Cross Points - City on a Hill

City on a Hill

The Arabella ship rises and falls, creaking and rolling on the sea, as the ocean lifts it up and then drops it down on the water.  The so-called Puritans are on their way to this new land, across the Atlantic to the west.  A man named John Winthrop gently writes, making slight adjustments in his posture as he allows for the movement of the ship. He will be governor of this effort to colonize.
He has written before about the desire to make this move to the New World.  What will it take to survive, what will help motivate these people to stand strong, because it will be tough?  He is a Christian, a religious man, and he believes that the colony can only prosper with religious motivation.  On this day, aboard the Arabella, with this new land still out of sight, he constructs a sermon to help guide them.  He will call it, “A Modell of Christian Charity.”
“God almighty in his most holy and wise providence, has so disposed of the condition of mankind, that some are rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity; others base and in submission.” He elaborates about why this is true as sin creates inequalities, and how it impacts civil order.  He states that these people arriving in this new land must govern themselves, and act on God’s principles.  His goal is to unify those who will be under his governing authority.  This is only possible, he believes, by following the counsel of God, calling upon the words of Micah in the Old Testament, to practice justice and mercy.  If they fail at this, they will bring God’s wrath upon them, he communicates.  Their behavior must be selfless, expressed through hard work, savings, sharing, through love, forgiveness, sympathy.
“Now the only way to avoid shipwreck (spiritually and as a new culture) and to provide for our prosperity is to follow the counsel of Micah” he says.  Massachusetts is a test case.  He then utters words that will become famous, “For we must consider that we shall be as a city on a hill,” referencing Jesus’s simile within the Sermon on the Mount. 
Jesus was talking about our example as Christians, John Winthrop used the phrase to include this experiment of what would become the United States of America.  Much is at stake, and his following words speak volumes about what we see today in our country. 
“Everyone will be watching us.  Consequently, if we betray our God in this project we have undertaken, and cause him to withdraw his help from us, we will become a cautionary tale and a by-word throughout the world.  We’ll give God’s enemies ground to speak evil of his ways and of all who profess faith for his sake.”  Mistakes will be made, but generally the country will be a light of freedom and Christian ministry, helping fulfill Winthrop’s vision.  Things in our country have been moving away from this vision for some time now, accentuated in recent years, sad to say.  While in the Czech Republic recently we heard more than one person say, “We are watching the American experiment, to see if it lasts.”  Our 200 plus years as a country seems almost new to people with a thousand year’s history.
Winthrop’s sermon will be given to the settlers before they depart the Arabella.  It is an appeal for action, and he ends with these words, “Therefore, let us choose life so that we and our children may live, by obeying his voice and clinging to him (God), for he is our life and our prosperity.”
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