Support and Defend the Constitution

Just over 26 years, 5 presidents and 14 congresses ago, I raised my right hand and swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. The martial aspects of “support and defend” are obvious. The Army is prepared to use military force at the direction of constitutional authorities to protect the nation.

Soldiers, however, are not the only people who promise to support and defend the Constitution. Federal civilian employees take essentially the same oath as military officers. The oath for both is prescribed by 5 U.S.C. §3331. Apart from the use of armed force, what does “support and defend” mean?  Here is how I interpret it in my setting:

I will, to the best of my ability, accomplish the missions given me by the chain of command headed by the lawfully elected President of the United States, the constitutional Commander in Chief of the Army, in a manner consistent with the orders, regulations and policies established by those in command over me, under the authority of acts of Congress signed into law by the President, determined to be lawful and consistent with the Constitution by the Supreme Court of the United States.

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Hometown Boy

Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.

Luke 4:21‑30

Two thousand years ago, Nazareth was a small village in the hills of Galilee, with a population of a few hundred at most. Everyone knew everyone else, and the citizens of Nazareth were excited about their hometown hero.  Jesus, the son of Joseph and Mary, had performed miracles in the nearby lake-side village of Capernaum. He cast out demons. He healed the sick. And, amazingly, he gave sermons that didn’t bore people.

The people of Nazareth were ecstatic. “If he would do that for the people of Capernaum, just think what he’ll do for us. This is his hometown. We’re his kin. We’re his neighbors. We’ve known Joseph’s family forever. We watched this kid grow up.”

Moreover, Jesus’ speech in Nazareth’s own synagogue had really raised the town’s expectations. He said that said that God was in the process of fulfilling Isaiah’s ancient prophecies. There would be freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, release for the oppressed and good news for the poor. God was using Jesus to do great things, so the people of Nazareth had a reason to be excited!

The Jesus of Nazareth’s imagination always puts his hometown first. “So sorry, every other town, I can’t leave now. There are more sick people to heal here in Nazareth, and you know, this IS my home town.” At least that’s how the people of his hometown expected him to act. Much to the disappointment of his kith and kin, Jesus didn’t make the people of Nazareth his first priority.

If Jesus had waited to solve every problem in Nazareth before he left home, we would have never heard of him. He would have never left!

As in every town, human needs in Nazareth never ended. Life and death went on. Aging, disease and accidents took their toll. The innocent suffered in countless ways. Bread needed to be put on the table. Broken relationships needed mending. There was always another miracle to perform or another prophetic word to announce.

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If the Lord had Not Revealed His Glory

Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. Matthew 2:2

The Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Isaiah 60:2-3

What is God doing in the story of the magi? The Father is revealing the glory of his beloved Son to the nations. This is the gospel – the good news – for all of us who are not by birth members of Abraham’s family.

If the Lord had not revealed his glory to the nations, I would still be worshipping stones, statues, spirits or stars.

If the Lord had not revealed his glory to the nations, I would still be looking down my nose at those backward, narrow-minded, anti-social monotheists from Judea.

If the Lord had not revealed his glory to the nations, I would still be trapped in sin, idolatry and ignorance.

If the Lord had not revealed his glory to the nations, I would still be cut off from God’s people, bereft of the joy of the gospel and without a sure foundation for living.

In describing the gospel for the Gentiles, the Apostle Paul writes:

Remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:12-13

The gospel of Matthew begins with account of the magi, the story of Zoroastrian astrologers drawn by a star to honor the infant Jesus with gold and frankincense. It concludes with Jesus, risen from the dead, commanding his church to make disciples from all the ethne – the nations – the Gentiles – the non-Jewish people groups of the world.

From the beginning to the end, the gospel is the story of the God of Israel drawing the people of the nations to Jesus and his church. If he had not done so, I would be lost.

Epiphany, 2017

Do You Expect to be Made Perfect in Love in this Life?

All the healing, provision and deliverance for which I now pray is just a brief preview of the great age to come when Jesus appears in power and majesty. Every manifestation of the kingdom in this age is temporary, local and incomplete.

So I recently wrote in Awaiting the Day. Does this apply as well to the Wesleyan doctrine of entire sanctification? In my mind, it does.

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Awaiting the Day

This body we commit to the ground, awaiting the day when our Lord Jesus Christ shall appear in power and majesty. The earth and the sea shall give up their dead, and those who sleep in the Lord shall rise in the glory of their redeemer.

Last month I stood beside the grave of my mother-in-law and pronounced these words, a paraphrase of language found in older versions of the Book of Common Prayer.

It seems to me all my prayers ought to express a similar thought, “awaiting the day.” Everything for which I pray in this age is but a shadow or a foretaste of the age to come.

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