Rising Above Church and State Acts 1:6–11; Revelation 21:1–8 -- By: Mark S. Caldwell

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 08:1 (Fall 1990)
Article: Rising Above Church and State Acts 1:6–11; Revelation 21:1–8
Author: Mark S. Caldwell

Rising Above Church and State
Acts 1:6–11; Revelation 21:1–8

An Ascension Sunday Sermon

Mark S. Caldwell,

Pastor, Glendale Baptist Church, Nashville, Tennessee

When I was a boy, I loved parades, and there seemed to be more of them then, and they seemed bigger somehow-more powerful expressions of patriotism or Christmas. In fact, in those simpler days just after World War II, Christmas and patriotism got all mixed up, so that you could hardly tell one from the other. Church and state, religion and patriotism, seemed to be two sides of the same coin. There seemed to be more bands then, and more music, more marching, and strutting, and more people, too, watching the bands strut their way down Main Street. Maybe it was because I was smaller, and everything seemed bigger in those days, and too few things seem that big to me now. Having inevitably grown bigger myself, the world of magic has grown smaller, life at some level has become more reduced, less available to me than perhaps it should be. I miss it. And I miss those parades-maybe because I miss those days of magic and easy belief in my country and in my God-maybe because I miss being confident that God and country were well nigh synonymous.

Perhaps there is something very deep in the human spirit, that longs to march in a parade, to be a part of some vast victory celebration, to know who we are and who our enemy is, and to beat the living daylights out of him, or her, or them, and to have God smiling on us while we do, blessing our victories and confirming our ambitions!

All of which brings me to our text for this morning. In no way am I suggesting that these texts belong together in some technical sense, yet it seems to me, that taken together, they address some of our tendencies to elevate secular things to sacred status, and as such, they might provide a needed corrective for our tendency to see the Church and State as two sides of the same coin.

And so, first to our text in Acts. Admittedly, this text can be something of an embarrassment. Perhaps that is one reason that we hear little about it, except in the more liturgical churches where they celebrate Ascension Sunday. After all, believing in the resurrection was hard enough for some of us-now we are asked to believe that Jesus was taken up into Heaven in a cloud. For some modern people, this seems a bit much! God seems in danger of overestimating us! Many Baptists, being so-called missions-minded people, stop their consideration of this text after verse 8, avoiding further embarrassment.

However, as is often the case, if we take time to achieve a better understanding of this passage, I believe it can spea...

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