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Posts Tagged ‘God Bless America’

“Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

“Asking God to Bless America”

We believe God has blessed America.  We ask God to bless America.  But what is blessing?  A good definition of blessing is “the authoritative pronouncement of God’s favour.”  As priest and pastor of this parish, I bless my people every Sunday.  But that does not mean that Holy Ghost power shoots forth from my fingers into the souls of those sitting in these pews.  I do not possess superpowers, much less holy superpowers.  However, I can authoritatively pronounce God’s favour unto his people.  Unmerited favour of God, the grace of God, comes from God alone.  I do not have deep wells and caverns of God’s grace stored inside of me waiting to pour forth upon the blessed company of all faithful people.  I cannot dig deep or pull grace from the ether to splash upon God’s elect.

And neither can anybody else.  A blessing must come from the one who blesses, and no one can produce God’s favor except for the Lord Almighty.  Although I am authorized by Christ’s Body the Church to give God’s blessing, it does not come from me.  My authority is bound to faithfulness in Christ.  That is, if you come to me planning to commit murder, and ask me to bless your planned assassination, then any blessing I give will only be my own, for I cannot pronounce the blessing of Almighty God upon something which he expressly condemns in his Holy Scriptures.

If we think this all the way through, we might find ourselves getting a bit uncomfortable.  If blessings only come from God, and if only things which conform to God’s revelation to us can be blessed, then what do we think we are doing when we ask God to bless America?

Listen to what that great man, commanding general, Founding Father, and first president George Washington said about God and our country:

“I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

“The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained.”  God’s blessing cannot be expected on a country that ignores what “rules of order and right” God has established.

Isaiah said in the first lesson:  “The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.”  God will keep in perfect peace the nation whose mind is focused on him, which trusts in him, which follows the way of righteousness.  And God is the judge of this – “thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.”

God blesses that which conforms itself to God.  God blesses the man and the woman who come together in holy matrimony according to the way which he has blessed.  God blesses the state which punishes the guilty and protects the innocent.  God blesses the businessman who practices Godly virtues in his conduct of business.

You can only get wet if you stand out in the rain.  Hiding under a shelter won’t get you wet.  You have got to go out where the water is, for in the things of God, you can’t bring the water to you.  You cannot bring God’s blessing to you, for God is stronger than you.  You must acknowledge your weakness and humbly go to God.  He is pouring out his grace every single day, and he wants you to get soaking wet with his blessing.  But you must stop fighting against God and follow him in the ways which he has blessed.

Now this is where I get uncomfortable, for I love America.  My ancestors crossed this river into Georgia over two hundred years ago, after the Revolution.  I love America for the freedom I have to preach the Gospel, to live in peace with my wife, to associate with those whom I want, to speak freely, and generally to practice virtue unmolested.  I love America for the vast beautiful lands, communities of loving and generous people, and the beacon of hope she is to so many foreigners who have not had the opportunity to live in freedom and justice in their own lands.

But I am concerned about America when I consider freedom and justice in our land.  We can argue and debate about the state of the nation until the cows come home, but God only blesses those who follow “the way of righteousness”.

We think that America is the city on a hill, a new Israel, a country blessed from the start by our Lord God Almighty.  But there have been many nations in the long, long history of man.  They have their ups and downs.  Many have been wiped off the map.  We have been a blessed nation; it is true.  But we do not deserve God’s blessing.  God gives his blessing to those who follow him.  And to continue to be blessed by God, we must continue to follow him.

In Washington’s words, “there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness;”  If we wish to remain happy, we must, as nation, keep exercising virtue and turn away from vice.  We must embrace righteousness, and turn away from wickedness.  We must embrace justice, and turn away from injustice.

My dear friends in God, I ask you today if you as a citizen of this country help our country exercise Godly virtue, or do you impede it?  Do you obey the law?  Do you pay your taxes?  Do you encourage others in virtue?  Do you treat your neighbor justly?  Do you vote and participate in your social and civic duties so that you build up and not tear down?  Do you pray for our country, for justice, and for our government officials?

It is easy to bemoan the sad state to which things have fallen.  It is also easy to live our lives wrapped up in our own business, ignoring the world around us.  But the Lord calls us not only to behave ourselves but to take responsibility for our neighbors.  Loving our neighbors is not only a spiritual duty but a civic one as well.  If we want our neighbor’s grandchildren to grow old in the fair and free land which George Washington worked so very hard to win and build for us, we need to look after our nation and country as well as our own business.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a man asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of country did they have.  Franklin quipped:  “A Republic, if you can keep it.”

If you value this nation, then we must work and pray together so that we may keep it.

 

“Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength: The way of the just is uprightness: thou, most upright, dost weigh the path of the just.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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