October 5, 2014
Matthew 21:33-46
Philippians 3:4b-14
Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20


We shall be as a city upon a hill
Proper 22 | OT 27 | Pentecost 17

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Ron Love
Over fifty years ago on January 9, John Fitzgerald Kennedy gave his farewell speech to the Massachusetts legislature before departing to Washington DC to prepare for his presidency. Kennedy opened his speech with these words: "We shall be as a city upon a hill." Kennedy was quoting John Winthrop, who used that phrase in his speech abroad the ship Arbella in 1630 as the Puritans were preparing to land in the New World. Kennedy was implying that the eyes of the world would be upon the new administration, and in so doing his presidency must be like a city upon a hill. Ronald Reagan, in his first inaugural address used the same words from Winthrop's speech, in reference that the United States under his administration would become the guiding light for the free world and the antithesis to communism.

The three lectionary readings for this Sunday carry the common theme that we are to live our lives as a witness to our obedience to the teachings of God. That witness will make us like a light set upon a hill for those with whom we come in contact on a daily basis. Though, as Paul recounts we may not be a perfect witness, we will be an adequate witness.

In a meditation written by Billy Graham, he noted that it is "never hopeless to bear witness to unbelievers." He went on to conclude that there are two major barriers keeping people from believing in Jesus Christ. Graham wrote, "The first is the barrier of self-will -- that is, their determination to control their life instead of letting Christ control it." The evangelist went on to write, "The second major barrier is harder for us to see -- but it's even more powerful. This is Satan's hold on the world, and his commitment to do everything he can to keep us from Christ."

The three lectionary readings address the cautions lifted up by Billy Graham. We surrender self-will when we accept living by the commandments set before us by God as outlined by Moses. We surrender the power of Satan when, like Paul in his reference to himself and like Jesus in his reference to Israel, we reject the old order and accept the new: that Jesus is the cornerstone of our lives. Having done this, we will be as a city set upon a hill. It will be a Christian city but never should we presuppose that it will be a perfect city....

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