Updated: Mar 30
Thursday, March 16 in the 3rd week of Lent, 2023 To the Saints in San Carlos Today I am grateful for day two of sunshine. What a dark and rainy winter we have had. Apparently this on-again off-again rain pattern will resume tomorrow and continue through the weekend. Perhaps then will come some consistent sunlight. I'm ready. So it is as we journey through Lent, a time to bring our shortcomings to mind while looking forward to the glory of Easter. To help us on our way, let me quote some words a friend wrote recently: The apostle John writes, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). The world, John explains, is “condemned already” (v. 18). We all have sinned; we all fall short of the glory of God. People find different ways to do that, but whether through self-indulgence or through self-righteousness, we all are found guilty before our own consciences and before the judgment seat of Christ. Yet we are part of a “ministry of reconciliation,” announcing the possibility of forgiveness of sins and peace with God. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us,” Paul wrote. “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). Reconciliation and gratitude is our goal in this season, as always. Looking to our wider world, some folks have asked about ways of helping the people of the Ukraine as winter turns to spring and the war there drags on. The church always urges people to help. The United Church of Christ has a hand in helping people all over the world, inside the US and outside. Follow this link for information on how we are assisting Ukrainians: https://www.ucc.org/additional-ucc-aid-to-ukraine-refugees-to-be-sent-through-partners-in-four-countries-after-trip-to-region/ Just make a few more mouse clicks and you will find ways to help with so many other situations around the world. Here is the link to what the DOC is doing around in Ukraine and around the world: https://www.weekofcompassion.org/stories/category/ukraine In addition, here is some information from an independent scholar whom I trust: https://open.substack.com/pub/snyder/p/how-to-help-ukrainians-a-year-in?r=l4y4q&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=email
Here is last Sunday’s sermon:
3rd Sunday of Lent 2023
In terms of history, about this time of year, in March of 1923, ninety-four years ago, Time magazine was first published, founded by a young man named Henry Luce, who was born in China, the son of missionary parents. A rather brainy, yet snappy and popular news magazine, Time was shortly followed by Life magazine, which was mostly photographs and short human interest stories. But Life, the popular magazine, not Time, was the medium Henry Luce chose for the publication of his famous essay “The American Century,” which he published about this time of year in the winter of 1941, at the same time Harry Hopkins was visiting Great Brittan. He argued in this famous essay that not only should the United States enter World War II, but that we were already in it and should be. World leadership was not something we had particularly looked for, Luce argued, but it was something that had come to us and we had best accept world leadership as our lot in life, for our own good and that of the world.
“We know how lucky we are compared to all the rest of mankind. At least two-thirds of us are just plain rich compared to all the rest of the human family - rich in food, rich in clothes, rich in entertainment and amusement, rich in leisure, rich.
We are not in a war to defend American territory. We are in a war to defend and even to promote, encourage and incite democratic principles throughout the world.”
The son of missionaries, he knew how to sound like a missionary.
He wrote this at a time when interventionist and isolationist in America were at one another’s throats. To give you an idea of how high tempers were running, the bill creating the first peace-time draft had just passed the House of Representatives by one vote in the fall of 1940. The Speaker of the House, Representative Bankhead of Alabama, collapsed from the stress shortly after the debate and died. Think our political system is stressful now – well, it has been worse.
Back then, the winter of 1941, Henry Luce did not like President Roosevelt, but they were of one mind about the mission of America in the world. They agreed that America had had world leadership thrust upon her and had no choice but to lead. For the next four years, these two gentlemen and many others led America through rearmament, sneak attack, mobilization, deployment and victory. FDR’s inaugural address, just four years later, in the winter of 1945, was the briefest ever – five minutes. In it he enunciated his understanding of our duty and in conclusion added his own note of faith:
“We have learned that we cannot live alone, at peace; that our own well-being is dependent on the well-being of other nations far away.
We have learned to be citizens of the world, members of the human community.
We have learned the simple truth, as Emerson said, that "The only way to have a friend is to be one."
The Almighty God has blessed our land in many ways. He has given our people stout hearts and strong arms with which to strike mighty blows for freedom and truth. He has given to our country a faith which has become the hope of all peoples in an anguished world. So we pray to Him now for the vision to see our way clearly, to see the way that leads to a better life for ourselves and for all our fellow men, to the achievement of His will to peace on earth.”
How Biblical these words sounded then; and still today.
Henry Luce and Franklin Roosevelt agreed that our nation had been anointed like the kings and prophets of old to be a leader. How we, as Americans exercise our leadership in the years ahead is a work in progress. I offer no speculation on how to do it; merely state the obvious fact that we remain leaders and have thought of ourselves as such not just since that fateful winter of 1941, but from the very beginning.
Today’s lessons are about leadership, specifically the amazing way that God chooses to find the unlikeliest of leaders.
In today’s Old Testament lesson, we hear the familiar story of the prophet Samuel anointing David, the youngest and least likely member of the family of Jesse.
The Bible delights in surprises, surprising leaders, unlikely people being wise and virtuous and respectable people being foolish. A Samaritan, not an Israelite, saves the life of someone fallen by the roadside; Jesus heals the son of a Roman officer and shows love and mercy to any number of people from outside of the mainstream of respectable society.
Jesus literally appears out of nowhere. John does not recognize him by name or lineage, but recognizes the Spirit descending upon him and the rest is history. But there is more to it than that. He is recognized not just by John, but by thousands of other people who do not see the dove or the spirit – perhaps they do – so much as they see Jesus perform countless gifts of love and recognize him in the breaking of the bread, both during his earthly ministry and after he arose from the dead.
The Bible tells us about two kings today, King David and King Jesus, two very different kings, who exercised very different kinds of leadership. David was an inspirational leader at the beginning of his reign and we recognize him as the greatest of the kings of Israel.
We recognize Jesus as someone else entirely. We recognize Jesus not as earthly king but as servant leader. His leadership was not of this world, but yet was of this world. His leadership was not just for the American Century, but for all centuries. This is the paradox we ponder throughout the Christian year, but especially in Lent. Especially in Lent, we worship, we declare worthy, the suffering servant, the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, whose life and death puts our sufferings in perspective and makes of our lives not just a triumph, but an eternal victory.
And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The LORD has not chosen these." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all your sons here?" And he said, "There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and fetch him; for we will not sit down till he comes here." And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome.
And the LORD said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is he." Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, `After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.' I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness, "I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, `He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
- Pastor Richard Hyde Community Church of San Carlos https://www.facebook.com/communitychurchsancarlos/