Whose Kingdom, Which Lord? Jesus and Nationalism, part 1

The next several posts are going to be in the form of a written sermon.  I have never spoken this sermon but figured I would use the blog to get the text out there.  It will be broken up into five posts over the coming week.

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I want to invite you to turn in a bible to Luke chapter 2.  This is one of our primary texts that we will be looking at together this morning.  But before we jump into the Scriptures, I want to put an image on the screen to begin stirring up our imaginations.

Image Credit: Jon McNaughton Fine Art (Click image for source)

This is a picture that has made a lot of buzz on the Internet.  An artist named Jon McNaughton painted it.  As you can see, the focal point of the picture is Jesus who is holding the US Constitution in one hand and pointing to it with the other.

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I can imagine that there are several of you here this morning that see this picture as exactly what our country needs to remember, that Jesus must be the center of everything we do as a nation.  I want to commend this kind of first impression, for if our desire is anything less that putting Jesus in the center, then we miss the point of living.  Jesus must be central in all we do.

However, I also think that there is a second kind of reaction that is also appropriate for a first impression.  Some of us in this room see this picture with a bit of suspicion.  You may be like me.  You love the fact that you live in a nation that has given you opportunities to experience freedom and privilege in ways that the rest of the world does not get to enjoy.  However, you might be a bit concerned about an image like this that seems to link Jesus so closely with our national identity. For this kind of reaction (and especially if someone is originally from another country), this image may beg an important question: Does Jesus play favorites when it comes to the kingdoms of this world? This question has become more important in modern times as we truly have become a globalized world.  To take this question a step further, today we need to also ask: How does government and faith interact in the New Testament and what implications should this have on our lives as citizens of the Kingdom of God?  Who’s Kingdom and Which Lord ought to receive our allegiance?

PART TWO COMING TOMORROW MORNING…

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Kurt Willems is an Anabaptist writer and pastor who is preparing for church planting next year by finishing work towards a Master of Divinity degree at Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary.  He writes at: the Pangea Blog and is also on Twitter and Facebook

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About the Author

Kurt Willems

Kurt WillemsKurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is the founding pastor of Pangea Communities - a movement of peace, justice, & hope. The church plant, in partnership with the Brethren in Christ and Urban Expression, is based in Seattle, Wa. Kurt writes at The Pangea Blog and is also on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.View all posts by Kurt Willems →

  • http://www.fivedills.com Greg Dill

    I believe this image invokes a union of church and state when there should be a clear separation of the two for a variety of reasons. Namely, to prevent the intermingling of faith and politics. Sadly, as a result of this intermingling, Evangelical Christianity in America has become more known for it’s right-wing politics than a Christ-centered faith on mission to serve and love those around them. Furthermore, this intermingling of faith and state has evolved into patriotism, nationalism, and American exceptionalism… idols that many Evangelicals (including me) have bowed at their altars. This, I believe is an anomaly found only in America. Perhaps the most disappointing thing that I have found with this intermingling of state and faith is the heightened support for military conflict. The biggest supporters of our military are Evangelical Christians who beat their war drums the minute a conflict begins to brew somewhere in the world. In conclusion, I believe this intermingling of faith and politics has resulted in a complete misunderstanding of New Testament teaching and has become a very poor witness to the goodness, the love, the grace, and compassion of Jesus Christ.

    • Questioning

      Amen

      • Macroman

        Greg you of one of the few that have come to this realization in my experience.  Most evangelical Christians in the US believe that the hyper nationalism exists in all countries.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    Where does one start with this image? Several friends and I have critiqued this picture in any number of ways, from its view of civil religion to the displacement of pacifist Martin Luther King (whom the artist wanted to draw but couldn’t get the rights to) with a black soldier.

    But now I can’t help but notice some other grievous errors. Jesus being the center of attention points away to the US Constitution as if to say that it should really be the center of attention. And amongst the great cloud of witnesses to the glory of the USC? Slaves. Slaves who were made slaves for generations because of that very document.

    • Jennifer A. Nolan

      Great comment Jas!!

      But I’m wondering: who owns the copyright on the image of Martin Luther King?!!

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