The Nineveh Liturgies - Day 1
Today when I was cleaning, I found a little book that I wrote in 2009 -- a book of twenty-nine prayers for America. At the time, I called them The Nineveh Liturgies because a liturgy is:
"a form or formulary according to which public religious worship, especially Christian worship, is conducted."
I was hoping that I could find a small group of people to pray these prayers with me, though I wasn't expecting a II Chronicles 7:14 experience:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. II Chronicles 7:14
It's certainly possible that God could heal our country and make it mighty, but since that verse was a promise for certain people living in a particular time, I don't feel like I can claim it confidently for our generation.
However, no matter what happens to America, we need to confess our faults to the Lord. We need to do that because it is healthy for people who have done the things that we have done to admit the truth about ourselves, so that we can connect deeply with God before whatever is in store next.
In the years that have passed since 2009, I have done a lot of thinking about how I feel about my country.
It's sort of a trend in American evangelicalism right now to distance ourselves from patriotism, claiming that we are citizens of heaven instead of citizens of the United States of America.
Although I understand the frustration and discouragement that often propel this sort of declaration, I am concerned that this sort of radical rejection might not be the best stewardship of our membership in a democratic republic.
Besides that, I don't want to pass by a wounded nation that is bleeding in a ditch like the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan. I don't want to be so focused on keeping my hands pure for temple purposes that I refuse to get down in the dirt and patch up the broken and the bruised.
I think there's a way to love our nation without idolizing it, and I think that when Christians do citizenship well, it's one of the most beautiful things in the world.
A lot of people my age are afraid to even try patriotism, because we've seen the mess that the Christian Coalition made of things in the 1980's and 1990's. We are also embarrassed by religious leaders who seem to be selling their convictions for political maneuvering.
The men and women of my generation don't want to pretend that we are worshiping God when we are really worshiping politics. We have seen too much of this, and we want no part of it.
However, I think one danger that my generation hasn't considered is the error made by those gnostic heretics who claimed that the soul was capable of goodness while the body was inherently bad. In their attempt to separate the righteous from the unrighteous, evil compounded. A similar outcome is possible for us.
I love my nation dearly. I love her as one nation (among many nations) under God (not above Him), and I think that figuring out how to do patriotism in faith and integrity is a work of social justice, just like rescuing sex slaves or welcoming immigrants.
I love my nation dearly. I love her as one nation (among many nations) under God (not above Him), and I think that figuring out how to do patriotism in faith and integrity is a work of social justice, just like rescuing sex slaves or welcoming immigrants. This is because true patriotism is ultimately about compassion. Yes, sometimes patriotism utilizes tough love, but the end goal is always altruism.
So if the first step of loving my nation is confessing her sins, I would like to do that. If you would like to join me over the next 29 days, I'd love to have your company.
DAY 1 - The Nineveh Liturgies
Our nation has been proud. We have trusted in own strength and wisdom while turning away from Yours.
You have given us so many resources and opportunities, but we haven't asked You what You wanted us to do with them. Like a dog yanking food out of its master's hand, we have grabbed Your good gifts and we have have run from You to consume what you have given us.
We've wanted You to bless us, and then we've wanted You to leave us alone.
This means we've tried to grow our nation without You.
We've tried to defend ourselves without You.
We've tried to rule ourselves without You.
We've tried to define justice and mercy without You.
Even as Christians, we have tried to protect ourselves by strategies and by positioning without remembering that You are a living God who is not dependent upon the ways of the world.
We have let fear and greed drive us into bad choices.
And now our arrogance is our greatest shame.
You are not a small god, but a Great Lord, all-sufficient! We are sorry that we have tried to be street smart instead of reliant on You.
We need You more than wealth. We need You more than power. We need You more than human leadership.
We now stand in a place of watching Your good gifts quiver, and we know that we may lose them all.
Help us see through the fear of this realization -- to the better understanding that without You, all of our treasures are worthless.
We have worshiped ourselves, and we have worshiped Your gifts in so many ways, and we are sorry. Help us worship You instead.
Restore our humility. Even though that burns and stings, it is right and good to come kneel soberly before You instead of roaring ourselves away into the darkness. Help us to do this because You love us, and because it is good to be small abefore love as big as Yours.
Please soften those proud places in our land that keep America from a right view of Your greatness. And please, raise up within us a new community of believers that is faithful to You.
Father, You know what is best. Perhaps we need to suffer somehow for Your best will to be accomplished. But if it is possible for You to teach us gently, we ask that you might use Your soft voice to align us.
Help us respond to Your wooing. Make us pliable and yielding as the new summer grasses. Oh, Author, Protector and Provider -- grow in us a heart of humility.