First Congregational Church
(United Church of Christ)
Greg Briggs,
Interim Pastor

101 State Street
Charlevoix, MI 49720
231-547-9122


Sermon – July 7, 2019

  1. Prayer and Introduction
    1. “May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight, our rock and redeemer. Amen”
    2. Sermon title Dual Citizenship
      1. Two flags flanking the chancel, US flag and church flag
      2. Having celebrated the 4th, it’s a civic holy day, if not a religious one
    3. they can help emphasize what is best about both
      1. Being a Michigander in college in fl.
        1. First time I thought about being from somewhere
      2. Start by naming the elephant and the donkey that’s in the room
        1. Some people get uncomfortable discussing politics in church
          1. I subscribe to discussing principals, not partisanship
        2. The argument against discussing what’s going on in our nation is not a Christian argument, but a misapplication of a US civil doctrine
          1. Arguing the separation of church and state in a religious setting – underlines that we are actually combining the two
          2. Otherwise the phrase wouldn’t matter in a church
        3. Nor do I seek to set one citizenship against one another
          1. Though, it is often tempting, as a Christian, to rail against the evils of the world. Conveniently ignoring the evils that have been done in the name of the church as well
        4. Better metaphor – two horses drawing a wagon
          1. need to work in harmony
        5. Both scriptures touch on this idea of dual citizenship
      3.  Gospel – light of the world – parallels
        1. Matthew 5:14-16 “14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”
        2. Synod – Shine –
          1. Reminder that faith radiates out of us – not just a feeling. Faith is a ‘doing’
          2. Modern expression: “act in such a manner that you are proof of a living God”
            1. Paraphrase of 1 Peter 2:12 MSGDon’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.”
          3. Beacon or city on the Hill
            1. Puritans’ name for Massachusetts Bay colony
            2. Predecessors of the Congregationalists,
          4. Statue of Liberty – beacon of freedom
            1. “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

  1. Luke reminds us that we need to check our eyesight
    1. We need to see clearly to be a beacon, or we slide into darkness
    2. Today’s story from 2 Kings gives us some pointers
  2. Journey of Naaman
    1. An example of this call to be a beacon, a shining example
      1. Don’t get distracted by unfamiliar places and units of money.
      2. Listen for the struggles and tensions in this story that still exist today
    2. Expectations of the powerful
      1. King of Aram – writes a letter
        1. King of Israel interprets to be a political trick
      2. Naaman expects ‘first class service’ from Elisha, who doesn’t even bother to see him himself.
  • Naaman erupts in anger over the cure, because it isn’t special enough, thinking his home rivers are better
  1. Expectations of the power are redirected by the unpowerful
    1. Naaman only hears of the cure due to the compassion of the captured Israelite woman
    2. The King of Israel is convinced by Elisha to just let Naaman come to him
  • Naaman’s servant convinces him to try it, reminding him he’d have done it if it were more difficult
  1. Differing expectations – lean into the good \ appreciative inquiry
  1. Afterword – continuing on with the story
    1. 15 He returned to the man of God with all his attendants. He came and stood before Elisha, saying, “Now I know for certain that there’s no God anywhere on earth except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant.”
    2. 16 But Elisha said, “I swear by the life of the Lord I serve that I won’t accept anything.”
    3. Naaman urged Elisha to accept something, but he still refused. 17 Then Naaman said, “If not, then let me, your servant, have two mule loads of earth. Your servant will never again offer entirely burned offerings or sacrifices to any other gods except the Lord. 18 But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master comes into Rimmon’s temple to bow down there and is leaning on my arm, I must also bow down in Rimmon’s temple. When I bow down in Rimmon’s temple, may the Lord forgive your servant for doing that.”
    4. 19 Elisha said to him, “Go in peace.”
  2. Elisha as a shining beacon
    1. Elisha, “acting such a manner that you are proof of a living God”
    2. Elisha – convinces King to send Naaman to him, but does not fall prey to worldly power
    3. Selfless service and compassion leads to church growth
      1. Many reasons to say no – both to healing and to incomplete worship afterward
    4. Benefit not measured by worldly standards – but serves as a beacon
    5. From Wikipedia “Christian theology depicts Naaman as an example for the will of God to save people who are considered by men as less than pious and unworthy of salvation.”
    6. “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the deserving and the undeserving poor.” ― Dorothy Day
    7. Or, more basically, we are called by Christ, as an essential part of our Christian faith to care for those in need. No ifs, ands, or buts.
  3. Afterward @ the Two citizenships of Naaman
    1. May be one the first places of tension between church and state –
      1. He’s willing to convert, but for political reasons he also has to continue with his king into the temple of Rimmon.
    2. Following Israelite God, but not the kingdom of Israel – a radical notion at that time
    3. He found a way to live up to both of his citizenships, albeit imperfectly
  4. Relevance for today
    1. Need to see clearly
      1. As Luke reminds us
      2. As Naaman had to set aside his ego and anger to be healed
    2. Our interim questions – especially “Who is God calling the church to be?”
      1. One answer that I’ve heard a few times is that God is calling this church to revitalize
      2. Another answer is that God is calling this church to be more in touch with the teachings of Jesus
    3. Both responses are put to the test in this situation
    4. How is this congregation a light to the world?
      1. How are you “acting in such a manner that you are proof of a living God”?
    5. Refugee Crisis at our Southern Border – and our policies making it into crimes against humanity
      1. If Naaman, a foe of Israel, who was literally capturing their people and making them slaves was worthy to be healed and welcomed into the faith, what about families being punished for simply looking for a safer life?
      2. And, it’s important to note, that through this healing of a foe, the church grew. Church growth happens when we are being the church
  • Not a tension between our two citizenships, church vs. state.
    1. Challenges in both being a Christian and an American
      1. Tension within both our citizenships
      2. US support for current administration’s policies in tension with best ideals of the country
    2. In our US citizenship, it is highlighting the difference between patriotism and nationalism
      1. A patriot works to make their country the best country it can be –
        1. ideals of freedom and welcome embodied in Statue of Liberty
      2. A nationalist tries to make their country more powerful than any other – harshness and demonization of the non-citizen
        1. Embodied in policies of family separation and militarization of the border instead of spending that money on aid
      3. In our Christian identity – it’s the same struggle that we’ve seen time and time again – the challenge of loving our neighbor
        1. Especially when we struggle to see ourselves in them
        2. And the struggle against apathy and numbness in the face of evil – the tendency to say ‘it’s not my problem’
  • Blessings of Dual citizenship
    1. Our dual citizenship helps us clarify what’s best in each other, what’s the core of being a citizen, and what are our assumptions
    2. Naaman expected pomp, due to his stature. He received what he needed. 
    3. His riches, which he put so much stock in, were rejected by Elisha. Healing from our God isn’t something to be purchased, like a business transaction.
    4. Both our faith and the ideal of our country call us to be a beacon, a light on the hill
    5. If the ideals of one of our home countries goes astray, the other can help us get back on track
    6. Neither Christians nor Americans have always been able to live up to their ideals
    7. As today’s gospel reading reminds us, The eyes of both have been bad
  • Beliefs of two citizenships
    1. I believe, as a US citizen, that there should be separation between church and state, especially that there should not be a state religion
    2. I believe, as a citizen of God’s kin-dom, that we are to be like Christ in this world.
    3. This doesn’t have to be a “Christian” nation to act as Christians are called to act.
    4. Whether your inspiration comes from civil or religious sources
      1. Huddled masses yearning to be free
      2. Love your neighbor as you love yourself
  • Conclusion
    1. Bonds of unity
    2. Communion
      1. Serving one another in the pews
    3. Passing the peace
      1. Wishing peace to those around you, whether you know them or not, are in full agreement with them or not.
      2. not about purity or rightness of belief – unity and peace is more important than doctrine

 

 

 

 

Readings

2 Kings 5:1-14 Common English Bible (CEB)

5 Naaman, a general for the king of Aram, was a great man and highly regarded by his master, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. This man was a mighty warrior, but he had a skin disease. Now Aramean raiding parties had gone out and captured a young girl from the land of Israel. She served Naaman’s wife.

She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master could come before the prophet who lives in Samaria. He would cure him of his skin disease.” So Naaman went and told his master what the young girl from the land of Israel had said.

Then Aram’s king said, “Go ahead. I will send a letter to Israel’s king.”

So Naaman left. He took along ten kikkars of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. He brought the letter to Israel’s king. It read, “Along with this letter I’m sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his skin disease.”

When the king of Israel read the letter, he ripped his clothes. He said, “What? Am I God to hand out death and life? But this king writes me, asking me to cure someone of his skin disease! You must realize that he wants to start a fight with me.”

When Elisha the man of God heard that Israel’s king had ripped his clothes, he sent word to the king: “Why did you rip your clothes? Let the man come to me. Then he’ll know that there’s a prophet in Israel.”

Naaman arrived with his horses and chariots. He stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent out a messenger who said, “Go and wash seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored and become clean.”

11 But Naaman went away in anger. He said, “I thought for sure that he’d come out, stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the bad spot, and cure the skin disease. 12 Aren’t the rivers in Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than all Israel’s waters? Couldn’t I wash in them and get clean?” So he turned away and proceeded to leave in anger.

13 Naaman’s servants came up to him and spoke to him: “Our father, if the prophet had told you to do something difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? All he said to you was, ‘Wash and become clean.’” 14 So Naaman went down and bathed in the Jordan seven times, just as the man of God had said. His skin was restored like that of a young boy, and he became clean.

 

Luke 11:33-36 Common English Bible (CEB)

33 “People don’t light a lamp and then put it in a closet or under a basket. Rather, they place the lamp on a lampstand so that those who enter the house can see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore, see to it that the light in you isn’t darkness. 36 If your whole body is full of light—with no part darkened—then it will be as full of light as when a lamp shines brightly on you.”