By The Rev. Thomas Nibbe
Sunday, June 6, 2021 @ 11:00 a.m.
THE SCRIPTURES FOR THIS SUNDAY plus one quote by President Abraham Lincoln
“…he will crush your head and you will strike his heel…”(Genesis 3:8-15)
“…O, Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lordis unfailing love and with Him is full redemption…”(Psalm 130:7)
“…we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen…”(2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1)
“…if a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannotstand…if a house is divided against itself, that house cannotstand…” (Mark 3:20-35)
“…when people who know nothing get control, all men will becreated equal, except for negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics…”(Abraham Lincoln)
Would you pray with me with this morning…?
Lord God, We once again give you praise, in thanksgiving, for your wonderful gifts provided daily with abundant love: shelter,transport, food, clothing, medicines, good books, fellowship, and opportunities to help others in their needs. We are trulygrateful. Still in the midst of pandemic, we are thankful you have brought us forth. Be with those who have suffered the loss of loved ones and those who have recovered from Covid. We pray for our world, our country, we pray for our state, and local communities. Guide us in our life in Christ Jesus and giveus desire to reach out to others and provide for their needs.In Jesus’ name.Amen.
Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus
Christ! Amen! May this be a day of great blessing for you!
Our Gospel lesson for this Sunday is from the third chapterof Mark’s gospel, wherein, Jesus says:
“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannotstand…if a house is divided against itself, that house cannotstand…”
Abraham Lincoln debated with Senator Stephen Douglas in 1858 over the choice prospective states of the Union would have if allowed to be slave states. I would’ve loved tohave been on hand for that series of seven debates in the State of Illinois. Lincoln eventually lost the election, but gained national attention for the first time. He had serveda term in congress. Opposing the Mexican War, he lost afterone term. He used the quote of Jesus in Mark 3:24-25 to make a point about the eventual outcome of the struggle over the expansion of slavery in the United States. The suggestion was that our country as known up to that time would be dissolved. Indeed, that almost happened, as aresult of the beginning of the American Civil War.
It’s little known that Abraham Lincoln read the Bible cover to cover a number of times, and, pretty much, knew the Bible well…well enough that studying his speeches as our president, wecan easily assume that his use of language and understandingof human interaction, and morality, and government are directlyinfluenced by the Bible…
That is as it should be.
Lincoln’s knowledge of the Bible influenced the course of hispresidency, without directly imposing religion on others. Thelesson we learn from history is that all too often through theyears, and the ages, whenever a regime combines religionand government there is always great trouble, ending up inpersecution, destruction, and disaster.
For that reason, a letter written to President Thomas Jefferson by the Danbury (Connecticut) Baptists in 1801-1802 seems soimportant in our understanding of the connection between our government and our faith concerns. The Congregationalists were giving the Baptists a rough time. It seemed the former group thought the Baptists didn’t belong in their state, and needed to go elsewhere, or simply, cease and desist.
Although Jefferson, at this particular time, was not really into faith concerns as he became later in life, he provided wisdom that still protects the way we express our faith, and yet, at the same time, doesn’t allow our government to prefer one kind of expression of faith to dominate all others. His answer to the Danbury Baptists as President of the United States provided the so-called doctrine of “Separation of Church and State”.It is not, as millions assume, a part of the U.S. Constitution.
It doesn’t mean, as many of my neighbors seem to think, that Church isn’t allowed to influence the thinking and believing of American government officials or its citizens. It makes the point of declaring that no particular religious group should directly control government or society, and yet, as President Lincoln did, powerfully and greatly, influence political decisions, bolster upsociety, and improve government…without controlling them.Faith should influence decisions made in government accordingto that presidential doctrine, and yet, not demand it…
For this reason, it’s extremely important to make that distinction.We can worship and practice our faith as we see fit to do so, and yet,not think, that others must be forced to believe as we do. At the sametime, President Jefferson wanted to encourage people of faith to makeessential contributions to society and government…that was their job!
But how does that affect an evangelical like myself. I want all personsto know Jesus. I’m not shy or ashamed to share His story of greatcompassion and salvation. The answer isn’t in “having leverage” overthose souls we desire to reach. I don’t want to have legislative or legalpower over them. What seems to be a direction for a person like me?
The answer is found in the verb infinitive, “to convince”.
One question is — Do others recognize Christ Jesus in my actions and
my words? Saint Francis said, “Preach Christ…and sometimes speakabout Him…” Be yourself as a human being…as a genuine person.
But…know your Scriptures.
What about worship on a regular basis to uplift the spirit within?
How many of us are in a good solid Bible study these days?
If you’re not, why not?Do you know your Bible as well as Abraham Lincoln did?
Another question is — Am I developing the skills to shareChrist Jesus naturally, so that, when appropriate, I can provide just precisely what other dear souls need to come to terms with sinful behavior, despair, guilt, shame, defeat in life, and regret? Do I need to become another Billy Graham? No. Be yourself.Everybody else is taken. When you take it to heart, you willdiscover the evangelist within…
Does a person have to appear “holier than thou”?
No. Be yourself.
A number of professional evangelists I am acquainted with need to discover the wisdom of the expression,
“You can catch more bears with honey than with vinegar…”
Develop the skill of being a delight to be with…
However, that’s not all…really get into worship and the Bible…
Sometimes, recurrently, I wonder about something. Abraham Lincoln once said,
“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother…”
What was it about Nancy Hanks Lincoln that caused herto name her son, “Abraham” instead of Thomas, after hisfather. I get the impression that she was very intelligentand deeply spiritual, though poorest of the poor, like Mary,the mother of Jesus. Did she sense somehow that her son would become “the father of a nation” like the Abraham ofthe Scriptures. Did that sense of destiny fuel the imaginationof young Abe…Why did Lincoln later on provide us with suchan amazing tribute to his mother? These thoughts have oftencaused me to ponder, and look forward to meeting Mrs. Lincolnin heaven. Perhaps she’ll have answers for me…
It also causes me to vision for those I love…my daughters…younger members of my family in former years…certainly the little ones and teens I have walked with and taught in the faith…We sometimes worry about them and the decisions they makepresently and will make along the way. Perhaps we can be partof God’s plan for those we care about by having the same frame of mind and heart as Nancy Lincoln had for her son, Abraham.Whatever that vision was, decidedly, it was there…and it worked.
We’re not called to run the show, Christian Church, but to providethe insight and wisdom to win the hearts and minds of those whorule and are governed. We have all the tools to live fully in God’s truth and to use the gifts the Lord has given us to trust in His mostperfect timing — and to know that — in the most dire, uncertain and scary moments, He is in control.