Monday, October 20, 2008

Anointed pagan?

23rd Sunday in Pentecost
10/19/2008
Isaiah 45
Bror Erickson

[45:1] Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed:


Have mercy on us that with you as our Ruler and guide we may pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal. That is from the collect of the day, the prayer right before the reading of out Old Testament Text that serves as our sermon Text today Isaiah 45. I wanted to start this sermon with a little not about the liturgy and the form of worship we Lutherans have. So I included this line from the collect. We Lutherans have a liturgical year, a calendar separate from the rest of the world. A calendar they can’t figure out, being as they think the twelve days of Christmas is a sale leading up to Christmas. This year has it’s own seasons, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. Each season has its own peculiar emphasis. Right now we are in the season of Pentecost. Which is the season of the Church. It dwells on the life of the Church, sustained by the Holy Spirit, hence Pentecost, until the return of Christ. Within each of these seasons the Sundays are so arranged that each Sunday has its corresponding sub point, or sup emphasis corresponding to the main emphasis of the season of the Church year. In this way not only are great portions of the Bible read over the course of a year, (covering almost all of it in the course of three years) but also in the course of a year, each and every point of Christian doctrine derived from the Bible is covered. Of course some doctrines have to make it into every sermon, like justification by faith alone, the forgiveness of sins. It isn’t a Christian sermon if you haven’t heard that Christ died for you sins, to forgive you, so that you might have eternal life with him. That is central. But that isn’t the sum total of all Christian doctrine either. That is just the most important. But to keep us pastors from harping Sunday after Sunday on some minor point, the themes change Sunday after Sunday. If you want to know what the theme is check the collect of the day. It often gives it away. Today the theme is the church’s relation to government. How do Christians relate to government officials.

[45:1] Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped,
to subdue nations before him
and to loose the belts of kings,
to open doors before him
that gates may not be closed

This is absolutely mind boggling people. Cyrus the Lord’s Anointed? Cyrus the Babylonian King, who is not even Jewish, is the Lord’s anointed? A king who quite possibly doesn’t even recognize the Lord as God, who most likely bows before some god of Babylonian fashion, A false god, and idol. Yet God has chosen him. God has grasped his right hand, So that he would subdue nations, and loose the belts of kings, that is disarm them, take from them their swords. This is mind boggling. That God would recognize one such as him, a non Jew as his anointed.
Prophets, Priests, and Kings were anointed in Israel. The Kings of Israel whether faithful to God or not were recognized as anointed. Even Saul was recognized as anointed, even after David had been anointed in his place. During the civil war that broke out, David still recognized Saul as God’s anointed. But pagan kings? Them too? They too can be God’s instruments? In a word yes. Not necessarily for the kingdom of the right, the church, but in the kingdom of the left. Government is a gift from God, meant to keep peace and order in the world. Luther includes good government under the heading of daily bread in the Lord’s prayer. Those things needed to sustain life in this world, and for which we should be thankful. This is why Christians pray for those in power whether they like them or not. The early Christians used to pray for those ceasers that even persecuted them, through them to the lions in the circus, or burned them as candles in the garden. I suppose that is part of what it means to love your enemy. Government it is the daily bread God gives to all people, even all evil people. God is the one who is ultimately in control, raising up leaders and tearing them down. Just as he used Cyrus for his ends.
Now I don’t know about you. I don’t know that I could be all that thankful for the government God gave me if I lived in other parts of the world. I don’t know that I would want to live in Burma, or Zimbabwe. I don’t think I would like to live under Castro’s rule, or in the former Soviet Union. It is hard for me to conceive of Hitler as God’s gift to humanity. Of course Luther says good government, not bad government. And if God regarded all rulers a like it is hard to believe that he would use one to subdue the others, loosen their belts if you will. Sometimes governments are bad. Sometimes they are evil. Sometimes war, and revolution are necessary to bring in good government. Sometimes they usher in evil governments. Thankfully here we only have to wait four years an elect a new president, and a new congress, while waiting for those Supreme court justices we disagree with to kick the bucket. We are very fortunate in all that. We should be thankful. God has certainly blessed us more than we deserve. For we in and of our selves, outside of Christ and his forgiveness, are among those evil people to whom God gives daily bread. We don’t deserve this government. We ought to be thankful for it. And we ought to remember to pray for it, and the people serving in it, whether we like them or not.
I have a feeling that I will be praying for presidents with whom I disagree for a long time to come. I’ll pray for them, I won’t vote for them.
I’ll pray for them. I’ll pray that they make wise decisions. I’ll pray that they don’t needlessly get us into wars we don’t need to fight, when their may be more appropriate ways to accomplish the task. I’ll pray that they only tax us what is needed, while being faithful to pay that which I owe. I’ll pray that they make appropriate and wise decisions regarding laws. And foremost in my prayers will be that maybe one of them will wake this nation up to its greatest shame, which is not the amount of energy we use, or the deposing of sick and sadistic dictators on the other side of the world, even if we only did it for the oil, which is not what I believe. No folks the greatest shame in this country is the fact that while we protest the collateral damage in an unpopular war in Iraq, we all but completely ignore the murder of innocent children in our back yard. Children every bit as innocent as any child or family in Iraq, whose only mistake was to be conceived in the womb of an unwilling mother. Some want to make the argument that it is not life. That they aren’t human yet, not until they are born. But it is astonishing to me that people make that argument. Most of the same people will spend thousands decorating a room and buying clothes for an expected child. We think nothing of shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for babies to keep them on life support if their mother happens to give birth prematurely. But that same child in the preme ward, will have a cousin the same age aborted on that very same day, right down the street. I pray someday we have officials that recognize and awaken us to that great shame, and outlaw it. Doctors and mothers guilty of that should be locked up thrown in jail if convicted. It is disgusting that we do not as a nation afford any protection to them.
Yet through it all I will remember that there is more to life than this world offers. God is good and gracious, and has given us all eternal life in Jesus Christ, forgiven us all of our sins. We are citizens of another world now. One that is waiting for us. Our government is of this world, it is tainted with the sin of this world. It will never be perfect, it doesn’t even have to be perfect. It most certainly doesn’t have to be “Christian.” I’m never sure what that would be. We give ceaser his due, we pay the tax, we pray for our leaders, we do what we are called to do as citizens. Vote for the best candidate. Make the decision best as you can. It won’t be perfect. You will be forgiven. Christ, our true Lord, whose kingdom is not of this world, and never will be, forgives all, even poor presidential choices.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus Our Lord Amen.

3 comments:

steve martin said...

Nice post, Bror!

There are two kingdoms and God expects us to render to them that which is reserverd for them.

Render to one, trust the Other.

There is no peace in trusting the princes of this world. The princes of this world will let us down, everytime.

The Lord our God, Jesus Christ, will never let us down.

Es ist das Heil said...

It is amazing to me that we as a nation, the United States, look down our noses at Hitler who murdered 6 million Jews in WWII (obviously a horrible thing) and say "What a wicked man, obviously a man of the devil". How could he do such a thing? WE (The United States) would never allow that to happen! We are much too good for that to happen!
WHILE WE (the United States) MURDER 3,287 INNOCENT BABIES EVERY DAY!!!!!
Bush sends in the troops to free Irag from the evil dictator as the UNITED STATES MURDERS IT'S OWN KIDS!!
Obama says he would send in the troops for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, yet says nothing about MURDERING OUR OWN KIDS!!

WE (The United States) NEED TO CLEAN OUT OUR OWN CLOSET!!!!

steve martin said...

There is no peace in trusting the princes of this world. The princes of this world will let us down, everytime.