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Sunday, July 02, 2006
FORGETTING what we never really knew
9 prayers
breath pleading
humiliating independence.
Constitutional spirit
humanizing words,
making submission's
Teaching power
kneeling at
Love's altar,
on trees,
days before history.

This is my annual 4th of July poem, which I write in church during the sermon which usually salutes the president more than anything else. (the sermon not the poem) now for you RED SCARE readers out there, resist the easy temptation to construe my comments as anti-American and claim the audacity to attend to their potentially prophetic tones or at least muster the grace to dismiss them as fodder.

As for the sermon today-- it was pretty good actually, finding a fair balance. My post is not reflective of the sermon at all-- my poem, on the other hand, is.

Anyhow-- I wrote these lines during the sermon as a way of helping me think it through. The 9 prayers-- not part of the sermon at all, but something on my mind and heart a lot of late. We have 9 recorded prayers of Jesus. I am stunned that I have tried to learn to pray for a good 300 years now and am only finally digging into the actual recorded prayers of God. Stupefying really. Were you aware of this? Can you recall all of them? Have they significantly shaped your praying. . . . your life? Anyhow-- more on that later.

This church and state thing colliding around the 4th of July has me riled a bit. It's one thing to "pray for our troops" and quite another to demonize the enemies of the United States in the name of Christ. There's just such an unsophisticated "jihad" spirit brewing in so many churches across this land. I can guarantee it-- more churches made more of the 4th of July, the state holiday commemorating the birthday of the U.S.A., than they did of Pentecost-- the sacred feast day commemorating the birthday of the Church.

I wonder how many churches prayed today for the Iraqi family who were (allegedly) savagely murdered by United States soldiers after they gang-raped the fifteen year old daughter. initial reports say they premeditated the whole horrific affair for a week prior. If it is true-- and at this point we certainly can't assume it is-- I simply cannot imagine anything worse. Is this act representative of the United States Armed Forces? absolutely not. Does this act represent the United States Armed Forces and every citizen of the country? absolutely. I have a friend, Major General William Caldwell, who is the Commanding Officer of the whole operation in Iraq right now. He's a good man. I will be praying for him in the coming days-- and for the Iraqi people-- who must find this whole thing impossible to sort out.

In closing. Our two oldest, David and Mary kathryn, emerged from their Sunday School class proudly waving American Flags they crafted from construction paper. It neither surprised nor disappointed me. However, upon being asked about what they learned today, David replied, "it was about the 4th of July, but there was nutin about Jesus. . . . . nutin."

Sadly, this increasingly summarizes the great story of America. The big question: will the church abandon her story for this one?


posted by John David Walt | at 7/02/2006 06:36:00 PM



Blogger Amie Lou said...

We had a new seminary couple in church this morning. During our discussion the guy mentioned to me how patriotic my church seemed. And he was right, the bulletin was full of God and Country - isk hymns and everybody was wearing their colors. I must confess that it made me a little uneasy until I realized that my pastor chose not to "jump ship" as it were in mid colossians where we have been going through the last month or so. So, we prayed for our troops -but the sermon was not changed for the holiday.

I don't know - holidays are so tough. I completely see your frustration, especially about how Americans are demonizing the enemies of the US in the name of Christ. Maybe it is my years as a non christian, or the countless episodes of the Daily Show but, this characteristic is what distastes me the most about our faith.

8:04 PM EDT  
Blogger Michel said...

Happily I put one prayer for America at the beginning of the service and then preached on Jeremiah. We sang one hymn about the holiday... it was "This is my Song."

Observe the verse one from UMH 437:

This is my song, O God of all the nations, a song of peace for lands afar and mine. This is my home the country where my heart is, here are my hopes, my dreams my holy shrine; but other hearts in other lands are beating, with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine."

10:56 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

nice michaelangelo-- jd

11:16 PM EDT  
Blogger Omar said...

John David,
You know how I feel and what I think.... and I think I will have some blogs in the next few days that will cement my demise. But either way, thanks for having the balls to say what most preachers in this country are either too ignorant of or too scared to actually say... that the church has sold itself for 30 pieces of silver to betray the way of the cross for the way of the flag.

11:32 PM EDT  
Anonymous JP said...

JD, I'm back online after getting situated at my new church...I've learned a lot about stringing ethernet cables in hot attics in July....another story for another time.

Is Major General Caldwell, stephanie's hubbie? (stephanie hudson, now caldwell?)

On the prayers of Jesus, it appears to me that they are all quite short, brief, as in only taking a few minutes at most to pray them. What would this say about our Christian guilt trip if we don't spend 30 minutes (insert whatever time here) in "quiet time", which I never really did understand. Seems to me that when Jesus prayed, he said what needed to be said and then moved on into living the prayer. Aren't we supposed to pray continually, which we can do throughout the day simply by acknowledging God's presence...that is possible isn't it? What do you think?

More on 4th of July than on Pentecost....safe bet to be sure. patriotic "sells." Are we becoming the very thing we say we are fighting against? I don't know, but I'm enjoying the exploration here at Farmstrong.

11:34 PM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

just making an observation - i'm quite sure the church is frustrated when some idiot televangelist does some ridiculous thing and we are all lumped into money-grubbing, sexually repressed, naive imbecils. i'm also pretty sure the military feels the same way. and i know i'm quite put off by the intimation that all churches have sold out to the flag. hear this for how it is intended...i don't disagree with much of what is being said here; but railing against what we don't like in a way that splatters crap on everything and everyone with the same color t-shirt isn't very responsible. it comes from anger and bitterness and unforgiveness in my experience. or else just the laziness of not letting complicated things be complicated.

9:15 AM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

hey jd, i always wanted to ask you if we got the 9 prayers right and what you thought of the diagram. well?

9:18 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

eli-- thanks for your comment. it helps me to wrestle more with the larger issue of "dissent" in general and my own motives in particular.

see Psalm 120. . . . . . . in this day and age we must, as God's people, recapture the art and craft of handling dissent. it was in fact the failure to provide hearing for "the dissent of the governed" that gave rise to the rebellious founding of America. (remember the Boston Tea Party and "no taxation without representation").

what is most needful in the face of dissent is not shame (i.e. allegations of anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and even lazyness-- albeit analogized to one'self) but empathy. . . . . deep empathic identification through the most spiritual form of listening.

sometimes dissent is funded by prophetic imagination. . . . . sometimes it is fueled by garden variety brokenness. Only Spirit powered discernment can tell the difference (of which you have tons). Only grace can create the context or room for true hearing. (see also Martina McBride, "Love's the only house big enough for all the pain in the world."

it is the rebuke of dissent that leads to terrorism (a.k.a. war).

i appreciate your sympathy with some of my thoughts, and yet it seems as though you have been offended to the point of issuing a mild rebuke. So I will apologize for the overstatement-- accept your assessment that exceptional cases do not create warrant for such blanket statements and offer no further justifications. (ok. . . . one more. . . . . in Texas they still cry "Remember the Alamo!" Though not analogous, in Iraq, I fear it will be, "Remember Abu Ghraib?!") ;-)

10:17 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

p.s. loved the diagram-- more analysis on it later

10:18 AM EDT  
Blogger gmw said...

I've got a theory that I hope isn't true b/c of the potential implications (that I don't want to be true):

The songs you sing the most passionately, boisterously, etc. are the ones associated with who/what you worship, with who/what you give the greatest allegiance and have put the most of your heart and soul into.

If that theory is true, I'm worried about the differences in the way some folks sing patriotic American songs vs. Christ's kingdom songs.

11:27 AM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

thanks for the response jd. my writing comes off much more frank than i mean it at times. i actually wasn't referring much to your post. and in what i directly refer to in omar's, it is not in his passionate dissent or ideas that i'm taken aback. it is the issue of "lumping." of course i agree with what you say that in one sense the actions of the few do not represent the whole, but that in one sense they do. i'm just saying let's not be the ones who refuse to see the complexities of how each is true. do some churches and parishioners worship country more than God in their actions - most cerainly. Do all - certainly not. So let's not say THE church has sold out to the flag. That was the basis of my comment...anti-lumping. let's make space for dissent, but let's be specific about that dissent.

12:35 PM EDT  
Blogger eli said...

now here is my public apology for typing differently than i would speak. the apology goes directly to omar...i'm sorry that i did exactly what i was complaining about. my experience in general has been that those who make sweeping statements that lump everyone together in some manner do so out of broken or hurt places. but then i lumped those who are doing so with those of my experience...see how easy this is. and so, i apologize. i read psalm 120, but what really made me want to write this is i read omar's recent blog entry. clearly omar isn't speaking from laziness in trying to consider the complexities. clearly omar, you have lived the complexities in ways i never will and i just spoke out of my ass without realizing it (sorry if anyone is offended by that). anyway, i apologize for the tone, but i will stand on saying this, let's be careful about the generalizations because it hurts those who are trying to lead a different way. i'll stop monopolizing your blog now, jd. omar...again, my apologies.

5:02 PM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

i'm feeling the farmstrong love now-- thanks eli.

5:14 PM EDT  
Anonymous Matt Purmort said...

JD THanks for the thoughts, and the balance and humility you bring. Before going to church Sunday I watched the Crystal Cathedrals celebration of the 4th. Complete with American flags and patriotic fanfare, PBS july 4th special had nothing on them. I went to church where only one passing mention of July fourth was made and the rest of the service was about God. It reminded me which Story I need more and which truly speeks to my deepest and truest self. My family arived in America in 1634 and founded the Boston Latin School Attended by Ben Franklin. America is deeply rooted in me, and I am greatful for the good things of my country, yet when I study God's story of redemption and Lord of All nations, Ammerica's best is like a dimly lit star, compared to dawning of the sun. The tragedy of the church for me isn't that is sells itself out, but rather, sells itself way too short. If only it could get a vision of the gospel that was larger than any nation tribe or people.

10:46 AM EDT  
Blogger JohnDeere said...

good stuff matt-- thanks for ringing in here. amazing story about your family.

finally to j.p.-- yes that is bill caldwell who married our friend stephanie hudson who is running the operation in iraq for the army at present. pray for him.

11:18 AM EDT  
Blogger ap said...

there are just some advantages to being a Canadian pastor in an American church. it never really clued in that i should say anything about the 4th of July. the worship leader agreed. i never thought anything of it all day.

8:58 AM EDT  

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