Jesus For President

On this Mother’s day, here is a top list of things you might have heard a mother say:

Do not use your arm as a tissue

Did you say thank you?

Please use your inside voice

No running in the house

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Does it sound familiar?  There are others as well.  Some of us can hear the words of our mothers in our ears.  We have often boiled down the wisdom of our mothers into the manners soundbites that we hear repeated time after time.  This morning as we continue in our series Citizens of Heaven, residents of earth, we look beyond the soundbites that make us smile to the fullness of how we are called to live with one another seeking ultimate good and justice.

Our lesson today from Acts gives a glimpse at how to live out the ultimate good and justice that God equips and empowers us to seek.  Paul and Silas might not have passed the mothers’ manner test, but they did move beyond niceties towards the heart of the lived gospel.  In fact, it was their need to get involved in the world around them that lead Paul and Silas in prison.

Let’s hear more about the story of Paul and Silas in Philippi: (SHOW VIDEO)

We are called to move beyond the civility of good manners in the ways that we treat one another to true justice and ultimate good.  Paul and Silas did not stop with the perfunctory obligations to tolerate the slave girl or the jailer.  They were invested in their justice and ultimate good.  Paul and Silas might well have not even gotten involved.  Our modern sensibilities often encourage us to keep to ourselves and not bother with the affairs of others.  They can be messy; we are not sure how it will all work out.

There is an old story about a southern preacher, freshly out of seminary.  The preacher is appointed to a small town in Kentucky and is preparing for the first sermon.  The preacher is ready to share the word of God, guide the people, and shepherd the good people in the way of God.  The preacher prepares and preaches a sermon on the evils of tobacco.  The preacher lays out a carefully thought out premise, calling people to repentance and change.  The preacher, with dear and trembling climbs into the pulpit for the first time at this first church and preaches a powerful sermon on the evils of tobacco.  After the service, a few wise members of the congregation pulled the preacher aside and shared that many in the congregation grow tobacco and earn their living that way.

So, the preacher prepares for the next Sunday with the same vigor on the evils of horse racing.  With careful preparation, the preacher calls the congregation to repentance and transformation from the evils of horse racing.   The wise members of the congregation saunter up beside the preacher and share about the great horse country they are in and the Kentucky Derby, held the day before.  The preacher, a little flustered, but committed to repentance and the biblical call for justice, prepares a moving message condemning whiskey.  As the preacher sees the wise members approaching, the preacher can almost imagine the distillery logo down the road and puts together the dependence for economic strength from the whiskey distillery.  The wise congregation members approach and suggest, perhaps the following week, the preacher can pick up the banner for cannibalism, quipping there shouldn’t be a cannibal with a thousand miles of here! 1

Preaching and living out the gospel can feel just like that preacher!  There is no promise that seeking the justice that Jesus called us to live out will always be received with open arms.   There was no promise for Paul and Silas that they would even live after setting the sacred worth of a slave girl above their connection with her former owner.  When we talk about a living wage, we find frustration from small business owners who upstart costs limit the profit margin and struggle to feed their families.  When we call for funding for education, we hear push back from other programs who deem themselves worthy of those promised pots of resources.  It seems almost impossible to maintain the niceties and advocate for justice and ultimate good.  Shane Claiborne, Christian activist for the simple way and justice seeker suggests in his book, Jesus for President: “This is what Jesus had in mind: folks coming together, forming close-knit communities and meeting each other’s needs– no kings, no major welfare systems, no presidents necessary. His is a theology and practice for the people of God, not a set of suggestions for empire.”2

We turn to Jesus for president, not as a way to avoid political engagement wistfully imagining a world where kindness and niceties rule the day.  Instead Jesus for president reminds us of the justice that we are called to live out in order to live as if the Kingdom that God rules and reigns is already fully present here on the earth.  Jesus for President is a reminder that you and I live in a broken world in which all have fallen short of the glory of God and need redemption.   We are called to consider how being a follower of Christ impacts our understanding of politics and polices.   What does God have to say about foreign policy and immigration?  What does God have to say about healthcare and education? How do God call us to live each and every day!?


Claiborne say, “But the problem is that Jesus’ kingdom (and Paul’s “citizenship in heaven”) was about the real world, here and now. It was about allegiance. Jesus and Paul were telling the people that they must live here with their identities as aliens. They must live by the rules of heaven amid the violent earthly powers. And to claim that one’s citizenship is in heaven is to say that you pledge allegiance not to any of the kingdoms of the world but to Jesus and the body of those who take on his suffering, enemy-loving posture toward the world.3”  The radical notion that calling for Jesus as President means that we would pledge our allegiance to him and not to the political and economic structures that currently hold us.

On this Mothers’ Day, where you might very well have been advised that talking about politics was bad table manners like putting your elbows on the table.  I call you to step more fully into the follower of Jesus that you are.  Where is God calling you this day to move beyond niceties into the political involvement of living out your faith?  Where is God calling you to find courage to move into the issues of justice that may upset some who are invested in the economic and emotional gain, but give life to those who need?  Listen, God is calling you to a life that is more than civility and manners and into abundant life of faith and justice.

This is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.

1Brown, David M.  Transformational Preaching: Theory and Practice, 511.

2Claiborne, Shane. Jesus for President:

3Ibid, 45.

New Testament Lesson:  Acts 16:16-34

One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely.  Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas.  Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord[c] to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.

Gospel Lesson:  Luke 24:36-53

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Meditations For Your Week

Sunday, May 8 ~ Saturday, May 14

Sunday: “She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” Acts 16: 18.  In the name of Jesus, all that is not of Jesus will depart.  Where is God calling you to renounce that which is not of God?

Monday“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16: 25.  In the midst of being jailed for advocating for economic justice for a young slave girl, Paul and Silas sought God in song.  Where are you being called to sing in the midst of challenge?

Tuesday: “They answered, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.’” Acts 16: 31.  Prayerfully renew your belief in Jesus.

Wednesday: “He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” Acts 16:34.  Believing in God gives new life not only to the individual, but the whole family.  Where has God brought new life in your life?

Thursday:  “You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24: 48.  Christ calls us to witness to a new way of living that values justice above niceties.  Where is Christ calling you to witness?

Friday: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.” Luke 24: 50.  Jesus offers blessing upon blessing to those who follow him.  Consider what blessings that you may give thanks to God for.

Saturday:  “While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” Luke 24: 51-53.  We gather as a people to give thanks to God and bless God.  Join God’s people in worship.