Sermon – Wheat and Weeds

Wheat and Tares 2

Sermon 6 Pentecost A 2014 Fr. Ray Kasch St. Patrick’s Anglican Church

Lessons Romans 8:18-25; St. Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Last week we heard from Jesus concerning the parable of the sower and this week we have a similar parable about sowing but the differences in the two parables are worth noting. In last week’s parable the seed was the Word of God and the soil was our hearts. In today’s parable we are the seed and the soil or the field is the world. Unlike last week, the sower is identified in this parable. The One who sows the wheat, which are the children of the kingdom, is Jesus Himself. But also there is other seed being sown in the world. These are weeds, which are children of the evil one, and these seeds are sown into the world by the Satan.

What is Jesus talking about and why is He giving these parables? The answer to that is found in His opening sentence. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to….” These are parables about the kingdom of God. Notice that He is not talking to them about heaven; He is talking to them about the kingdom of God.

My parents raised me in the Church and so I heard a lot of sermons and attended many Sunday school classes. It was most probably due to my own spiritual deafness but I don’t remember from those days much talk about the kingdom of God. We heard a lot about heaven. We sang songs like, “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace, I want to see my Savior’s face. Heaven in a wonderful place.” I heard talk of what heaven is like, I heard talk of how to get there. I even heard suggestions of who will and who will not be there. But I heard very little about the kingdom of God and in particular there was an absence of talk about living in that kingdom in the here and now.

But Jesus wants His audience to catch a vision of the kingdom of God so He gives them metaphors that they can understand. He talks of farming to farmers and fishing to fishermen. He even goes on and explains the metaphors so that they will realize that this is not some secret that He has for only a chosen few. It is a call to all of His flock. He will teach them to pray daily for the kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. He will teach them how to live in that kingdom in the present because He is the King and has come in their midst. They had been looking for the restoration of the Davidic kingdom but what Jesus is talking about is that and so much more. It is the dawning of a new day.

The Church today is in as desperate need of Jesus’ teaching of the kingdom as was that first audience. I say that because I fear that the Church is asking the wrong questions and therefore coming up with the wrong answers. For example I see a lot of handwringing on the Internet about the state of the Church in America. Membership and baptisms are on a decline and people fear that we are going the way of Europe and will soon be post Christian, if we are not there already. Therefore the question being constantly discussed is how to attract the Millennials back to Church.

Answers come back that we need to find out what kind of music they like and so sacred space is now filled with so many rock instruments that it looks like a Rolling Stones reunion tour. We need to serve only the finest coffee because they are used to Starbucks. Since they tend to be dubious of authority, clergy now preach in torn jeans with shirttails hanging out and rolled up sleeves to show some tattoos for street cred. And since Millennials were baptized in relativism and confirmed in diversity, the Church needs to shy away from dogma or anything that could be construed as politically incorrect. In some cases they have abandoned the sermon altogether and now have plays or interviews or make comments on movie clips that are shown on giant high def. screens.

Please don’t misunderstand. I also want to attract the Millennials, and any other generation for that matter. But I don’t think the place to begin is by asking ourselves how we can pander to their wants. The question is not “how do we attract Millennials?” the question is “How do we please God?” And Jesus’ answer is that we please God by proclaiming and walking in His kingdom. When Millennials see a people who walk in the righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Ghost, which is Paul’s definition of the kingdom of God, they will be attracted. We must remember that if Jesus was just about attracting a crowd then He did not do a very good job of it. In fact He managed to chase them all away and was down to a handful at the time of His death and even one of them betrayed Him. But He didn’t come to attract a crowd. He came to proclaim the kingdom of God. That said let’s get back to the parable.

The first thing that jumps out to me in this second parable it that there is not a lot of wiggle room here. The two choices are wheat or weeds. Imagine what His audience must have been thinking when they heard this parable. It had to be something like, “I sure hope I’m in the wheat category because I don’t like what happens to the weeds.” But we also need to look deeper into this parable because there is more here than just determining if you and I personally are a wheat or a weed. What Jesus is showing us is the clash of two kingdoms. Jesus is sowing into the world children of the kingdom while Satan is sowing children of the enemy. A war is happening and the prize is this world. Allow me to give you a more modern parable.

During World War Two, Nazi Germany conquered France in 1940. When it did the Free French government went into exile and moved to England under Charles de Gaulle. Some of the French who remained behind formed a resistance movement and they did all that they could to disrupt the Nazis. They derailed trains, blew up ammo dumps, stopped the distribution of supplies and engaged in guerilla warfare tactics. But there was also another player in the game and that was a puppet government called the Vichy government, named for the town in which it was formed. This government compromised and cooperated with the Nazis even to extent of arresting Jews for deportation to the death camps.

In this analogy Christ is our de Gaulle. He is with us by His Spirit but He has gone to glory and we await His return. In the meantime we are to be the resistance movement who fights against the forces of evil. St. Paul reminds us that our warfare is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in heavenly places and so we do our warfare in a spiritual manner. Everywhere we extend the kingdom of God we are pushing back the forces of darkness. How do we extend the kingdom? Every time we do what the King has commanded us to do, we are extending His kingdom.

You are doing it this week. You rallied behind the 9 folks who wanted to share the love of Christ in Bolivia. You gave them your money and your prayers and you sent them out. They will touch lives while there and they will come back themselves changed people. Sure we could have just sent a check to Bolivia but that is not the kingdom way. “For God so loved the world that He sent a check” is a line not found in Scripture. Christianity is incarnational; it’s about His taking on our humanity, it’s about His Body and Blood, it’s about us being His Body.

I also see in this analogy from World War Two the Vichy government being the part of the Church that compromises with the world. They think that by compromise they will become more popular but all they are really doing is empowering the enemy. I’m referring to these main line denominations that are changing Jesus’ definition of marriage. That may seem minor but it in turn impacts adoption and foster care and a myriad of other laws that will change to accommodate this new definition. It also means the loss personal freedoms for those who by conscience could not support such a change. We have already witnessed Christian run businesses that have had to close because they cannot in good conscience go against what Jesus taught.

I’m referring to the non-denominations that water down the Gospel so that no one is offended. American theologian Richard Neihbur prophetically described it in 1950 saying, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a Kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”’ As long as you feel good when you leave church then mission accomplished. It doesn’t really matter how you live your life the rest of the week.

I’m referring to the Church of England that just violated 2,000 years of holy tradition by ordaining women bishops so that the Church can be seen as current and relevant. Other than realizing that there is no biblical warrant for what they did, you would have thought that they would at least taken a look at how well that worked for the Episcopal Church. The first female bishop in America was in 1989 and membership since that time has dropped by one half million souls while our general population has increased by seventy million during that same time. Compromise never meets its expected ends. Compromise does not work because it is not the kingdom way.

The second thing that we see in this parable is that there is no room for triumphalism and so we need to temper our expectations. We have to believe that when Jesus’ original hearers understood that He was proclaiming, Himself as King and that the kingdom of God had arrived, that they got excited. Some of them fully expected that the Romans would be driven out of Palestine, that evil rulers like Herod would be replaced and that the burdens put on them by their religious leaders would be lifted. Instead the Romans destroyed the temple, Herod died while in power and they would soon be martyred. In short the kingdom of God is not a panacea, at least not until it comes in its fullness. That means those of us who are wheat are going to have to get used to the weeds.

This parable gave great insight to Augustine and later to the Reformers about the nature of the Church. Jesus not allowing the angels to pluck out the weeds from the wheat until the final day means that the Church is going to be a mixed bag. It will have wheat and weeds, sheep and goats. The Reformers spoke of this as the visible and the invisible Church. The visible Church is made up of all who claim to be wheat while the invisible Church is made up of those who truly are wheat. The key here is that only Christ knows who is in the invisible Church.

Such a distinction is important for two reasons. First, if you realize that the Church is going to be a mixed bag, then it puts limits on Church discipline. The Prayer Book gives a priest the authority to excommunicate someone but only for what it calls “notorious sin” which is the kind of sin that is a scandal to the Name of Christ. When even non-believers are shocked by what we are doing in the Church then it is time to act. But if I excommunicated everyone who sinned, then I would not be allowed to come to Church and neither would you. If the Church had consistently applied this parable of the sower then it would have prevented the Spanish Inquisition (because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition) or Calvin’s Geneva where sinning could get you banished from the city, blasphemy was punished by death and lewd singing would get your tongue pierced. I guess the latter would be seen today as a good thing but you get the point.

The other reason that this distinction of two kingdoms is important is that it makes us more accepting and patient with one another. I talked with a guy who has been in and out of a number of denominations and then a number of churches within his denomination. That can be a good thing because we change on our journey. Over half of our congregations and our priests grew up in other traditions. But it is not a good thing when what is fueling the wandering is discontentment due to some idealized version of what the Church should be. As the saying goes, “If you ever do find the perfect church, don’t join it because you will ruin it.” Jesus is letting us know right off that neither the world nor the church is going to be perfect so we learn to live with the imperfections and live in the hope that one day the angels will come and the weeds will be gone.

I love how Jesus ends this parable. He says, “The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers (that by the way is your ‘Rapture”)….Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” This is not going off to heaven to get your wings. This is reigning with Christ in a new heaven and a new earth and that is our destiny if we will take up our cross and follow Him. It is this vision of the kingdom of God that has kept my batteries charged up for the last 40 plus years. It is the belief that the kingdom is to be lived in the here and now and that one day it will come in its fullness that keeps me going. As a Churchman I obviously love the Church but this vision of the kingdom is greater than the Church. It involves all of creation, which is also waiting and groaning for the kingdom to come in its fullness. I love being an Anglican but that is not where my hope lies. If Anglicanism stopped tomorrow it would not stop the kingdom from coming. We are to live for the kingdom that is here now and that is coming in its fullness. We are given the incredible privilege of being a part of that kingdom as Christ makes all things new. As Jesus said, “Let him who has ears to hear, listen.”

Sermon – 5 Pentecost A – 2014

Sower

Sermon 5 Pentecost A 2014 Fr. Ray Kasch St. Patrick’s Anglican Church

Lessons Is 55:1-13; Romans 8:9-17; St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

You may have noticed in our bulletin that the month of May was not a good month for St. Patrick’s financially speaking. But I have some great news to address our shortfall. Last week I received an email from a widow lady in Nigeria about her deceased husband who had worked for the government and amassed a fortune. She has chosen me of all people to distribute his funds as I see fit in the U.S. All I had to do is to send her my date of birth, social security number and tracking number of my bank. Any day now she will wire me a fortune! We are movin on up to the east side; we finally got a piece of the pie! (I apologise for the ear worm).

I actually knew a guy who fell for that one a few years ago and was taken for quite a bit of money. This scam is the perfect illustration of a wise saying.“If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.” But as in most cases there are exceptions to that rule and our Old Testament lesson is one of those exceptions. Today we hear the call of the Prophet“Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come and buy and eat. Come buy wine and milk without money and without price.” When we hear these words we must discipline ourselves not to have a cynical response and doubt the truth of it rather than accepting this most gracious of invitations.

This call from God to come to the water, to buy wine and milk without money is a call to accept the grace of God. Water is a symbol of life and spiritual renewal. Wine is a symbol spiritual joy especilly in the context of fellowship. Milk is a symbol of spiritual nourishment. In our church these promises are symbolized by the baptismal font, the altar, and the pulpit.

But I am getting ahead of myself because these promises predate the New Testament Church. They are a wonderful reminder to us that from beginning to end, the story of God and His people is a story of grace. It is a story of an abundance of love and mercy that is unearned, undeserved and unconditional. In Genesis God promises that He will be their God and they will be His people. In the Revelation to John we read these words “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city; the new Jerusalem comign down out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be their God.” (Rev 21:1-3)

Do you find these words as astonishing as I do? Did you notice the thrust of the passage? You would think that it would say that the dwelling place of man is with God but it says the opposite. The dwelling place of God is with man. We see this in the tabernacle being placed in the midst of the camp as the people of God wandered in the wilderness. We see this in the temple in the heart of Jerusalem. Above all we see the dwelling place of God with man in the Incarnation. So the goal of God is to dwell with man. But why? Why? When He came to dwell with us, we crucified Him, so why would He care to dwell with us? The Anglican priest John Newton told us. Because of “amazing grace.”

You have probably already noticed it but I hear a strong parallel between these words of the prophet, that invite us to come and be refreshed by God’s grace, to the promise of Jesus that we heard last week and that Fr. BE so powerfully preaced.“Come unto me all ye that are in travail and and heavy laden and I will refresh you.” These promises were made some 800 years apart but God never tires of this invitation. What do we need to do in order to respond to it?

First we need to be honest about our current condition. If we are not even aware that we thirst then we will not care about an invitation to come and drink. If we don’t get that we are in travail and are heavy laden then we will never come to Him.

If you know me then you know that I am the opposite of “health and wealth gospel” guys. I believe that the “name it and claim it” or “blab it and grab it” message is smoke and mirrors.

A good test for a truth is with what is called the Vincintian canon named after St. Vincent who died in 434. He wrote that a truth is a catholic or universal truth if it has been believed always, everwhere and by all. So let’s do a test Always? No, it is a new teaching. Not coincidentally these health and wealth teachings took hold in the greed filled 1980’s. Everywhere? While it may preach well in the United States, not so much in Haiti. By all? It works great for the guys preaching it but not so well for the poor and desperate who send in their last copper coins. So clearly I am not in that camp.

But that said, it became astonishingly popular in part because of a kernel of truth in it, and that kernel of truth is that we do not have to settle. What I mean by not settling is that God wants more for us than to be perpetually thirsty or continually in travail and heavy laden. The problem is that we have become so accustomed to being thirsty and exhaused that it becomes the new normal. And because we try to quench our thirst with everything but the Living Waterwe we think it is natural to walk around thirsty. We get so used to seeing everyone around us weighed down by guilt and anger that we take it as the natural course of life. We have lived with psychic lonliness so long that it does not even enter our minds that God wants to dwell with us. So we plug along as good soldiers, thirsty, exhausted and alone. Fr. BE described it so perfectly last week, how we will be in travail for days, weeks, months and even years before we finally give in and come to Him. Why do we do that? What takes us so long?

You know the answer and so do I. P-R-I-D-E. Much if not most of it is due to that perpetual 2 year old is in us all that says, “I can do it myself.” No we can’t and we shouldn’t even try! So the first step is to be honest where we are and admit that we thirst, that we are in travail and are heavy laden. The first step is to come to the place where we are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The next thing we must do, after we admit that we are thirsty, is to realize
that this promise is for everyone, and everyone includes us. “Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” Everyone.This may sound obvious but there is a vast difference between something being obvious and owning it
and living it as a part of our daily lives.

The other reason that we wait so long to end our thirst or why we wait to come to Him is that we know “God so loved the world” but we are not convinced that “God so loved me.” We want to believe that but dare we hope for that lest we get disappointed? That healing prayer may not work so I won’t even ask to be healed. That way I am just sick, not sick AND broken hearted.

How do we get beyond this deadlock? We do so by having more faith and we have more faith by increasing our pledge to the church!? No wait I’m back to health and wealth thing! No we move beyond the deadlock not by trying to increase our faith but by recalling Who it is that is issuing the call to come and be satisfied. We give our attention to Who it is that is promising to refresh us.

We have all been hurt before by broken promises and personal betrauyal but this is different. This is not the empty promise of a selfish man
who says that he will love you until the end of time and now is praying for the end of time (St. Meatloaf). This is not the broken promise of the State to be a servant to the people but ever encrouches upon the freedoms of that same people. This is not the false declaration of a denomination that declares love for all people…except of course for those not a part of their denomination.

This is the promise of the One who loved us and proved that love by delivering Himself up for us. If you ever doubt that this promise is for you
then look to the Cross. We are made equal by that Cross. If that promise is not for you then who? If the promise is not for everyone then it is for no one.
There was a Christian singer years ago who sang a child-like song and the refrain stays with me to this day “He gave his life, what more could he do? Oh how he loves you, oh how he loves me, Oh how he loves you and me.” It cannot be more simple or more true.

The third thing we must do to be refreshed is to come with no money. I read a story of conference in England on comparative religions. Experts from around the world came to discuss and to debate. One day the topic was if there was really anything unique about Christianity. They discussed how our doctrine of the Incarnation not really unique because other world religions had stories of gods and goddesses taking on human form. They argued that neither was the doctrine of the Resurrection unique because while not technically the same as Christ’s resurrection, other religions had stories of gods rising or being reborn after death. As they were having this debate the famous Christian writer C.S. Lewis entered and asked about the topic. When they replied that it was if there was anything unique about the Christian religion, Lewis said,“That’s easy. It’s grace.” The scholars had to agree.

God’s love offered to us without our working for it or earning it or even deserving it is the unique claim of the Christian faith. We don’t have to observe a set of laws, we don’t have to make a pilgrimage, we don’t even have to make our dogma chase our karma.We simply buy it without money. In other words it is perfectly free. No hidden costs, no fine print and it even comes with an eternal lifetime guarantee.

This claim is so unique and so foreign to our ears that we are tempted to think that it MUST be too good to be true. There HAS to be a catch. Our cynical American ears continue to listen for the next part. No one gives away something so precious for nothing. But instead of coming with a hitch to the promise of free renewal and free joy and free nourishment, the prophet adds more to the promise. He says, “Incline your ear, and come to me; listen that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant.”

The Lord God offers us in these words more than a temporary fix to our problem of thirst. He seeks a permenant relationship with us. He seeks a covenant. I saw a sign on church that said it well. “Your heavenly Father wants more than weekly visitation.” He comes to make His home with us.

While there is no cost, this free gift does not mean that we are passive in this covenant. This brings us to Jesus’ words to us today in the Gospel. Some will hear His invitation but it will be as if they never heard it. Some will get excited initially but as they lose the initial excitement it will mean nothing to them. Some will take it in and give it serious thought but the love of worldly things will make them deaf to God’s call. Many however will receive invitation with joy and not only enter that everlasting covenant but share it with othersso that they too will know the grace of God.

This parable addresses the condition of the soil of our hearts to receive the Word of God. We cannot purchase what God brings to us but we can prepare to receive it. That is why John the Baptist came before Jesus and Advent comes before Christmas and Lent comes before Easter. Today we can come and eat and drink freely as we receive Holy Communion but in what condition will we come?

Will it be just an empty ritual where we get church over with so we can be about our day? Will we coming to look only for comfort and not for covenant? The danger of that of course is that we fall away as soon as things are no longer comfortable?

Will we come distracted by recent losses in the stock market or worries about our businesses and too concerned about the treasures that are destroyed by rust and moth to even see the eternal treasures been placed before us?

Or will we come and drink and eat and be renewed in our relationship with Jesus so that we go from here to make a difference in the lives of 30 or 60 or even 100 others?

The promises are the same to each of us. God invites each to come to be renewed and nourished. Through the waters of Baptism and through Word and Sacrament He offers us what we truly need. These are the means for receiving Jesus who refreshes us as Living Water and who nourishes us as the Word of God and who offers us the wine of His blood to give us the joy of sins forgiven. The question that only each of us can answer for ourselves is if we ready to receive Him? “Ho everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.” Amen

July 4

Continental Congress in Prayer

I saw Dinesh D’Souza’s movie entitled “America” and found it to be fascinating. It is particularly interesting to view our country through the eyes of an immigrant who has chosen to be here rather than being an American by birth. The premise of the film is what the world would be like today if this great country had never been birthed. It is a frightening thing to consider. But what stood out to me in the movie was how polarized people are about our nation. One generation was raised to believe that America is the Promised Land, which is how Dinesh sees it, while another generation was raised to see this country as an oppressive bully that was wrongly conceived. I was shocked that some people Dinesh interviewed, who were Americans, actually wished that America did not exist. The question that this polarization presented to me was how we are disciples of Christ are to believe and behave when it comes to this nation and our citizenship in it.

First we need to get our loyalties in proper perspective. We just read in Hebrews about the saints who have come before us were sojourners, seeking a homeland, which is a city prepared by God. St. Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians that our citizenship is in heaven. This of course does not mean that we cannot take an earthly citizenship or even love our nation but it does mean that we need to keep our ultimate focus on the prize of our heavenly citizenship. When you read the Book of Acts you can see how St. Paul used his Roman citizenship as a kind of ace up his sleeve to open up opportunities for the Gospel. But it is also clear, both in Acts and in his Epistles that his central identity was that of a servant of Christ who was already seated with Him in heavenly places.

One might object that such a perspective would make us ambivalent citizens but I would argue that it actually makes us just the opposite. It makes us better citizens. I say that first because it keeps God as God and country as country and allows you the freedom to speak of one without the other. What I mean by that is it helps us have a healthy separation of Church and State. Read in the Old Testament how God dealt with Israel for her idolatry and you will understand that when we either make an idol out patriotism, as some people on the right will do, or when we place our government in the place of God as our Provider, as some on the left will do, then we may be setting ourselves up for judgment. What is needed is the healthy view of a Christian, who will not call Caesar “lord” but will pray for the king and all in authority as the Scriptures command us to do. That is what is best for a nation.

Second having the priority of our citizenship in heaven makes us better citizens because being citizens of heaven gives us a greater objectivity to both support and critique our nation, and that is what good citizens do. Heavenly mindedness equips us to offer reality checks. If America is your only hope then one of two things is going to happen to you. You will either fall into deep despair about how far we have drifted from our founders’ vision or you will become blindingly loyal and allow ever increasing encroachment upon our freedoms. Neither of those options helps anyone.

May I make an audacious declaration? Because we have the first amendment and it is the 4th of July I think I shall. As Christians we have a better take on reality than secularists and statists and so we are even better equipped to provide a reality check for our country in order to keep it healthy. Why do I say that? I say that because our faith informs us both in whom we trust AND the limitations are of the state. This nation was founded on the truth that we have been given our rights by God and not by the State but how could a secular humanist or an atheist make or defend such a claim?

It is not an accident that ancient kings and pharaohs and caesars declared themselves divine or that modern philosophies like communism require atheism. They do this to put themselves or the State in the place of the one true God. But we as Christians, who through Jesus Christ know the one true God, we can call upon the state to perform its God given role and require it to stay within that God given role. We pray in the 1928 prayers for the State to punish wickedness and vice, because that is their job. St. Paul argued that is why God has given the sword to the State. But as we just saw in the Supreme Court ruling we are to challenge the State when it steps beyond its boundaries and infringes on our God given rights. The illegal and immoral attempt to require a Christian family run business to violate their conscience and pay for measures that cause an end to life was shocking.

And I think it is also best for our nation when Christians stand up for the truth and push back against the lies. The Supreme Court ruling was a victory for religious freedom but the cries and lies throughout the media and social media is that it was an attack on women’s reproductive rights. Here is the reality check. Hobby Lobby was not opposed to women’s reproductive rights. Their plan offered 16 different contraception methods. They didn’t even say a woman could not have an abortion. They just were saying that if they want to end life then they were not going to pay for it. That was as decision that the owners of Hobby Lobby came to through religious conviction, and given our constitution, it was both amazing and distressing to me that this should have gone all the way to the Supreme Court. It is also amazing and distressing that only 5 of the Justices saw it for what it was, a violation of religious freedom. To show you how far things have gone, in 1993 President Clinton signed into to law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed unanimously by the House and only had 3 no votes in the Senate. Now barley 20 years later we could use another such law to restore our religious freedoms but what would be the chances of getting a near unanimous passage today?

Being amazed and distressed leads me to a third reason that our heavenly citizenship makes us better citizens. That is because we know the power of prayer to move the hearts of people and rulers. Paul writes to Timothy, “First of all, then, I urge you that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” We should never underestimate the power of prayer and think to ourselves “Well all I can do is to pray about it.” Prayer is the force God utilizes to bring about change. If we are not praying then we are a part of the problem.

In the 1970’s I heard an incredible teaching on praying for our governing authorities and I was terribly convicted that I was not doing it. Since that time I have seen a number of governing authorities come and go and to be very honest with you there are some that I have had great difficulty praying for. In my flesh I wanted to pray against them rather than for them but I knew that was wrong. If in our Gospel lesson today Jesus tells us to pray, even for our enemies, then it would clearly be wrong for me to pray against our authorities. What I try to keep in mind, when I have find myself choking out a prayer for someone that I think is doing great harm to us, is that St. Paul was calling upon Timothy to pray for the very government that would soon kill him.

Another great example of praying correctly is what I have placed in your bulletin. The picture is of the Anglican Chaplain who led the Continental Congress in prayer. It is fascination to me that this Continental Congress, called for the nation yet unborn, to engage in fasting and prayer. Notice how they were praying for the king and for peace even as war loomed. It was not a prayer of vengeance and animosity towards that king; rather it was a prayer of humility and repentance on their part. Listen to these words. “that we may, with united hearts and voices, unfeignedly confess and deplore our many sins; and offer up our joint supplications to the all-wise, omnipotent, and merciful Disposer of all events; humbly beseeching him to forgive our iniquities, to remove our present calamities, to avert those desolating judgments, with which we are threatened, and to bless our rightful sovereign, King George the third, and [to] inspire him with wisdom to discern and pursue the true interest of all his subjects, that a speedy end may be put to the civil discord between Great Britain and the American colonies, without farther effusion of blood:”

As Christians we can and should repent to the Lord on behalf of our nation. When we pray it is not an “us” versus “them” proposition. We call upon God to forgive us because if we don’t no one will. We pray for our nation because there are some wonderful promises and example in the Bible of the Lord responding to such prayers and healing the land.

A fourth way that our heavenly citizenship makes us better citizens is that it requires us to seek and serve Christ in all people. As Christians we know that when we are doing it unto the least of these we are doing it unto Him. Caring for one another and for those who cannot care for themselves makes us a better nation. It moves our country from the mentality of the 80’s, when the motto was “Greed is good,” to the command of Christ to “love one another.” It was pointed out in Dinesh’s movie by a researcher that religious people give 4 times the amount of money to charities than secular people and so our heavenly mindedness makes the world a better place.

Being raised in a military family, I was raised to be patriotic. I am to this day. While I don’t have blinders to what America has done and is doing wrong, I do not accept the shame that revisionists want me to have for being an American. The histories of these revisionists is lies and we are not to live in lies. At the same time I am more than just an American, I am also a disciple of Christ. As such my focus is the kingdom of God and seeking that kingdom above all things. I also believe that the things that ail our land will not be ultimately solved through politics. What our nation needs is a King or rather I should say the King of Kings. He alone can heal our land. So let’s have our heavenly citizenship inform our earthly citizenship, call our nation back to God and call upon God to heal our land. May God bless America.