Pastor Lentz at the Washington National Cathedral
Washington, DC, May 22, 2005 Ohio Major State Day
WASHINGTON – An Ohio minister preaching to more than 1,100 worshipers May 22 at Washington National Cathedral questioned the efforts of Christian organizations he said invoke religion in ways that divide rather than unite.
The Rev. Dr. John.C Lentz. Jr., said Christ’s order for his followers to “make disciples of all nations” has been dangerously misinterpreted throughout history and even today.
“We are being led into temptation, I believe, like sheep being led to slaughter, equating the great commission of Jesus Christ with an imperialistic dream of winning the world for some other kingdom,” Dr. Lentz said. “Winning the world for some Pax Americana at the expense of Pax Christi.”
Dr. Lentz spoke from the historic Canterbury Pulpit, from where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his final Sunday sermon, and from where former Missouri senator John Danforth, an Episcopal priest, gave the homily at Ronald Reagan’s state funeral.
Dr. Lentz questioned the Ohio Restoration Project, an effort organizers said aims to bring to the forefront issues relevant to the Christian community in the state. The project seeks ministers to become “patriot pastors,” who will be asked to distribute voting guides in church bulletins provided by the Christian Coalition and other groups. The project’s literature states “America has a mission to share a living savior with a dying world.”
“I do not believe that is America’s mission,” Dr. Lentz said. “When we confuse the Christian story with any national story, when we superimpose a national agenda onto our Lord’s agenda, we are close, dangerously close, to losing our soul.” [emphasis added]
Dr. Lentz compared these present-day church leaders and their agendas with many in Jesus’ time, including John the Baptist, who were looking for a political Messiah to restore the throne of King David. John the Baptist wanted to divide the chosen from the sinners.
But Jesus’ call is not based on fear, but on love, Dr. Lentz said. He described a great commission to which each Christian is called. “It is a baptism that calls all nations to account for how they treat the poor, the imprisoned and the hungry,”Dr. Lentz said. “It is a baptism of loving your neighbor. It is a baptism of loving inclusion.”
Dr. Lentz said church leaders should follow the teaching of Emory University theologian Theresa L. Fry Brown: “Just preach until the lonely feel loved, the homeless have homes and the naked are clothed. Just preach until everyone everywhere knows that Jesus is love and God is alive.”
Offertory gift-bearers were Barbara Hansen of Cleveland, LeAnn West of Cleveland, Diana Woodbridge of Cleveland Heights, Anona Stack of Cleveland Heights, and the children of Dr. Lentz – Jack, 12, Meg, 11, and Sarah, 7.
© 2009 Washington National Cathedral