“IS IT GOD IN WHOM WE TRUST?”
Pentecost 4A, Proper 8, July 2, 2017
Genesis 22:1-14; Psalm 13; Romans 6:12-23; Matthew 10:40-42.
Abraham really trusted God, didn’t he? Aren’t you glad God hasn’t called on you to sacrifice your child as a test of how much you trust God? But still, the question remains: Do you trust God, really trust God? Do you think our nation trusts God, really trusts God? Psalm 73:28 (NKJV) reads: “It is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works” This is the weekend we celebrate our Nation’s Independence from Great Britain. We declared, because of the usurpations of power by King George, that we were no longer bound by that particular relationship; that we were morally bound to a greater allegiance to freedom, which God Almighty had given to all humans.
Our belief in this will of God was clearly spoken to in the Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776. Here are some words from the Preamble: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
The citizens who placed their “lives, liberty, and fortunes” on the line to give birth to this nation were neither irrational nor godless. They believed very much in a Creator, and Christianity was, indeed, the dominant religious practice in this new country. In 1853, these words were part of a Senate Judiciary Committee Report: “We are a Christian people … not because the law demands it, not to gain exclusive benefits or to avoid legal disabilities, but from choice and education; and in a land thus universally Christian, what is to be expected, what desired, but that we shall pay due regard to Christianity?”
With respect to the practice of religion the founders were determined to do one thing different than the model of Europe. In Europe countries had official state-sponsored denominations. If you were British you were bound to the Church of England; if you were Italian or French you were probably Roman Catholic. If you were German, you were Catholic or Lutheran, and so forth. Within national borders there was little tolerance for those who did not worship God according to the preferred State Church.
Our founding fathers determined that would not be the case in these new United States. There would be no national church. People would be free to worship God in any denomination they chose, or none. The government would neither establish a national church, nor stand in the way of people’s free choice of religion. They never intended, nor anticipated, the antagonism that exists today against trusting God.
Compared to the antagonism we see today, we get a glimpse into the original national mindset when we look at the words of our National Anthem. Wfritten by Francis Scott Key – a poet/lawyer – during the War of 1812. The British were attacking Baltimore. Key was held aboard a British warship. All night long the British bombarded Fort McHenry. Finally, at dawn on September 13, 1814, Key saw the most glorious sight imaginable. “By the dawn’s early light”, he saw the American flag still flying over the fort.
We are all familiar with the first verse of his song – we hear it at ball games, etc. It’s the second verse we seldom hear, but which gives insight into the American mindset regarding this nation and our Creator: O thus be it ever, when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war’s desolation! Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto, “In God is our Trust.” In the phrase, “In God is our Trust”, Key revealed, that in his day, there was awareness that God’s hand is upon us; that in Him should we trust. If we do things according to God’s standards, we will be blessed.
The truth is, we didn’t always live up to God’s standards of loving God and neighbor – Slavery is the prime example – but we knew we should always trust God. Thus, Francis Scott Key’s expression, “In God is our Trust” became what he hoped – the motto of our nation.
IN GOD WE TRUST, was placed on our coins largely because of the increased religious sentiment existing during the Civil War. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto. In a letter dated November 20, 1861, he wrote:
Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, prescribed the mottoes and devices that should be placed upon the coins of the United States.”
The first time “In God We Trust” appeared on our coins was in 1864 on the new two cent coin, and by 1909 it was included on most the other coins. During the height of the cold war, on July 11, 1955, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law 140 making it mandatory that all coinage and paper currency display the motto. The law included this language: “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper” to “remind all of us of this self-evident truth” that “as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail.” President Eisenhower also approved a joint resolution declaring “In God We Trust” as the national motto of the United States.
From this history of acknowledging our trust is in God, we have devolved in 62 years to our current national climate. In my lifetime I’ve witnessed the following:
* The Ten Commandments have come down from the walls of classrooms and Courthouses across the nation. They were not there to indoctrinate us but as a witness to basic standards God expects from us.
* Public prayer has been all but banned. I’m aware of the civil liberty reasons for banning prayer in school. The Government at large, and schools in particular, have gone from active belief in God to active discouragement against even mentioning God in the public arena.
* Christmas and Easter have become secular holidays with a hint of the religious / spiritual history behind them.
* We have become intimidated by the few who are legitimately offended by the mention of God to the point that we repress the desire of the majority to express their trust in God. Believers in God avoid mentioning God lest we offend someone who doesn’t believe in God.
* As a result of the loss of the “fear of God” in our culture and populace, atheism, paganism, new ageism, satanic worship, humanism, fatalism, materialism, eastern philosophies, and the loss of hope about life’s meaning have risen dramatically. 2016’s suicide rate was the highest in about 30 years. Could it be that a loss of relationship with God gives rise to an increased sense of helplessness that leads to thoughts of ‘death is the only way out’?
In this quest to be everything for everyone we are rapidly losing communion with our spiritual heritage. President John Adams wrote: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Proverbs 29:25 (NKJV), reads: “The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever puts his trust in the LORD shall be safe“.
Our government may no longer trust in God. Many of our populace may no longer trust in God. But that is no excuse for us not to trust in God!
We need to trust God the same way Abraham did – with everything we are and hold dear – even our children. We should have the attitude in us that Paul discussed in today’s Epistle: “… Offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.” (:13) We have the same commission upon us the early church had on them to go into a pagan world and make disciples for Jesus Christ. The question is, “do we trust Him” to be with us as He has been with Christians from other times and places?
In a world where materialism has failed; where the various gods of other lands and philosophies have failed, where belief in no god is failing, what can we do? I think the time is ripe for us to invite friends, neighbors, classmates, fellow workers, and casual acquaintances to give God another chance in their lives. Invite them to come to church: to look, examine, taste and see evidence that the Lord, He is good. This is not a time to be bashful, timid, or afraid to stand up for your faith in God – trust God! Psalm 13:5, teaches: “… I put my trust in your mercy; my heart is joyful because of your saving help.” We prayed at our opening collect: “Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Can we be one nation under God? It is up to us. Do you trust God, really trust God?