Jesus, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Independence Day

Fireworks began disturbing the evening hours over the past several days. Before we made the connection to early July 4th celebrations it sounded like someone unloading a moving van in the driveway. These pre-July 4th celebrations will likely turn into post-July 4th festivities with the weekend coming. The situation is magnified considering we live in an ex-rural area where there are pastures on three sides of our place.

My friend Alan Cross is re-reading about the Battle of Gettysburg.

Alan Cross I am deep into Civil War study and readings tonight and thinking about all of this with the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg happening today through Wednesday. The next best thing to going to Gettysburg for the commemoration is to take some time to refresh my memory and learn new things about the war. So, I read.

Ed Stetzer is Exchanging over Patriotic Worship.

U.S. pastors: If your service was driven more by America than by Jesus today, you need a new plan for next year.

Longtime friend Guy Rittger quotes Paul Craig Roberts wondering if anyone realizes the state of the State.

“Washington has proven conclusively that it has no respect for anyone’s human rights, that it has no respect for any country’s sovereignty, that it has no respect for any moral principles, especially those it most often mouths, and that it relies on coercion and violence alone. The rest of the world now knows who its enemy is.” – Paul Craig Roberts

I listened to an interview with Rob Bell. It was interesting to note that of all the subjects the provocateur raised, the one he noted that landed him in more hot water when he was a pastor at Mars Hill was the subject of American politics. Yes, that Rob Bell. The one who suggests love wins.

My brother could testify to such an incomprehensible reality. Questioning the conflation of Christianity with American Patriotism stirred the passions in his neck of the Christian woods more than any revival preacher had in the church’s history. Indeed, he has moved on.

If Martin Heidegger found the Apostle Paul insecure, a reference to Monday’s post, then the connection may lie in Paul’s willingness to challenge the givens, the powers of his day. Following Jesus would mean nothing less. The promise of the parousia, Jesus’ return, destabilized the project as it was a to-be-determined event. Uncertainty over the when of the parousia spread and we find the Apostle Peter’s attempt to calm his readers insecurity, “God is not slow concerning his promise . . ..”

Luke narrates the Story of Jesus and includes a turning point – he [Jesus] determined to go to Jerusalem. You may recall older translations – set his face like flint or set his face resolutely. (9:51) Step back for a moment and consider Jerusalem more than a destination city. Our normal habits of reading may limit the impact of Luke’s detail if we are not careful.

Jerusalem certainly referred to a place. But, it meant much more. The land represented a promise. The Temple represented dwelling. The Ark represented presence. And, the to-be-restored Throne of David represented reign. God’s promise. God’s place. God’s presence. God’s palace. By the time we reach Jesus’ day however, things had changed.

Relationally the religious features of the day served to keep the system intact. Think of Jesus’ instructive moment, “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” The structures in place kept people managing their lives by keeping the law/Law rather than being different people by loving God and neighbor. One wonders if we are not witness to repetition turned farce.

The political, social, cultural, and religious ingredients combined to form certain hostilities to Jesus and his message of Kingdom come near/here. Jerusalem then represented the seat, the center, for these coalescing forces that waged war against the very idea that God is with and for people. Jesus’ Story consistently challenged the givens, the status quo, a balance supported by Rome no less.

Most instances found Jesus chased about by those who would trap or hope to kill him. But, when we read that Jesus determined to go to Jerusalem, they would not need to look for him. He was coming for them. He was coming for them.

On his way he passed through Samaria. Any opponent of Jerusalem would be welcome in Samaria. Not so fast. Jesus may be opposed to the way the system and structure robbed people of hope and love. He was not however interested in a substitute system with Gerazim as its focal point. Luke reports that Jesus’ intention to disrupt life in Jerusalem, which may bring change, did not sit well in Samaria. Besides, Jesus had a conversation with a woman one time. He told her it was not this mountain or that one. We should have known.

It is at this point I am struck on the eve of our Independence Day celebrations. Consider the history of Christianity in America. I realize there is not one history but histories. For the sake of this piece, consider the religious thread captured by William Ames. His Errand in the Wilderness points to a hope to establish in the New World what had gone sour in the Old. A light would shine across the Pond, a City on a Hill. What had gone wrong there would be set right here.

The American Christian project aimed to supplant the State Church and demonstrate the proper relationship between Church and State. Not on that Continent but on this One. Reminiscent of, “Is it this mountain or that one?”

We battle worldviews wherein what seems more important are our views than the people who also inhabit the planet. I use planet because America is not the world. For too long we have thought there is a hedge of protection. God likes our way better than all others. It is as if Jesus stayed in Samaria. He found a Country system he could abide. Once there it would seem to give credence to the givens, the way of life, in that region over all others. And here we are.

Jesus did not stay in Samaria. Maybe we fear Jesus leaving our Samaria. For long we have believed we possess God. But God cannot be possessed unless we have made God our Object. And we have. We have objectified his Name on our currency and fear its removal. We considered our schools lost when in public to him we could not pray. We fear the loss of God but what God? Can God really be lost?

On to Jerusalem Jesus went, and wept. He wept that the elements found in the way the world was given kept people bound and blinded to the hope before them. He wept at what could be but they would not. He wept knowing that he came for them, for them. And maybe he wept knowing the only way to remove what binds, blinds, and holds human beings was to go to Jerusalem. Challenging the world as it was would mean death, his.

Heidegger considered enactment the substance of being Christian. Being Christian, a true believer, for Martin, is engagement with this life, in this world. If being God is not a Name on a currency, then Christian is not an adjective for a Country. Instead, it is for people whom in this Country, any Country, enact and engage the life and way of Jesus wherever they/we go. Failing to enact the life and way of Jesus in our own life is to be an unbeliever.

Maybe this is one way we could understand “being unto death.” If we enact the life and way of Jesus in the world it may indeed mean death, ours.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

1 comment on “Jesus, Jerusalem, Samaria, and Independence Day

  1. Guy Rittger says:

    Perhaps it is also a good time to reconsider the case of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his relationship to the German state during the Second World War. From the perspective of American Christians, Bonhoeffer’s resistance to the state, his unwillingness to be carried along, as a Christian, with nationalist, xenophobic sentiment – Gott mit uns – would be considered praiseworthy. But that is only because we are unable to recognize that the ethical and moral culpability of the United States differs only, perhaps, by degree from the same failures of the German state from 1936 to 1945. So, when a Dietrich Bonhoeffer arises in our own midst – Edward Snowden – we are quick to denounce him as a traitor and rush to defend the state whose evil he exposed and is resisting. This is, in short, the American exceptionalism that has been internalized, I would say, by the larger portion of American Christians and their clergy, who are willing to shape their own understanding of the demands of the Gospel so that it may fit comfortably within the constraints of this dominant ideology.

    The litmus test, for me, is whether anyone can truly imagine Jesus going on Fox News, MSNBC, CNN or any mainstream media outlet and defending the policies of the United States government as it wages endless war against “enemies” real, imagined or invented, killing, wounding and terrorizing hundreds of thousands of human beings in the process. I challenge any Christian to claim that Jesus would accept the premise of American exceptionalism and justify all the crimes committed in its efforts to preserve its global hegemony. So, if it can’t be done, then why live as if it was so?

    As I’ve said many times, it is my strong opinion that one cannot be a committed Christian and a patriotic American (or German, Frenchman, Spaniard, Italian, Argentinian, Samoan, etc.). The Gospel and nationalisms of any flavor are simply incompatible. You can’t love your neighbor and love the country that is killing him/her.

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