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Commentary by Pastor Bruce Ray

Many of us are not looking forward to the arrival of NATO in mid-May.  It will interrupt transportation.  It will create gridlock on highways.  The police will be on high alert, creating tension and increasing the likelihood of conflict with expected protesters.  Downtown will be being turned into a military zone complete with combat personnel with automatic weapons.  And this is supposed to be a good thing for the city.  I’m not so sure.

However, there are two special days on the May church calendar: Ascension Sunday when we recognize only one sovereign Lord: Jesus Christ, and Pentecost when we celebrate the formation of the global church by the coming of the Spirit.  I find the juxtaposition of current events with these church days challenging.

The Ascension is a reminder of Who sits upon the throne and Who is above the nations.  While the heads of state gather to strategize and conspire to shape the future of the globe, I am reminded that “The the One who rules in heaven laughs.”  (Psalm 2:4)  I am challenged to consider my allegiance and my priorities.  I am a follower of Christ.  I heed the call of Christ.  I proclaim that Jesus–not NATO or any other nation or gathering of nations–is LORD.   I am also reminded that changing the world does not come through “swords loud clashing” in the words of the great hymn, “Lead On, O King Eternal”, but through deeds of love and mercy. The methods and strategies of NATO know little of the justice of God’s rule.  But there is more.

That first Pentecost was also a gathering of the nations.  And what the nations heard was not a strategy for peace through control and coercion, but a proclamation of Christ, crucified, resurrected and exalted.  And they were cut to the heart, led in repentance and given a new orientation.  Out of the many nations, a unifying movement toward God’s new creation was birthed.

The nations are gatherings in Chicago.  Protesters will be present.  Police will be present.  Politicians will be present.  And everyone will have something to say.  The Church of Jesus must also be present, finding it’s spirit-empowered voice to proclaim Christ boldly and to be a witness of God’s global plan for change, justice and righteousness.  Just maybe the nations will adopt a new battle plan.  Shalom.

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