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2BC BLOG

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The Wall of Separation of Church and State

One of the things I like about worshipping at 2BC is the respect given to the separation of church and state in our worship services. I’m very patriotic and love singing patriotic songs as much as the next person. But I also think it’s important to not confuse my patriotism with my understanding of God and my Christianity.

I grew up marching in at VBS and saying the three pledges. I was always proud to do so—and can recite them at the drop of a hat now. But my perspective about these kinds of displays at church has changed a great deal in the last fifty years of life.

It’s important on national holidays that in addition to celebrating our country we also spend time in gratitude for the freedom we have to worship without fear of persecution and to remember and thank God for those who sacrifice their lives for us. Our worship services, on those particular days and at other times, acknowledges that freedom and those sacrifices in our prayer times, in our spoken word, and on our regular prayer listings. I respect that our stand on separation of church and state at 2BC doesn’t mean that patriotism and freedom, given by God first and country second, is not banned from our services but is acknowledged in what I believe to be an appropriate way. This intentionality keeps the focus of the service on the worship of God and not our country or even our freedoms. 

One hymn we often sing on patriotic holidays is “This is My Song.” It is sung to the tune “Finlandia,” which Jan Sibelius wrote in 1899 as a patriotic tribute to his homeland. The song acknowledges that God is God of everyone and that peace, freedom, and blessings comes from God and is for all countries. The words are:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine. 

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

When I lived in Springfield, MO, there was a nativity on display that profoundly offended me. It had the baby Jesus swaddled in an American flag. This nativity offended me first as a Christian. My belief that God’s love is for everyone made me see this display as one that said that God loved Americans more than non-Americans. For too long we have perpetuated that misconception. Even in our early mission days, the effort was often clouded by the fact that our approach was one of power and superior knowledge, not one of partnership, which is what we strive for now. God doesn’t love Americans any more than any other country, and our understanding of the birth of Christ isn’t the only way to understand God’s love. The babe wrapped in the American flag seems entirely off focus to my understanding of the purpose of the incarnation.

The nativity display also offended me as an American. Our country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion. Throughout our history, people have fled to our shores looking for a place to worship in freedom. To use the flag in such a dominant Christian symbol offends my understanding of that right. I object to a public display saying that to be American you must be Christian, which is what I felt like the display implied.

Another example comes from a recent controversy in Dallas over a billboard ad that First Baptist Church Dallas placed. The ad promoted an upcoming sermon on “Freedom Sunday” entitled, “America is a Christian Nation,” that would be preached by Senior Pastor, Robert Jefress. The Dallas Morning News ran an article quoting the Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, who was critical of the billboard. In the June 7 article, the writer quoted Mayor Rawlings as saying, "That is not the Christ I follow. It's not the Dallas I want to be — to say things that do not unite us but divide us. I never heard those words, that voice come out of Christ. Just the opposite. I was brought up to believe: Be proud of yours, but do not diminish mine." The controversy became intense. The billboard company chose to remove the billboard. 

The “Free Exercise Clause” is part of the First Amendment to our Constitution. Thomas Jefferson, an American Founding Father, and Roger Williams, a Baptist Founding Father, are credited with the language of a wall of separation between church and state. Jefferson first used the phrase in an 1802 letter written to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut which was published in a Massachusetts newspaper. He was echoing words used by Roger Williams in 1644 who spoke of a “wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” Baptists are known for their support of this critical part of our American law and the protection of our freedom to worship. 

To me, leaving the overtly patriotic practices such as “Freedom Sunday” and the nativity display for places other than the church building is respecting my rights as an American and my rights as a Christian. I come to church to worship a God who is bigger than my country and my patriotism. I strive hard to worship “no other God” at church and in my everyday life. Outside of church, I sing with gusto, “God Bless America,” because I offer it as a prayer asking God to continue to bless us and in recognition of the place of privilege I hold as an American. But I don’t wish to do so in my worship service. There I want to acknowledge that “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female,” (Galatians 3:28) for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Posted by Janet Hill at Wednesday, July 4, 2018
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A Note From Pastor Jason--July by Jason Edwards

Neurobiologist and UCLA professor Daniel Siegel says “relationship, the connection between people, not only enhances mental functioning, but actually works to impart, to provide it. When we’re trying to get through a difficult time, reach an important goal to simply grow to be a healthier person. Quality relationships provide fuel for growth.” 

Research has shown, says Dr. Henry Cloud, that “if you are in a community that is getting healthy or overcoming something that is difficult, your chances of success go way, way up.” 

The psychological research Drs. Seigel and Cloud tap into reflects a biblical truth that has shaped our church’s mission statement. As Christians, we believe God is a social reality—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that in God’s image human beings are social beings. We were created for community.
With this in mind, our church’s mission statement says that Second Baptist Church is committed to fostering meaningful, Christ-centered community. This kind of community can be nurtured in a variety of ways—as we worship together, serve together, grow together and play together. But experience and study tell us the medium that most often nurtures meaningful community is the small group. As Peter Block states in his book “Community: The Structure of Belonging,” the small group is the unit of transformation. 

This is one significant reason why we’d like to see every member of Second Baptist invested in a small group committed to nurturing a relationship with God and growing in relationship with one another while finding ways to impact the world together in Jesus’ name. 

Are you currently invested in this kind of group at 2BC? If not, would you like to be?

This fall we are doubling down on our mission statement by starting a number of new 2BC Community Groups. Our new weekly schedule (which you’ve seen laid out by Connie McNeil in a previous publication) is meant to help better facilitate getting more people engaged in these kinds of transformational experiences. Are you interested in joining a group? Might you feel God calling you to lead a group either on Sunday morning or at some point during the week? If so, please reach out to Connie McNeill (cmcneill@2bcliberty.org) or Kim Halfhill (khalfhill@2bcliberty.org) soon. 

Consider this your invitation to join us as we take our next steps into an exciting future together.

With joy and expectation,

Jason 

Posted by Jason Edwards at Monday, July 2, 2018
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Community by Carroll Makemson

Community: “a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived or perceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists” dictionary.com Over and over I hear people say to an early reader, “what do you see?” The early reader is to look for syllables, words, prefixes or suffixes embedded in the printed word. Now, YOU take a look at the word “community.” What do YOU see?” If you had been in my senior English class with Mrs. Bolt, you would see the prefix “com” meaning with or together. Looking closer you almost see the word “common,” and letting your eyes look farther into the word “unity.”

Taking a little wordsmithing license, I see “with common unity.” That sounds familiar to me. I can make a list of groups of people with whom I have “common unity,” including Lewis & Clark Retired Teachers, Retired Librarians Who Lunch, Thursday Night Book Club, Eddy-Moore- Makemson clan, QHS Girls of ’67, and the list goes on before I even start thinking about Second Baptist Church. As much as I enjoy these people, I am not sure they all think our “common unity” is in response to the Bible’s repeated invitations to a community even though I do.

From The Word,
“[A]nd let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together … but encouraging one another.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) 

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity?” Psalm 133:1 (NIV) 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” Matthew 18:20 (NIV) 

The list goes on and on: Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:3-13, I Thessalonians 5:14, I Corinthians 12: 25-27, Philippians 2:3-16, Romans 12:9-21...

For years, probably decades, my friends have fondly referred to small groups or community groups at their churches. I wasn’t sure I had understood what they were talking meant by community groups. Did they mean Sunday School? Now that this word has been showing up frequently in our church publications and conversations as we prepare for changes this fall, I am sure I do! I feel like that should be yelled from the rooftop, “I DO!” I always have! Yes, Sunday School, but not only Sunday School!

As I look back, I realize youth workers were my first community group here at 2BC. You can’t live with 15 teenage girls in a camp cabin, with triple high bunk beds, and too few showers with Erin Lankford or Sonya Richardson Thomas; or drive a thousand miles with David Fuller or David Fulk; or look for teens on the beach with Beth Spicer (Dusin) or Mike Lassiter; or teach Sunday School with Brad Peck, Marcia Duke, Linda Cain, or others without creating community. Some groups last for decades while others have a season of their own. No, I don’t hang with youth in cabins anymore, but I still love these youth workers and our youth and know we remain a community.

 

A treasured community group is my MOPS family at 2BC. For 13 years, I have met monthly during the school year with the most amazing group of more than 80 Mothers of Preschoolers and their Mentor Moms. They keep me young, update my tech skills, let me admire their fashion forwardness, and love their babies. We pray for each other, feed each other’s’ families, play and learn together. These mamas have given me another generation of friends to cradle, play with, and follow through middle school and beyond. Many of these women have become dear friends. I tell them, MOPS made us forever friends! Wonder if they know I expect them to visit me in assisted living someday?
 

 


 

For over ten years, the senior adults in this church have been my steady, but more informal community group. I used to spend more time with them than I do now. We drink coffee, enjoy each other’s’ baking, travel to the Baptist Home and Union Station, and eat out together in the summer. These lovely people will always be my community even though I am not as intentional about getting these dates on my calendar as they were when I was the planner and coffee maker. How would I have ever known the life stories of these people without sitting down together a couple of times a month to share and care for each other?

The label “community groups” is still new to me even though I realize, in retrospect, these “groups” have been part of my life here at 2BC since the 1980’s. They come; they go; some meet for many years, others until the book is finished, the task complete, or the event is over. But, what I know for sure is the relationships that form by following the commandments to love each other, to spend time together, and to care for each other are life-changing.

Thank you Second Baptist Church for letting me love your babies, hold your young mothers’ hands, form your youth, and cherish your seniors while, in reality, I was the true beneficiary. My closing words: find a group WITH whom you have COMMON UNITY.

at Wednesday, June 27, 2018
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