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July 2023

by Rev. Phillip Girardin

The City on a Hill speech has seemed to become a fixture in American political rhetoric. In recent generations, JFK and Ronald Reagan both had this type of speech. President Reagan quotes the original (Consequently, the original is one of my favorite speeches in American history as well). The original speech is from 1630 when John Winthrop was landing with a group of Puritans on the shores of America. What Gov. Winthrop said was, in part:

For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.

President Reagan speaking in the 1980's, as God was being removed from the classroom, that America had not yet dealt falsely with God. Although in President Reagan's speech there was a warning. He sounded the same caveat that had been spoken nearly 200 years earlier.

Frequently, the only thing that we know about the Puritans is that they came to America, and in so doing began to chase after and hunt witches (The Salem Witch Trials). What we don't keep in mind is that these intrepid people had left Great Britain prior, in order to flee from the religious persecution that was going on as the Reformation was coming to a close. These English-speaking people were holding onto the tenants of what men like Luther and Melanchthon had been seeking in Germany. Historically, the Church of England, or the Anglican Church, was brought about during the earlier Reformation because Henry VIII wanted a divorce and wasn't being given one. The Anglican theology was a reflection not of the Protestant movement, but instead reflected the sinful desires of its founding. The consequence of this was that believers sought to follow Jesus faithfully. The Pilgrims and Puritans were seeking what had occurred in Germany just over 100 years before. They were being persecuted in England for not following the teachings of the Anglican Church. When they would hold true to the faith, they would be imprisoned for life, or actions such as having their noses slit, ears cut off, or their foreheads branded taken against them. In 1630, John Winthrop, and the Pilgrims with Him, simply wanted to worship God. A lot of water has passed under this bridge, but the foundation of the bridge is faith as we hear Gov. Winthrop guide those with him.

In 1620, the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, and there entered into their own great adventure, similar to the Pilgrims 10 years later. The Pilgrims entered a law that was once taught, but not as much now. They signed the Mayflower Compact. This agreement was not a contract as so many would suggest, but rather was a covenant. It was a legal agreement between the Pilgrims and God (Jehovah to them), and it guided them in everything. Sadly, even this is maligned as the first thanksgiving recorded by men such as William Bradford has been cast aside in favor of the newest teaching.

Before any of these people ever spoke about this, Jesus said in Matthew 5:14 that a city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Jesus is absolutely correct. A cities light can't be hidden, but it can be put out. The wicks can be snuffed, the switches flipped, and the welcome glow will go away. Jesus gives us these words, and our own history speaks to us about who we are and where we come from.

In our world today, first person resources are being set aside in favor of political narrative - one switch is being turned off. Academic and political honesty is being set aside in favor of individual gains - another switch is being turned off. The story of who we are is being diminished and rejected in favor of coloring the past with the pigment of the current - the wick is being blown out. President Reagan said in the 1980's that we had not yet dealt falsely with our God. As a nation, could we say that today? Have we dealt honestly with our God who has been with us through World Wars, famine, pestilence, and all manner of hardship?

As we begin celebrating our nation's independence this year, what is it that we are celebrating? John Winthrop warned that by rejecting God, in 1630, that we would simply become a footnote. Jesus says, ... a city set on a hill cannot be hidden, what light are we proclaiming?

May God bless your July 4th celebrations as we remember our victories, defeats, tragedies, and triumphs. I pray that, as a people, we repent of our sin and turn back from our wicked ways to Him, that we may follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before.

Pastor Phil

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