May 31, 2020 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Near the beginning of the lockdown in Indiana, we began praying this prayer at Matin every day:
Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage. Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will. Bless the United States of America with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action. Grant that we, who came from many nations with many different languages, may become a united people. Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in these troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
The prayer takes the promise of Pentecost and asks it be given to America. We ask that “we who came from many nations with many different languages” would become a united people. It is a good prayer at all times and it seemed rather fitting in the midst of the pandemic, but in light of this past week, it has suddenly become necessary and it has also become more obvious to me than ever before that what we are asking for is a miracle.
We ask for this miracle, that the US would be a united people, because we love our country and our neighbors. We can pray for this much in the way that we pray to be healed of our ailments, to have respectful children, or even that the Colts get into and win the Super Bowl. We ask for these things as dear children ask their dear Father, with boldness and confidence, because we are Baptized and washed in the Blood of the Lamb. God loves us in Christ. He has both commanded us to pray and promised to hear those prayers. We rightly lay our hearts bare in prayer without shame. We ask God to give us what we think we want, trusting that He knows best and will He will give that to us. We do not live on by the bare minimums or by our own devices. We live from God’s generosity. And because we are children of the King, we can, and we do, ask for anything: unicorns, 180s, America as just nation filled with brotherly love, united, worthy of the vision of our founding fathers.
This is our desire for ourselves and our neighbors. Maybe there are some ulterior motives. We don’t want to be brutalized by the police. We don’t want our stuff stolen. But those are side benefits. What we really want is not to be prosperous and live in luxury. We are not mainly concerned about our stuff or even our health and rights. We want to live quiet and peaceful lives in godliness and reverence. We want the Gospel to have free course and be preached to all our neighbors. We want them to join us, to be united to us in Christ, in love. That is what we are praying for.
If this happened, if God answered our prayer by making Americans truly united, if hatred and jealousy, oppression and injustice, abuse of power and racism, fake news and posturing, self-serving politics and calling a few Google searches “research” and bad science and shallow reading, was to all end, it would a great miracle and frankly, I don’t expect it. I pray for it. I want it. I know that God is capable of it. But I pray for it in the same way that I pray for my suffering granddaughter to be miraculously healed of Chickenpox in the twinkling of an eye or for my friend’s dead son to come back from the dead or for abortions to stop.
I pray for it because I am a Christian. I am unafraid to ask for miracles. I want my country to be a place of justice and equality and love. I want police and armies and taxes to be unnecessary. I want us to stand up for an ideal America that lives up to the hype and rhetoric. I love the Declaration of Independence. The Gettysburg Address and Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech can bring a tear to my eye. Those documents in line with God’s Law. They show His own vision for mankind and His willingness to endow men with true wisdom.
But I also ask God for this because I know about Pentecost. I know what He is capable of. I know how the Holy Spirit, sent by the Son, united people from all over the world not into a new nation but into a family. And in Christ, I have experienced it myself. In Christ, I am more than an American. I am more than the son of certain people, a white man, or even the product of my own choices and past. I belong to Jesus. In Jesus, I belong to you. And in Jesus, you belong to me. The blood of Jesus Christ runs deeper in us than DNA or history or political ideals. We are the Church. We are redeemed and defined by Christ. You are my mother and my brothers. You are my fathers and my sisters. You are my children and cousins and grandparents. This isn’t a fantasy. It is reality. The Holy Spirit creates unity. For God has made Jesus, who was crucified for our sins and raised again by the Father, to be both Lord and Christ.
I don’t know how to fix America or if it can be fixed. I know that even it is fixed and becomes a sort of paradise on earth, that it won’t last forever. This world is passing away. Thank God for that! We seek and expect a better country, a New Jerusalem. This world is passing aways. But our Redeemer lives. His Word endures forever. In the end, on that great and glorious day, we will stand upon the earth and see him with our own eyes. And we won’t stand there alone. We will stand together, with people from every tribe, nation, and language, with every color of skin known to man and every eye shape and every body type, with our brothers and sisters. It is fairly certain that white people will be a minority in heaven, but such ideas will be meaningless because we are one Church, with one Baptism, in one Lord.
We cannot trust princes or constitutions or history. We cannot trust my own ability to be good or to design an incorruptible form of government or make men behave. We trust God and His Word. We wait on the Lord. We can call upon Him. And everyone who calls upon Him will be saved. Here is a lasting foundation and true family.
Let us pray. Almighty God, You have given us this good land as our heritage. Grant that we remember Your generosity and constantly do Your will. Bless the United States of America with honest industry, truthful education, and an honorable way of life. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion, from pride and arrogance, and from every evil course of action. Grant that we, who came from many nations with many different languages, may become a united people. Support us in defending our liberties, and give those to whom we have entrusted the authority of government the spirit of wisdom, that there may be justice and peace in our land. When times are prosperous, may our hearts be thankful, and in these troubled times do not let our trust in You fail; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.