It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are indispensable supporters – President George Washington
In recent time, especially when I saw the videos of some innocent children in a cage, I was moved to tear and I have been praying more and doing some studies about America. How did America get to this low level? America was a wilderness in the 17th and 18th centuries, ‘there were few roads, no national postal system. Most of the population lived in villages untouched by newspapers or print media. The only books most colonists owned were the Bible and a few almanacs.’ Harry Stout, a professor at Yale University explained that, ‘… the most literate people in the history of the world, … get their ideas of self, of society, of corporate purpose – of what they are placed in the world to do..’ through the sermon. According to Stout, in colonial America, ‘the sermon was a message of extraordinary power. The average New Englander heard 7,000 sermons in a lifetime, about 15,000 hours of concentrated listening. There were no competing voices. It was a medium more influential than TV is today.’ The reflection is that sermons are a good missional reminder of history.
One of the sermons from the American Revolutionary War written and dated January 14, 1776 by the Rev John Rodgers, the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Greenwich Village from 1765 to 1811 provides a helpful understanding and glimpse into America of 1776. America of 1776 was a country at war and threatened with uncertainties. America of 1776 was full of young and brave men ready to fight for liberty for the new land with their blood. The words of Roger to these young men in 1776, ‘”Let a spirit of patriotism fire your breath” points to the revolutionary commitment of ordinary people for a common community. The Fourth of July and the American Revolution were not mainly political and economic events, but as the founder John Adams put it, it was the Revolution that ‘began in the minds of the people.’ Their minds were ‘imbued with a complex understanding of biblical history and metaphor, and of the struggle of oppressed peoples for liberty.’
America of 1776 was a war camp full of volunteers from different parts of the world, and according to Rodgers, ‘many have already dressed themselves in military array and taken the field, choosing rather to risk their lives in the cause of liberty, than to resign their privilege and live in slavery.’ The church in America of 1776 with revolutionary language focused ‘on the nature of fear of the Lord’ that guarantee freedom for all. In death, Rogers reminded the volunteers ‘your memory will be dear to survivors, and you will be translated to the world where there never will be the scourge of war, nor the sad spectacle of garments soaked in blood.’ With a Spirit of 2018, the question is where is the memory of these America of 1776 patriots to their survivors? Are they among the children separated from their parents and put in cage? With a Spirit of 2018, where is the place of the church in America?
Preaching in the America of 1776 was to inspire, inform, reform and in touch with the need of the people through the lens of God’s Word. Example of preachers in the America of 1776 was Rodgers. His preaching coupled with his personal authenticity, confidence, and conviction was engaging. Preaching in the America of 1776 was transparent. Preachers like Rodgers were open and honest with a purpose that is redemptive, healing, and reconciling. Rodgers was very transparent and honest about the need and importance for a warring nation to have faith in God. To Rodgers, war, even if it is just, it is a product of ‘the corruption and depravity of human nature … nation has risen up against nation and kingdom against kingdom and desolation and ruin has been spread all around.’
The goal of preaching in the America of 1776 was to facilitate life-changing encounters with God. Preaching in America of 1776 was about sending sobering message to troops with focuses on biblical passages and need to make God their friend and serve His favour. Preachers, the grass-roots leaders of the Revolution and the America of 1776 ‘continued to preach the need for deep self-examination, redemption, rebirth, and freedom from sin,’ and this ‘closely identified the events leading to 1776 with the ongoing drama of God’s church and the fulfilment of a mission going back to the declaration of Puritan founder William Bradford: “We are the Lord’s free people.” America of 1776 was about the issue of spiritual destiny in contrast to the Spirit of 2018 on how to make America great again by building walls.
The beginning of the greatness of America in 1776 was ‘In God We Trust, ‘constitutional rights and political liberties were of secondary importance in the revolt against England.’ The reflection is that our understanding of our origins not only informs us, it has the potential to transform our sense of identity as a people. America of 1776, With a Spirit of 2018 invites us to look to the past not only to understand who we are but also to justify who we wish to become and what America mean to Americans. A deep reflection on the Spirit of 2018 suggests that America has derailed from the spiritual destiny that American founding and greatness was built upon. George Whitefield, an English evangelist and ‘perhaps the greatest extemporaneous orator’ and preacher in the history of the English church before his death in 1770 visited the colonies in 1738 ‘to show the thrust of the Awakening as formative of the American mind.’ American in 1776, With a Spirit of 2018 points us to the chief hindrances of true liberty which ‘is the oppression of men, who in service to evil deceive with untruth and impose falsehood in its place, proclaiming it to be true.’ America in 1776, With a Spirit of 2018 is about the past, present, and future of America birthed by God, blessed by God, and made great by God. America history is tons of testimonies of God’s miraculous power and intervention, hence let no man or woman take the place of God over America or forget histories highways filled with wreckage of nations that forgot God (Heb 2:3). HAPPY RENEWING INDEPENDENCE.