Hamilton, Isaiah, King Jesus, and the Need for Courage
7/5/20 Glenda Simpkins Hoffman
This week I had a remarkable confluence of circumstances. A friend told me that the movie Hamilton, filmed in 2016 with original cast on Broadway, was to be released on Disney Plus on July 3. I haven’t seen it yet, but I can’t wait. I’m listening to the soundtrack again to get ready for it.
Every time I listen, something new hits me, and this time it was the song, “Dear Theodosia.” It begins with Aaron Burr singing to his newborn daughter Theodosia, and then moves to Alexander Hamilton singing to his newborn son Phillip: “You will come of age with our young nation. We’ll bleed and fight for you, we’ll make it right for you. If we lay a strong enough foundation, we’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you.”
Listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton led me to read many biographies about the founding fathers. They were not perfect people, but they were deeply committed to getting this new nation on its feet. In fact, the Declaration of Independence concludes with these words: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” The founding fathers sacrificed a lot to make this nation “right for me” and other Americans.
Another “coincidence” is that I have been reading a sermon a day by Eugene Peterson from his book As Kingfishers Catch Fire. This week’s readings are in the Prophet Isaiah. Peterson explains that “The prophets don’t explain God. They shake us out of old conventional habits of small-mindedness and trivializing god-gossip. They set us on our feet in wonder and obedience and worship.” The prophets “help us understand that God is good and intends our salvation. It is the work of God to set the world—and us—right.”
There were other ways this phrase “make it right” came to my attention. It is God who makes things right, and he has ultimately done that through Jesus Christ. We are justified (made right with God) by grace through faith in Christ alone. The way God makes the world right is by establishing justice, and he wants us to be a part of that.
I grew up pledging allegiance to the flag and affirming “liberty and justice for all.” While I have enjoyed that privilege, I have a growing awareness of how that is not a reality for everyone, and I want to do something about it. I want to fight to “make it right” for everyone, for future generations, for my own kids.
But this is more than an American ideal; it’s our calling as followers of Christ. Jesus is the risen and reigning King of the universe. We are to align ourselves with what is right according to his word and to participate with the many ways he making things right in the world. But it’s not easy. It will not only take confidence, it will require courage— “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear.”
This is not a quality that we have to drum up ourselves; it is a quality the Lord will give us through the power of the Spirit. But it calls us to step out of our comfort zone with confidence in Jesus as our King and courage in the face of difficulty to share our faith, speak out against evil, and to stand up for justice—for God’s righteous reign in the world.
As followers of Christ, we are to participate in the work of Christ in the world. And things are happening in our world that we can’t control—COVID-19 is a world pandemic. People around the world are suffering; we’re all in this together. And this situation has heightened the awareness of needs in our country and the world—food insecurity, lack of health coverage, racial issues, and more.
I don’t know why all these things are happening, but I do think it is worth paying attention to. We as Christians can trust that God can and will use every circumstance of life in redemptive ways. We have an opportunity as followers of Christ to respond faithfully to all that is happening.
Another Hamilton song comes to mind: Washington is speaking to Hamilton about his earlier life and sings “History Has Its Eyes on You.” As I have read in many biographies of early presidents, they were aware of the remarkable time in history they were a part of, and they knew people were watching. What they did, the actions they took would not only impact the direction of the nation for years to come but be remembered in perpetuity. That has certainly proven true.
Given all that is happening in our nation and world at this time, we as followers of Christ need to be aware of how we are responding to these matters. It will influence the direction of our lives, the church, the nation, and the world for years to come. Future generations will read about and remember how our words and actions influenced the direction that we went because it’s still true: “History has its eyes on us too.”
What will our children and grandchildren say about how we spoke the truth in love, shared the good news of the gospel, and stood up for justice? How well did we as followers of Christ meet the needs of the world and live in a way that others could witness God working in and through us for his glory and the good of others?
There is much more to say in the months ahead regarding how we might participate in Christ’s work in the world. But a good first step is simply committing to participate in the upcoming Gospel Communication 101. Jim Singleton, a long-time pastor, seminary professor, and friend of Pastor Pete, will lead us in this three-week series: Your Story, The Story, and Their Story. His aim is to increase our comfort and understanding in a way that will reduce our uneasiness or even fear and give us handles on how to talk about the good news.
Learning to feel comfortable talking about our faith is an essential factor in being able to be courageous in speaking up for Christ. I hope all of us will participate in this great opportunity.
Mondays at 7:00 PM on July 13, 20 & 27
Zoom Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87063012183.