The Rector’s Weekly Letter to the Congregation for May 31, 2020, Pentecost Sunday
Pledging Allegiance to Jesus Christ
The Ascension of Jesus Christ anchored the disciples in their faith. Although they had walked with him for three long years, although they had seen him perform miracles and heard him speak out-of-this-world messages, they still had strings of doubt in their hearts. They looked like fools to attach themselves to a street preacher who had no standing in society and who had no attachment whatsoever to the powers of the day, neither the Jewish fraternity nor the Roman occupiers. There must have been times when they wondered what profit they will get in all this following of this man who is making outrageous claims about himself. They once reminded him how they had left everything to follow him. He promised them positions in his kingdom which was not of this world.
Then came the day he was arrested. The disciples perhaps thought he couldn’t be apprehended. He would do something to outwit them, they mused. It wasn’t to be. He was brutally seized and taken away under heavy guard like a common criminal. The disciples fled to go as far away as possible from Jesus. Peter braved it. He followed, albeit from afar, the party taking Jesus, perhaps hoping that Jesus would somehow get away from his captors. It did not happen. Jesus was taken into the high priest’s courtyard for trial, and Peter was in attendance at the court although careful not to be spotted as a follower of the prisoner. No one knows what was going on in his mind. But we know that when people looked at him intently, they recognized him as a Jesus sympathizer and called him out on it. He vehemently denied that he had anything to do with Jesus. He did this three whole times. He was ashamed of himself for denying his master and went and cried bitterly.
The Bible tells that John also followed the party that took Jesus away. He had some clout with the high priest, so he was easily permitted into the high priest’s courtyard. He is the one who spoke for Peter to be allowed in also. No one knows what the two did nor where they went in the interim of Jesus being arraigned and the crucifixion. John attended the crucifixion and was charged by Jesus to take care of Mary, Jesus’ mother. Joseph, Mary’s husband, must have been dead by then.
The disciples joined the rest of public opinion in thinking that the Jesus phenomenon was over and the chapter closed when he was crucified. But they continued to meet and be together, perhaps because it was difficult for them to disperse all of a sudden after hanging out together for so long. The group would eventually disintegrate for sure but in stages until it would be no more. But then on the third day of crucifixion, Jesus rises from the dead. He appears to them a number of times. After 40 days, he charges them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria (even Samaria), and to the ends of the earth. After that, he is lifted up right before their eyes, rises into the air, and soars into the sky. They watch him as he goes until the clouds cover him and he couldn’t be seen anymore. The Bible doesn’t say whether he went up perpendicular to the ground or at an angle, say, 75 degrees, but he went.
The disciples were breathless, of course. They had seen him soar. No mere human could do that. He was real. Determined allegiance to him was the only option. They would die to stand for him and proclaim him as the Messiah. He died and rose from the dead. They were witnesses. They were convinced. They were not dreaming. They pledged allegiance to Jesus. He was the Christ.
The calling of the Christian is to pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ. This allegiance is total and constant. It is not slippery nor fragile. It is not only when the people around are cordial to Jesus. It is anchored in the settled belief that Jesus was killed for claiming to be God but rose from the dead and went back to heaven. This conviction informs the Christian that Jesus will return at the end of the age to usher in a new world where there will be a new earth. The present earth as we know it will be destroyed. The Christian is unequivocal in holding on to these truths and lives in joy and thanksgiving.
Research after research has shown that over time, people who attend church all over the world and who actively participate in its activities eventually fall into one of three groups, and all are found in the church:
- Members of the church who are not Christians
- Members of the church who may not be Christians
- Members of the church who are Christians at various levels of maturity in Christ
The pledge of allegiance to Jesus Christ is the determining factor of being Christian. It behooves every church not to reduce the gospel to meaninglessness chatter in the spirit of the novel carefulness not to offend anyone. The preacher speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit ought to present God’s Word faithfully and with the passion of conviction. Repentance and conviction of sin have to be proclaimed with clarity to assist people to come to terms with Jesus, that is, to be clear whether they pledge allegiance to him or not.
The church is not God’s PR department, pleading with the world to return to God on the world’s terms. Yes, God is pleading with the world to return to him, but only on God’s terms. I plead with us all, if we haven’t already, to go on our knees and pledge allegiance to Jesus Christ the King of kings and Lord of lords. If you did already, renew the pledge with fresh determination to trample the world, speaking and living the message and teachings of Jesus.