Saturday, November 24, 2012
Do not trust in earthly rulers or kingdoms...
We all know the story of how pilgrims and puritans came from old England to make a New England. They saw themselves as God's people and their journey to this new land as like the journey of His Old Testament people to the land of promise. They were probably more comfortable in the Old Testament than the New, having made the Gospel into Law and Christ from Savior into Enforcer of His laws. They bore up under extreme hardship and when it seemed they had turned the corner, they took a day to give thanks to God.
With this thanksgiving, was their longing for a truly NEW England – one ruler, one people, one religion, one piety, and one morality. Some of them were ready to make George Washington a Kingly David or Solomon to lead them. But there is another side. One with a sense of reconciled diversity in which government established no religion and the minority had the same rights as the majority. It was easy to thank God when we were alike and shared so much in common. It is much more difficult in the midst of a diversity so broad that it satisfies few and antagonizes many. But we are here today to pray for presidents and leaders and to say thanks for the rich bounty that is so easy to take for granted.
Though our forefathers wanted a new nation; we find the new world has come to look decidedly like the old. It too is filled with sinfulness and uncleanness. It is as disordered and broken as the world people came here to escape from. It is not an accomplished fact but an ever demanding work, always in progress and never complete. It is easy to lose our way when there is so much to be done, when our successes seem so fragile, and when our progress seems so small. In the midst of is all, we find that the kingdom we need is God's and not ours.
The kingdom that endures is the Kingdom of Christ. The cross has established this Kingdom and the preaching of the cross makes this Kingdom endure. Its gifts are not measured by dollar signs or monuments of stone but by the blood shed for us on a cross and the life offered to redeem our own lives. This Kingdom is not measured by progress but in faithfulness and endurance. Its victory is not of our accomplishment but Christ's sacrificial death. Its life is living out the promise of the future The Psalmist warns us against putting our trust in earthly rulers and kingdoms and urges us to trust in the Lord and His Kingdom alone.
This does not diminish our love or appreciation for the nation in which we live. It frees us from the impossible standards which would require of this nation a perfection it cannot deliver and a progress it cannot reflect. Today is not about pilgrims or puritans. It is not about ships or journeys. It is not about old worlds or new. It is about that which endures forever and about the glimpse of eternity God gives us in this moment in time. We pause in this moment in time to appreciate our nation and its rich blessings all while acknowledging this American dream is not an end in and of itself. It is a blessing from God that is ours to appreciate, to rejoice in, to share, and to bequeath to those yet to come. That does not diminish this nation or our heritage but honors it without being deceived by it.
We pray for kings and presidents, for nations and countries, for peoples and causes – always understanding that but one is eternal – Christ and His Kingdom. We live the grateful life of a people so richly blessed never allowing ourselves to think we deserve it or can squander its blessing without risk. We receive His gifts to share them. We preserve what we have by being generous with those who have not. We take this kingdom for what can do because we have confidence in the eternal kingdom born of what Christ has done. Our freedom makes sense only when we use it for the sake of others.
There is no need to think more highly of this nation than what it is. To confuse the mortal with the immortal is the path of destruction. Neither can we think of this nation and its blessings as less than what they are. To devalue God's blessing upon us is to forget what is our heritage. We give thanks. We are a rich people who deserve less. Faith has taught us this. Christ has taught us this. God has given this -- it is grace and nothing less. When we live this lesson out in daily life, our nation can only be enriched. Pray for our nation, pray for kings or presidents, but pray most of all that we may well distinguish the temporal from the eternal or we will have certainly sold our birthright for a bowl of lentil soup. Amen