." They would place their trust in the self-discipline of the people. They believed in the ability, in Madison's words, "of each of us to govern ourselves." Quoting John Adams, "our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other."
They put huge trust in the Americans as people of faith. They assumed Americans would be looking to Almighty God to guide them in their personal lives and in their national life.
It was a daring choice to make. They wanted the Church to have a voice in the market place of ideas, through the individual people.
They assumed a high calling to us all. They expected God to be a living factor in the lives of individual Americans.
These assumptions go back to the humble trust in God of the Pilgrim generation with their vision of America itself to be "a city on a hill with the eyes of the world upon us."
It was a large and faithful vision. It was articulated first by our Pilgrim ancestors and picked up again by the nation's later founding generation.
That is the call to us in our time, to reclaim that faith in God for our personal need and for the sake of our nation.
The real "New Year" seems clearly to me to be late September and early October. Because I find myself back in a new-old world, of many memories, of my own life divided by decades, of long-held cherished friendships, and the sudden awareness of people I'd come to love here in our senior residence, who've died in the course of the summer. Gentle people, old, kind people who worked hard to cheer others.
And I myself am a bit disoriented. My canoe is stored for the winter. I don't look up from my stern seat, stopped momentarily out by Pine River's mouth to gaze at the ranges of mountains that frame Ossipee Lake, all the way north to mighty Mt. Washington and its Presidential Range, and down along the eastern side our nearest Freedom Hills. There is no peace of the river that so welcomed, and settled, and healed me those 30 or so times I paddled those quiet miles this summer.
Sitting by the fireside with Molly and various others of our family those summer evenings of reading or quiet talk.
Suddenly now I listen to doctors telling me why my breath is short, and my swollen legs weep, and my INR blood count is erratic. There are reasons for everything. My doctor's had a baby, my eye guy is retiring after keeping me seeing these last 30 years. My new dermatologist, whom I really don't know yet, will zap the little pre-cancerous spots on my forehead. The front door valet at the Park-Nicollet Clinic gives me an assist. "Oh, it's all right ma'am, I've seen him here for years. I know Arthur. I'm Kenny."
I just have to get used to it all. To being 90, and feeling fragile, and not quite strong, and having to sort of feel my way in this somewhat strange new year.
When I'm occasionally still asked in public places, "Are you still Arthur?" the answer still is, "Yes."
"I'm Arthur, and I remember you, and I love you, sit down and talk." And, if no one comes along, I'll write a blog, like today, speaking up, out of my heart.
An evening or two ago, a white-haired long-retired college professor asked me if I'd seen lately my "biographer." "Not recently," I said, "but he's written to say he's begun writing."
That's a new experience for me. It would be quite exciting. I'll have to wait and see.. But, I think about it. Judd has written from Baltimore quoting a great German theologian of a century ago, who said, "In the beginning was the sermon."
So, my young friend is reading all my sermons of the two decades when he sat in the balcony at the "old Colonial," and heard them all, and realized they told the story. Perhaps we shall see.
So, the new year - so many years later - begins.
When church comes up, and the differing traditions that still exist in America, I try to answer that "I am a Pilgrim. I am of the Puritan tradition that saw temptations of a number of European traditions to gain influence and authority in society through linking their life with that of the government, until they became official, "State Churches." So today the state church of England is the Episcopal Church. Scotland's official church became those of Presbyterial order.
One group in England protested against state authority by declaring themselves "Independent," separate from the state church. They soon were persecuted and so held their gatherings as congregations in secret, in defiance of the state with its sheriffs and bishops.
In the early 1600s, they fled first to Holland and finally to America. Their "Puritan" branch stayed behind, hoping to purify the English church from within. The younger more radical group decided to separate themselves and follow their dream by heading in 1620 to the new world, there to work out, in freedom, their vision of a church ready to follow Christ alone, and become an example of people claiming freedom from state authority in order to obey "Christ alone." They believed if they met together asking Jesus to lead them that He would do that, and be their guide in all things.
They settled in Plimoth and built their first plantation there. Their compatriots found their lives untenable in England and so followed the separatists to "New" England and founded the Puritan Colony of Boston.
The Pilgrims of Plimoth decided to write a Covenant by which they would live together by faith, in freedom. Each of their churches fashioned their own covenant, stating, "We covenant with the Lord, and one with another, declaring to live together as two or three gathered together in Jesus' name according as He is pleased to reveal Himself unto us in His blessed word of truth."
Our church in Edina committed back in 1946 to live together in the way, following Jesus, and gathering themselves together periodically in "Church Meeting," trusting Jesus to keep His promise to be with them and guide them.
The sign of Jesus' presence and leadership, was the degree to which they were able to achieve or come almost to unanimity. That enabled the earlier generations to report of their church meeting, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us."
There are wonderful joys in living together, following Jesus, and finding His presence near, and His guidance alone, and right, and good.
But, in these fast moving days it is easy to grow impatient with the Church Meeting, and to want to take shortcuts in decision making, and to dispense with a process that involves all the people together, and say "let's have a few wise and faithful people make the decisions - let's not have boards and committees. Let's have staff and our council do the deciding."
It may seem more efficient, but actually many people who want to work for the church, who want to undertake projects, and meet needs, and witness to the wonders of life with Jesus, can feel cut off, left out of the joy of serving that really calls them.
People want to be sent out, want to be under orders to serve, want to be workers for the Kingdom. Let them out with their visions rising, and their call consistent. Open the doors and "go into all the world, and preach the Gospel, and heal the sick, and announce the Kingdom." It's time.
Love you all.
At mid-morning today I answered a firm knock on our door. Molly had left for a doctor's appointment. I was not really dressed, and struggling with shirt cuff buttons in the bathroom.
I opened the door in my underwear. The unexpected visitor was one of the young Home Care people Medicare was providing. I was standing there in my underwear, confessing my surprise, my unpreparedness, and worse - the fact that I had forgotten she would be coming today at all.
Confusion is exactly what they were looking for, and I played right into it. I was soon pelted with questions of what day and month it was, did I know where I was, followed by brief memory tests.
The young woman was gracious and forgiving. We got through the interview, ending with me taking a trial run down the hall, seeing if I could push a wheelchair in a straight line before me. Was I out of breath? Light-headed? I was nervous, out of breath, and quickly exhausted.
Like most Americans, I wanted to be in control, surprisingly fit, and well on the road to recovery.
The reality was I'd been through a weakening week in hospital, with pneumonia, sepsis, and an illness I must respect, faced with a battle I must fight very carefully, with frequent rests, and above all, a willingness to honestly admit my weakness.
The battle for health demands setting aside foolish pride, taking every help that is offered, and the acknowledgement that it will be a long way back. That what I had experienced was major, a narrow brush with life's last breath. I must pay attention. I must be faithful enough to be humble. To let my nearest and dearest in life help me. And, of all things trust in the Lord to Whom I had long given my life.
It was a new kind of struggle. My body had borne a whole set of complicated things. I could only win by losing. By laying aside self-serving defenses and justification, and flinging myself upon the One Who loves me, Who gave me life, and would show me how to recover it.
I had to think differently about myself, about who I am, and about my strength. Paul said, "In my weakness is my strength." Lord, give me eyes to see that. To cling to You, and follow You in this time of uncertainty and debilitation.
So, relief comes. Peace is there. I am ready to face this strange, unexpected, and overtaking challenge.
How I need your prayers. How we all need to be praying for each other. "I pray for you every morning, Arthur," my hairdresser said after she cut my hair today. "Seriously?" Oh yes. Let's be serious together about the deepest things of the journey with Jesus.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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