Saturday, June 22, 2019

Year C, Pentecost 2, Galatians 3.23-29, Freedom

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans, the thirteenth chapter:
8 Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet"; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
Could it really be just that simple?
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
That’s it.  That simple.
Nothing else matters.  Nothing.

But,  .   .  .
We always feel compelled to put a “but” on the end of any statement of the Gospel.
It’s not enough that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
The Gospel message is about faith, a simple trust in the unconditional love of God—
Yet we say “but”.
The Gospel message is about God doing for us everything that needed to be done for our salvation—
Yet we say “but”.
The Gospel sets is free from the law, free to love God in response to his first loving us, free to act in loving ways regardless what anyone’s “law” says—
Yet we say “but”.
There are no “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” about it.
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
That’s it.  That simple.
Nothing else matters.  Nothing.
Yet we say but.
                People have to repent!!!
                People have to obey the law!!!
                People have to conform to a “biblical lifestyle”.
                We must be obedient!!!!

OK, take a deep breath.  Exhale slowly.
Now, just stop that.
There are no buts.
There are no ifs.
There are no ands.

God loves you.
Jesus gave his life for you.
The Holy Spirit has claimed you.

And you???
Just love as you have been loved.
"Love your neighbor as yourself."
Paul writes in Galatians 3:
23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.
If you must put a “but” at the end of the Gospel, this is the only “but” you can put.
Why all those laws in the Bible?
Because God gave us the law to act as a disciplinarian until such time as we matured in faith enough to live freely according to the Gospel.
God gave us the law, because some people simply are unwilling or incapable of doing the one thing we are to do, which is to "Love your neighbor as yourself."
If you have love in your heart you can do anything you want, for you will not desire to do any wrong to a neighbor.
But if we are not yet mature enough in our faith to simply do the ‘loving thing’, God will help us out.
The law then becomes our ‘how to’ manual.
Our teacher.
Our baby sitter.
For example:
The only requirement of marriage, really, is that you love your spouse.  Just love them.  That’s it.  And if you do that, everything will be just fine.
But sometimes we need help understanding what is loving, so we are given guidance.
Husbands, if you love your wives, you shall put the toilet seat down.
Now, me, I was a slow learner.  It took about 14 years of my wife screaming at me in the middle of the night for me to learn to put the dang toilet seat down.
Now that I’m more mature, I recognize without being screamed at, that putting the toilet seat down is a loving thing to do.
The Law is our teacher.
The Law is our baby sitter.
But the Law is not our Lord.

We do something else with the Law that is pure evil.
We use it to condemn other people.  In spite of Jesus telling us repeatedly not to judge others, we use the law to condemn.
We are commanded to love our neighbor, and instead we condemn them.
That’s evil.
What particularly makes that evil is that when I am prone to condemn, instead of love, it is usually people different from myself that I am most likely to condemn.
Paul writes:
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
We are different.
But those differences are to be celebrated, not condemned.
We are to welcome, not exclude.

I’ve had a dream over the course of the last few years.
Alcoholics Anonymous was incredibly important in my personal recovery from alcoholism, and I learned much there.
In AA the “only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking”.
I’d love to start a Church whose organizing principle is that the “only requirement for membership is a desire to be reconciled to God and one another.”
Or perhaps better, “the only requirement for membership is that we “love our neighbor as ourselves”.
It would be a place of gathering for all the misfits of the world like me. We’d make it a point to celebrate our weirdness.
It’d be a novel new idea if only Jesus hadn’t done it first.

That’s really what the Church is intended to be.
A gathering of all God’s children, bound together in love in spite of all their differences.
Quit worrying about who is right and who is wrong,
                About who is sinful and who is not,
And concern yourselves instead with the simple question “who is my neighbor?” and also then “how might I love them?”
It’s that simple.
A couple of days ago my brother Arden texted me a picture of a church back east that he’d seen.
It was of Bailey’s Island Union Church.
On the steps were a summary of the faith journey:
The first step was “Prepare”.
And then “Repent” was on the second.
Then “Believe, Redemption, Salvation, Praise, Do Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly, and finally Eternal Life.”
OK, so that’s someone’s summary of the faith journey, the steps we take.
But what I got a huge kick out of was that at the top of the stairway leading to this church, there were two doors.  One set of doors off to the right.  One set of doors off to the left.
Likely in the old days, women entered on one side, men on the other.
That to me, was a humorous summary of our struggle as Christians.
We all agree that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
We all agree that we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
And we all agree that we are to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”.
But the devil’s in the details.
We disagree about the nature of God’s love.
We disagree about how we are to love God and how we are to love our neighbor.
And then we end up divided.
“Just quit that!” is the word for today. 
Just love one another.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
All of you, not some of you, but “all of you” are one in Christ Jesus. 
Let it be so.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Year C, Holy Trinity, Psalm 8, This Holy Place

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Psalm 24:1 & 2
 The earth is the Lord 's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.

Exodus 3:4-6
When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Holy Ground.
Sacred Space.
And God’s own creation.
Growing up as a child I experienced a sense of awe and and appreciation for the holy in a couple of ways.  And for that I can thank my father.
There were two places that were holy.
The first was the sanctuary.
From my earliest years, Dad was a pastor and we lived near the church.  What that meant for me was that the church was an extension of our home.  And more so than most, I spent time there.
I was drawn to the chancel area of the sanctuary.
As a young boy I would imagine myself a pastor, and lead worship there in the solitude of the sanctuary, even learning how to chant the liturgy as I grew in years.
There was a sense of the Holy, the Divine Presence, and a reverent awe for this sacred space.
Most of all, there was a sense that God was present in this space.
I think we’ve lost some of that reverence and sense of the sacred, holy places in our lives.
The second place that was holy to me growing up was the great outdoors, the creation in which we lived.
One of the things my dad did was to get us out into the creation.
All of our family vacations were spent on the boat he had built for us.  The most epic of which was when Mom and Dad took us to Jackson Hole where we spent a few weeks on the boat at Colter Bay.  I remember cruising around Jackson Lake and being in awe of the shear grandeur of God’s creation from the mountain peaks to the west, to the moose crossing the water immediately behind our boat as we moved about the lake.
Another adventure that I remember was a camping trip Dad took my older brother and me on, up into the Cloudy Peak Wilderness area in the Bighorn Mountains.
Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.
I will remember to my dying day the beauty of the star lit night in the wilderness, where with no light pollution from the earth, the stars seemed to burst to life in a spectacular show.
From Psalm 8 we read:
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars you have set in their courses, what are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them, human beings that you should care for them?
Looking up at the moon and the stars, there were two things that overwhelmed me.
First, how great and expansive this universe is in which we lived, and second, how incredibly small we are.
But most important was a sense of God’s presence.
One of the things Dad taught us was that when we visited such places, we were to leave it better than we found it.
That meant that not only were we expected to “pack in and pack out” all of our provisions, but we were expected to clean up anything left behind by others.
We stood in awe of the world God had created.
And we were taught to be responsible for caring for that world.
Those lessons have stayed with me over the course of my life.
Psalm 8 goes on to say:
“Yet you have made them little less than divine; with glory and honor you crown them. You have made them rule over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet: all flocks and cattle, even the wild beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and whatever passes along the paths of the sea.”
In Genesis it is written:
"Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."
And also:
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.
We are to be stewards of the creation, first of all, because it is God’s creation.  The earth is the Lord 's and all that is in it.”
And secondly, more than any other creature, we have the capacity to care for or destroy this creation in which we make our home.
What does it mean to be stewards of God’s creation?
I’ve spent a lot of time in farming communities.  And much of what I’ve learned about stewardship of creation I learned from these farmers.  And I’d add, that my father grew up on a farm and it was the lessons he learned on the farm that shaped his own teaching of us.
Of all the things I learned from these farmers, one statement stands out above all others:
“If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.”
A second conviction that many of these farmers had was that they were stewards of God’s good earth, and like my Dad taught us out in the wilderness, there was an obligation that many of these farmers felt to not only care for the land, but to improve it and leave it to future generations better than they received it.
But caring for creation is complex.
Two words epitomize the complexity of this caring for creation in the farming communities.
And Environmentalist.
All of them considered themselves to be conservationists, caring for and protecting the land on which they farmed.
At the same time, they tended to view environmentalists in a negative light.
To them, an environmentalist was a person from New York or California who was trying to regulate how they cared for the land on which they lived in Eastern Montana.  And no, those farmers and ranchers in Eastern Montana and the western Dakotas are not interested in recreating a massive grassland with free ranging Bison, again.
But the issues are complex.
One example of the complexity of issues they deal with is regarding ‘no till’ farming practices.
When the land is tilled, wind erosion depletes the top soil.  In order to conserve the top soil, many farmers have adopted ‘no till’ farming.
But because they are no longer controlling the weeds by tilling the soil, they must use herbicides like Round-Up.  And as is the case with almost all chemicals like this, there are tradeoffs and dangers.
In many cases these chemicals are harmful to the farmers themselves, causing things like cancer, and some of them are harmful to the environment.
For example, it was reported recently that traces of these cancer causing chemicals have been found in Cheerios. 
We find ourselves faced with those dilemmas time and time again as we seek to care for creation.
I grew up along the Mighty Missouri and one of the things we were proud of was the ‘clean energy’ generated by the massive hydroelectric dams.  I did a science fair project about that as a youth.
Now that those dams are nearing a hundred years old we are learning that there is a long term impact of those dams on the environment.  They are not as environmentally ‘clean’ as they were advertised to be.
Likewise, my daughter and her boyfriend just recently bought a Tesla car, an all electric vehicle.  They bought it for two reasons:  First because they like the environmental advantages of not burning fossil fuels, and second, there is also a tremendous cost savings over gasoline.  It cost Zac only a dollar and a few cents to commute to and from Post Falls from Sandpoint.
On the other hand, Brita also posted an article documenting some of the environment damage being done in order to produce the batteries that are required by these cars and other battery powered equipment and tools.
There are no easy answers it seems.
We will make some mistakes.
But as people of God, we are called to seek to make faithful choices, informed by two truths.
First, The earth is the Lord 's and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
and established it on the rivers.
This is Holy Ground on which we stand.
It is a Sacred Place, for it is the work of God’s hands.
And second, that we have been entrusted with the care of this creation.  Caring for creation means that we will seek to hand it on to future generations better than we first received it.
Sometimes caring for creation will mean massive changes in how we do things, such as converting from coal to wind and solar energy.
At other times, caring for creation may be as simple as using recyclable grocery bags as opposed to plastic.
Whatever choices we make, we should make them with a sense of reverence for the creation we live in as God’s creation, and we shouldn’t ‘bite the hand that feeds us’.  Take care of the land, and it will take care of you.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Year C, Pentecost, John 14.8-27 Blow, Spirit, Blow

The Gospel According to St. John, the 14th Chapter.
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.
15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?" 23 Jesus answered him, "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
The Gospel of the Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen

Last week I preached on Jesus’ prayer in John 17, and what was so important to him that he would pray about it with his disciples at that time, just hours before his crucifixion.
I talked about how we as Christians have argued and fought over many things we thought to be so important.
But in the end, in his prayer, “Jesus didn't care about bacon. Or even theology or sin.
He prayed that we might be one, even as he and the Father are one.
Love makes that possible.”
Well the response to that message on-line has been interesting to say the least.
As of yesterday morning, the sermon had been sent to over 750 people in our community.
Of those people, 209 “engaged” the message.
87 “liked” the message.
25 “loved” it.
12 shared it with their friends.
And 3 were angry about it.
Actually, based on the 23 comments, there were more upset by the message than that.
The strongest objection that was voiced was that they felt that sin, judgment, and repentance needed to be emphasized a lot more.
One person commented:
“The Real God is all about love and forgiveness. He gave his only begotten Son to show it!” John 14:6.
In response another said:
“He's also about judgment. The judgment of sin. All sin.”
Yet another person said:
“Wrong Wrong ..Catholic doctrine is not touchy and feely..”
To which I responded:
“According to John, Jesus did three things during the last meal with his disciples. 1). Washed their feet. 2). Gave them a new commandment “to love one another even as I have first loved you. And 3) prayed that they may be one, as he and the Father are one.

Touchy feely Jesus. Or no Jesus.

The loving forgiving Jesus is all we got.”
The strongest reaction came from a man who claimed to be a “constitutionalist”, i.e part of a radical fringe political group, who declared that before there could be unity in Christ a civil war needed to be fought in this nation.  He went on to say that the 600,000 that died in our nation’s first civil war would be like a drop in the bucket compared with how many would die in the next.
So there you have it.
Many people absolutely loved the message on Christian  unity.
Some were angered by it.
And this man was willing to kill millions of people in a civil war as a means of achieving it.
John understands the message of the Gospel to be about love, pure and simple.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  John 3:16
John shares Jesus’ words “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."  John 12:32
In John we receive the new commandment Jesus gives to us:
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34-35
Last week we heard these words from Jesus’ prayer in John:
20 "I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  John 17:20-21
And the Gospel concludes with Jesus asking Peter if he loves him, three times.
Touchy, feely, Jesus indeed.
But that’s the only Jesus we have.
And he’s clearly about love.
And yet there are many who simply do not like this message of love. 
In response to all of this I shared on Facebook that The saddest thing about some Christians, I think, is the deep conviction they have that someone needs to be condemned.

No. God doesn’t have to do that.
In fact, God could simply love the world.
Imagine that.  Imagine a God who so loved the world that he would die rather than condemn it.
Imagine that.
Today is Pentecost.  We celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is by God’s Spirit that all things were created, in fact the Spirit of God is the very breath of life.
As the Psalm says:  You send forth your Spirit, and they are created.
God’s Spirit creates not only life, but faith.  And through faith, love.  And through love, perfect  obedience for ‘love is the fulfillment of the law.’
This is the work of the Spirit.
Paul writes about the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians, the 13th Chapter:
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
The Spirit creates faith.
The Spirit gives us hope.
And by the power of the Holy Spirit we are loved, and love.
I can already imagine the responses I will get when I post this message online.
What about sin and obedience? 
As one person said last week:
 “Sounds like hyper grace without judgement; "just love everyone" ...repent.”
Going back to Jesus’ words in the 3rd Chapter of John:
"Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
So let me put it this way:
God loves the world.  Everything.  Everyone.  Period.
And what is sin?
Well, if the commandment is “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another”
Then it follows that sin is to reject the love that God has for us, and both to fail to love our neighbor, and to refuse to accept the love that our neighbor shows to us.
The condemnation is that love flows so freely and graciously to us, BUT, rather than live in the light and in love, we choose to remain in the darkness, condemned to hate not love, which is its own punishment. 
I wish above all else that I could get everyone to see this.
But alas, that is above my pay grade.
Faith, hope, and love are gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that people can live in faith and trust the God of love.
It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can embrace the hope that is ours because of the love that God has showered upon us.
And it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can experience the love that God has for us, and that we can love God in return.
May God’s Spirit fill your hearts with this faith, this hope, and this love.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Year C, Easter 7, John 17.20-26, One

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
Pay attention to what is said on the thresholds of life, when people are standing at the door, preparing to leave.  Pay attention for it is there, at the threshold, that people cut to the chase and say that which is most important.
For Jesus, that threshold moment came in Jerusalem just prior to his crucifixion as he poured out his heart in prayer for his disciples.
What was it that Jesus prayed about as a matter of highest importance?
Judging from the history of the Christian Church, you might conclude that any number of issues were matters of highest importance.
Christians fought with each other over various issues from the beginning.
And we haven’t stopped fighting two thousand years later.
The first divisive issue Christians fought over was whether Christians must be Jews.  Two issues symbolized that fight:  circumcision and adherence to the Jewish law regarding issues such as keeping Kosher, or other matters covered by the Levitical law from the Old Testament.
Judging from the history, these concerns must have been quite important.
Jesus, on the other hand, didn’t concern himself with the question of whether Christians could eat bacon.  Or for that matter, whether they must be circumcised. 
If those issues were so important, you’d think he would have given his disciples clear instruction.  But alas, that wasn’t on his mind that last night in Jerusalem.
It took awhile, but the Church decided that Jewish Law was no longer binding on Christians.  We could eat bacon and shrimp with a clear conscience.
And Christians were to be baptized, not circumcised.
But this decision did not come without a long struggle.  Paul was constantly harassed by those people he called “Judaizers”, who were convinced that Jewish law and customs must prevail, and that Gentiles needed to become Jewish to be saved.
Paul won that battle.
But strangely enough, Jesus apparently didn’t care enough about it to weigh in on it.  And he certainly didn’t pray about bacon on his last night with his disciples.
Orthodoxy and Heresy.
Who was Jesus?
And what was his nature?
Was he the Son of God?  Was he God?
And was he a man?  If a man, was he JUST a man?
And how long had Jesus been.  When did he begin?  Was there a time when Jesus was not?
And if he was God, when did he become God?
Christians really fought over this.
Jesus does allude to his relationship with his Father in the prayer he offered on behalf of his disciples that last night.
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you.  .  .”
But he didn’t particularly care to answer the burning questions that would consume the Christian theologians and preachers for the next three hundred years, and which continue to divide Christians to this day.
After three hundred years of fighting, Christians finally adopted the Nicene Creed as the definition of the Christian faith.
But even that did not come without a fight, literally.  St. Nicholas punched Arius in the nose, right in the middle of the debate, and for that reason is remembered as the ‘defender of the faith’.  And yes, this is the St. Nick that became the precursor to our myth of Santa Claus. 
You’d think that if these theological issues were so important as to consume the Christian Church for three hundred years, Jesus might have said a word or two about them.  But he didn’t.
There are a lot of things Jesus didn’t address.
A lot of things that simply were not mentioned in his parting words with his disciples.
Jesus did give us the Great Commission before he ascended into heaven.  He told us to go baptize.
He didn’t tell us whether children should be baptized or just adults, and he never mentions whether we should baptize by immersion or by sprinkling. 
But the fact that Jesus never cared enough to clarify these things hasn’t stopped us from fighting about them and disagreeing with one another.
That’s a biggy.
In Jesus’ day the single greatest political issue was whether to fight for Jewish independence from the Roman Empire.  In fact, it was believed that the work of the Messiah was to do just that, and to re-establish the Kingdom of David in Jerusalem.
Jesus didn’t.
And he didn’t get into politics at all in his final words with the disciples.  He didn’t talk about it.  He didn’t pray about it.
In a few short hours he would stand before both King Herod and  Pontius Pilate, yet politics was not on his mind.  “My Kingdom is not of this world” he would say.
Yet politics has often been a matter of great concern and division within the Church.
Today, Christians are divided, to say the least.
Is Jesus a Democrat?
Is Jesus a Republican?
Or perhaps an Independent?
Actually, given that all he talked about was the “Kingdom of God” one might conclude that he wasn’t keen on democracy at all.
But that hasn’t prevented us from invoking Jesus’ name in support of our politics. 
Funny thing.  Jesus didn’t mention politics in his final prayer with his disciples.  It wasn’t that important.  Amazingly, he didn’t even mention the “Kingdom of God”.
What is sinful.
What is not.
Sin and Righteousness.  Those seem like very important issues.  In fact, much of the teaching about Jesus over the course of history has emphasized this above all else.
Jesus came to save us from our sins.
If that’s the sum total of the Gospel message, you’d have thought Jesus would have emphasized this a lot in his final prayer with his disciples that night in the upper room.
He didn’t.
Doesn’t mention sin at all.
His teaching on sin was incredibly simple.
Love God.  Love your neighbor.
That’s it.
Yet based on our preoccupation with sin you’d think that was all Jesus was about.
Yet, when Jesus prayed for his disciples on that last night he never mentions sin or righteousness.
OK, enough of this already.
The bottom line is that though there are many things that have seemed important to us throughout the ages, there was only one thing that was important enough to Jesus that he would devote his final prayer with his disciples to it.
"I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
That we might be one.
That was the most important thing on Jesus heart that night.
That is what he prayed for.
He didn’t spend his last minutes with us talking about circumcision or eating bacon.
He didn’t elaborate on matters of Christian doctrine.
He didn’t tell us how or when to baptize.
He didn’t join one of our political parties.
He didn’t even concern himself with matters of sin and righteousness.

He prayed that we might be one, even as he and the Father are one.
That’s what he cared about.
He didn’t want us to fight with one another.
He did want us to love each other, as the Father loves us.
We have fought over many things, and yet, Jesus desired only one thing, that we might be one even as he and the Father are one.
One of the most disheartening things for me about posting sermons on line and reading the comments that are offered there is how often people condemn other Christians.
It’s one thing when an individual objected to my post because he was a Satanist and didn’t believe at all in Christianity.  Yeah, I can understand that.
What is disheartening is how condemning Christians are of one another.
Maintaining our unity in Christ is the greatest single challenge the Christian Church has faced over the entirety of the two thousand years since Jesus.
That is why he prayed about it.
He knew it would be that difficult.
My prayer is that we might understand it to be that important.