For all the saints in your congregation, today is a crucial moment to
name both the importance of the saints--that great cloud of
witnesses--and the source of saintliness, our “one instructor, the
Messiah” (Matt. 23:10).
Many of the issues before us in this election year were present at the founding of the nation, as I learned from Joseph J. Ellis’s American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic. I have never read such a clear explanation of the conflict between what Ellis calls the “spirit of ’76” and the “spirit of ’87.”
In many church traditions, this Sunday is Reformation Sunday—a time for
trumpets and triumphalism, for remembering where we Protestants got it
right and for justifying our salvation with a vigorous singing of
Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” We may even believe that it is
we who are the prophets like Moses, the ones whom God knows face to
Noting that Jesus’ interlocutors in today’s gospel reading were truly
amazed at his answer, Stanley Hauerwas comments that it’s too bad
Christians have not been equally amazed. Rather than being amazed that
Jesus has come to usher in God’s reign, we are preoccupied with the
politics and rulers of the world.
By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).