eNewsletter Feature Story – November 4, 2021

This week’s eNewsletter feature
was written by Rev. Raymond Hylton,
FPCE senior pastor.

Dear friends,

If you attended grade school in America, you recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning to the American flag and the Republic of the United States of America, for which the flag stands.

But, in 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today.

Adding the phrase “under God” was troubling for some Americans because not everyone believed in our Judeo-Christian God or any “God” at all.

I want you to take a break from what you are doing, and for the next 15 minutes, read Psalms 105 and 106, and you will find that they tell a story about a nation under God from two different angles.

Psalm 105 celebrates God’s faithfulness toward his people during difficult times traveling through the wilderness after hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt:

He spread a cloud for a covering and fire to give light by night. They asked, and he brought quails and gave them food from heaven in abundance. He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. (Ps 105:39–42)

On the other hand, Psalm 106 recites a tale of sin and desertion from the God who saved them. They cry out, Both our ancestors and we have sinned; we have committed iniquity, have done wickedly. Our ancestors, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wonderful works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love. (Ps 106:6-7)

A careless reader might for a moment conclude that these are two different nations. But they are the same people under God.

If they are, how can one nation under God experience God’s unmistakable faithfulness, protection, and provision of their every need, yet turn away and look to idols as their hope and salvation, forgetting God?

The overarching plotline in these two majestic psalms is not about the goodness of the people and then their sinfulness. No. Despite their on-again, off-again behavior, the headline reads God did not forget them, stop loving them, or cease calling them.

While the record of repeated sin could lead to despair, the history of God’s saving grace leads to hope — hope that God will save in the present as he has in the past.

After reading these psalms of weal and woe, boom and bust, what’s the conclusion? These thousands of years later, we are just like them. Thank God that our hope does not rest on our perfection — we would be lost. Thank God that the hope for First Pres does not rest on her ability to be a perfect church with perfect members — that we are not, and woe would be us.

Both psalms place the weight on God: O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name (105:1), O give thanks to the Lord for he is good for his steadfast love endures forever (106:1).

Our great hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” says it best:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above.

The unbreakable fetter that binds us to God is the grace of God richly given through Jesus to people who do not deserve and can never buy this gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).

These are challenging times for our nation, for you and me, and our beloved congregation. Be encouraged. God is in the midst of us and will help us through the storms. We shall not be moved.

In the firm grip of grace,

Pastor Ray Hylton.

© 2021 First Presbyterian Church of Evanston

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