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Mark 6:1-6

1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!


3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, “Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.” 5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.


Abigail & John Adams, Thomas Payne, Margaret Moore Barry, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, Betsy Ross, John Jay, Ben Franklin, Martha & George Washington, Daniel Morgan, John Paul Jones, Mercy Warren, Ethan Allen, Nathan Hale, Lucy & Henry Knox, Paul Revere - these individuals from among many who instrumental in gaining independence from Great Britain. The result of the American Revolution was the creation of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.


1776 is also significant as it marks the publication of Adam Smith's influential Wealth of Nations. His work is widely considered a groundbreaking source in the field of modern economics. It is a work that remains influential today. Both Wealth of Nations and The Declaration of Independence are publications that have inarguably shaped the world in ways beyond what the original authors could have ever imagined.


With these two works deserving esteem, Christian historian Mark Noll lifts a third 1776 publication which may prove to be more influential than both the Declaration of Independence and the Wealth of Nations. In a lecture at Harvard Divinity School, "I say with calculated awareness of what else was going on in Philadelphia [the signing of the Declaration of Independence], and in Scotland, where Adam Smith published his Wealth of Nations, that of all world-historical occurrences in that year, the publication of August Montagu Toplady's hymn, Rock of Ages, may have been the most consequential." (Noll & Thieman, Where Shall My Wond'ring Soul Begin?)


This may seem a surprising choice. But Noll points beyond national citizenship. Toplady's hymn is one of the two most reprinted hymns in Christian history. Its lyrics look to something beyond what we now can see. It calls its hearers to identify with a greater citizenship. Beyond denomination, beyond nation, beyond the misleading divide of sacred and secular, public and private, beyond the labors of our hands, there was a time when humanity understood we are creatures and there is a Creator—a Creator with a redemptive plan. Rock of Ages bids us to see beyond the individual congregation, the individual nation, and individual understandings of history to the cloud of witnesses described by the Bible to the identity we share with all creation through all time.


Jesus’ neighbors refused to believe in or be influenced by, the saving grace Christ offers through the Kingdom of God. The Bible states he was amazed at the unbelief. God’s kingdom is not of a singular congregation, denomination, or nation. History is filled with the ebb and flow of influences and events, but of the Creator who is for us, there is no greater, unswerving influence.

-Reverend Colby Smith


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