Local News: Jackson’s First Presbyterian Church will be hosting Vacation Bible School this summer from June 3 to June 7.This week’s bulletin provides helpful details: “’Soldiers of Christ’ is the theme for this year’s VBS. During the week of June 3 -7, we will put our armor on with Nicodemus, Joshua, Daniel, and Stephen.” First Pres. is still looking for teachers to volunteer for VBS, especially for the 3rd and 4th grade classes. The church is also needing toilet paper and empty milk cartons. For information about how to volunteer or to donate items for VBS, go to www.fpcjackson.org.
The first Thursday in May is the annual National Day of Prayer, which this year falls on May 2. Unfortunately, the National Day of Prayer has become a very politicized event in recent years. Some Christian radio stations, when discussing the day, spend more time talking about which politicians are for it or against it than talking about the purpose of prayer in the first place. The National Day of Prayer is not a time to overhaul America’s political process, advance conservatism, bash liberalism, or anything like that. It’s simply a time to pause and pray for God protection and blessing on our country.
One of the best things about the National Day of Prayer is how it unites churches that might not otherwise unite. Most communities that observe the day hold special events that are often attended by most, if not all, the local pastors in the community. Regardless of denomination, everyone sees the inherent benefit of praying to God for our nation.
Another trap Christian radio sometimes falls into is a doom and gloom mindset—“We better pray for our nation because it’s almost on the verge of utter collapse.” Yes, the Christian faith’s influence in our society is waning, compared to previous generations. Yes, more and more non-Christian belief systems are growing. Yes, people often no longer look to Christianity to frame their moral values. All of those things are true. But that doesn’t mean the church needs to get in “defensive” mode, acting as if our highest priority was our own survival.
The Church, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, exists for others. It doesn’t exist simply for its own sake or to advance its own interests. It doesn’t exist to exert “power” in society. It exists to be an example of God’s power, and of course God’s power is best demonstrated in our weakness and brokenness. As we pray for our nation, let us avoid the perennial trap of “Us vs. Them” thinking that is so easy to fall prey to.
Let’s not fall into politicizing this day. We all need prayer. If we’re inclined to think we don’t need it, then we certainly need it most of all. Let’s also not fall into making this day about puffing ourselves up, a sin that is extremely easy to fall into subconsciously. Let us not, in our prayers, set ourselves apart from others as if we had something within us that deserves God’s special favor. America is full of sinners, some of whom have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior, and some of whom haven’t. What distinguishes believers from unbelievers is Jesus, nothing about themselves.
A Prayer For Sound Government:
O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth. Lord, keep this nation under your care. To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties. Give grace to your servants, O Lord.
To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations. Give grace to your servants, O Lord. To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served. Give grace to your servants, O Lord. And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name. For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Amen.
—Book of Common Prayer, 1979, p.821