Posted by robinpalmer
Readings: 1 Tim 2:1-8; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17
About this time 40 years ago this was me:
Hard to believe really. The uniform tells a story too. We were fighting a war that we didn’t believe in. The government of the day was not my preferred choice. I campaigned for the opposition. It didn’t help.
And the choice of being in the army or not was a choice between conscription or jail really. Conscientious objection was a painful third way.
During those two years I am sure I heard more than a few occasions a military chaplain reading Romans 13:1-2 as a reminder.
PW Botha who became president was the then minister of defence. His photo was on the wall in the various military buildings we used. (In fact, we had to entertain people at a party for his wife for her birthday party. At the end of the event, the cabinet ministers’ wives went around the tables collecting the free cameo cigarettes that they used to have on the tables in those days and stuffed them into their handbags. We did find that very funny.)
When PW Botha did become president, he was visited in 1985 by Michael Cassidy who represented the churches trying to broker a peace deal. As this esteemed Christian leader walked into the president’s office, the old crocodile as we called him was reading his bible out aloud in his oval office. From Romans 13.
Rom 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Rom 13:2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
When he had finished reading he said to Michael Cassidy: “What can I do for you?” Just a bit of intimidation really.
The president was right. But his government wasn’t necessarily right.
Obviously we have a problem here.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a case in point. When Hitler, the elected leader, abused his power, the Lutheran Church struggled with the idea that you should disobey or worse still try to get rid of the Chancellor by any means, let alone by assassination. Bonhoeffer did participate in that movement. His ethics, put simply – were based on these kinds of ideas: “It is better to do evil than to be evil.” The Gestapo hanged him of course.
Martin Luther called on the German princes to crush the peasants when they revolted. The ensuing violence after the peasants’ revolt created a real crisis for him.
Simon Ponsonby writes that “Luther spoke of the Zwei-Reiche-Lehre, the two-kingdoms rule, arguing that God rules through the church as well as through kings and their governments. (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 364). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)
Our decisions may not have the same drastic consequences as Bonhoeffer’s or Luther’s, but as Christians it is getting harder to manage the tension between the State and our faith.
This is not just about voting, but also about our own moral and ethical choices. For example, as a marriage officer, there is obvious tension when the State changes the law about marriage, and the law differs from one’s understanding of Christian marriage.
There are many other ethical issues including abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research and others which create tensions in various ways. Christian doctors, nurses and researchers all have to work through some of these things.
WHAT DOES PAUL REALLY SAY?
Well here’s the thing. Chapter 13 follow chapter 12. And it seems that the 9-21 factor still applies here. Remember that from last week?
12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God gives government. It’s for our good. Anarchy is not good. None of us would be safe without law. (Remember my children’s story about Rob Bell wanting to take revenge with a golf ball – throwing it out of the sunroof of the car to hit the car behind which cut him off? The kids loved that last week. Without law, he could simply drive him off the road or shoot him – so that our highways could look like a mad max movie.)
God gives government. Paul doesn’t specify which kind. That’s not the point. Democracy is a very modern thing anyway.
If we are not to be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good – then we are to be a good example in our behaviour in our wider lives too.
When Paul writes to Timothy he makes it clear that prayer for the authorities is our essential responsibility. And the outcome is good for society – for all us. Government is a gift from God – according to Emil Brunner – God’s involvement in government is called “preserving grace” – it is grace that preserves the good.
We need to add to that good – clinging to it (12:9) and overcoming evil with it (12:21).
The second-century church father Tertullian once declared that “Caesar is more ours than yours, for our God has appointed him” and that, because of their prayers for those in authority, “Christians do more than you [Romans] for his welfare”. (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 364). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)
So Paul says:
Rom 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Rom 13:2 Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. Rom 13:4 For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Rom 13:6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing.
Look at the repeated words:
- Authorities and authority (exousisa – powers)
- Servant and servants (diakonos – minister)
- God (theos)
It is no coincidence that cabinet ministers are called ministers. The word is translated as servants. Admittedly they get paid a tad more than ministers in our churches. But the idea is the same.
They serve God – even if they don’t believe in God or know this. And they serve people.
And we are to pray for them with some intensity and unity – and give them the honour that is due. Verse 7 ends this passage with these words: Rom 13:7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
So, in short:
- We submit
- We pray
And at times
- we do disobey.
Simon Ponsonby gives great examples when he writes:
Sometimes civil disobedience will be patently obviously required:
- Daniel refused to obey the edict to pray only to King Darius for thirty days, and was thrown in the lions’ den (Daniel 6).
- Peter and the apostles were forbidden by the Sanhedrin to preach the gospel, but they refused on the grounds that they should obey God not men (Acts 5: 29).
- Many Christians in the early centuries of the Roman empire chose martyrdom rather than hand over their sacred scrolls to be burned or blaspheme by declaring Caesar as lord.
- Some Christians, all too few, hid Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, rather than comply with the wicked law and hand them over to be exterminated. (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 368). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)
Ponsonby goes on:
The rule of the state is part of God’s economy in this age. God gives, the church lives under good government, and the church sieves government.
Meanwhile we wait expectantly for the coming rule of Christ’s kingdom at his return, as Isaiah prophesied: “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (Isaiah 9: 7). (Ponsonby, Simon. God Is For Us (p. 369). Monarch Books. Kindle Edition.)
So keep praying and obeying in the meantime.
Posted by robinpalmer
2 Corinthians 9:5-12
Luke 10:1-10; 16-20
A story is told about a man who was on a luxury liner and suddenly he falls overboard. He can’t swim and in desperation he begins calling for help. Now it just so happens that there were several would be rescuers on deck who witnessed the incident.
· The first man was a MORALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately reached into his briefcase and pulled out a book on how to swim. He now tossed it to him and he yelled: Now brother, you read that and just follow the instructions and you will be alright.
· The man next to him happened to be an IDEALIST. When he saw the man fall overboard he immediately jumped into the water and began swimming all around the drowning man saying: Now just watch me swim. Do as I do and you will be alright.
· The person next to him happened to be a member of the INSTITUTIONAL CHURCH. He looked upon the drowning man’s plight with deep concern. He yelled out: Now, just hold on friend. Help is on the way. We are going to establish a committee and dialogue your problem. And then, if we have come up with the proper financing, we will resolve your dilemma.
· The next man on deck happened to be a representative of the school of POSITIVE THINKING. He yelled out to the drowning man: “Friend, this situation is not nearly as bad as you think. Think dry!”
· The next man on board happened to be a REVIVALIST. By this time the drowning man was going down for the third time and desperately began waving his arm. Seeing that, the revivalist yelled out: Yes brother, I see that hand, is there another? Is there another?
· And finally, the last man on deck, was a REALIST. He immediately plunged into the water, at the risk of his own life, and pulled the victim to safety.
So what did you think of the readings today?
I wonder if you noticed what they had in common?
· Yes they were in English
· Yes they were both from the New Testament
· They referred in one way or another to sowing, reaping and harvest. And harvest is, amongst other things in the bible, a metaphor, a picture or a way of understanding what we invest in – when we share the gospel and people come to faith.
Harvesting is about that critical time really – when the crops have to be collected. Whether by hand or huge combined harvesters – it is a critical time.
I recall seeing a brilliant video presentation on mission – using the harvest as the key image (as it is used in Scripture) when a family had lost their farming dad – and they felt paralysed when harvest time came – the job was too big. And early one morning – there was this roar of engines in the distance – before sunrise – they could hear the noise getting closer and closer. And there they were – the whole community of farmers came along with these huge machines – and reaped the harvest.
It was brilliant! It spoke about community, unity, and a common purpose. The Christian church in many places has none of those. Not community, not unity, and not a common purpose.
There are glimpses. There are moments. There are times when Christians seem to get it right. But often we are not like a mighty army, as the hymn declares, but like a mighty tortoise – plodding along. And when it gets too hard – we pull our heads in and hide in our shells.
God is calling the church in this generation to its true mission. We are a lifesaving station that is still to save lives. We are to jump into the water and rescue people.
We are called. We are called to follow Jesus and to help others find and follow him.
Frankly – we are so grumpy and selfish sometimes that we should not be surprised if people think we ourselves need saving from ourselves!
I watched this classic TV clip this week – a nice BBC weather presenter was caught after she had done the weather forecast – she thought the cameras were off and boy was she grumpy.
Let’s have a look at her…
We can be like that too – our true colours eventually pop out under pressure.
Of course pastors can have a bad day too. Try this one as an example. You don’t have to watch the whole video – you get the idea of being grumpy!
Now if I have sounded like that – I humbly apologise! I probably have had some bad days! But Pastor Jim tops them all!
It seems to me that Jesus is calling us to a consistency in our behaviour – that whatever we do and are on Sunday should be who we are every day! When the cameras are off too! We can’t be one thing on a Sunday and than indifferent on a Monday when it comes to our witness and care for people.
Jesus seemed overly and enthusiastically interested in getting people to do what he did as he reached out to people with the good news of the Kingdom of God.
It was clearly more than the 12 original disciples.
In Luke 10 he sends out 70 – or 72.
Now I know that the issues were different. Clearly they had “superpowers” – healing the sick and casting out demons.
Some have suggested that this was a one-off thing.
It certainly was different – and it was before Pentecost.
We do pray for the sick – and there are those in this generation who cast out demons.
Put that aside for now – and ask yourself this question.
What did they talk about? What was the conversation about?
What captivated their imagination? Probably these factors:
- Jesus. They were his followers. Consequently they were
Obedience. Or at least a willingness to have a go! He sent them out and they went!
- Risk taking – they were to get up and go! Crossing boundaries of all sorts.
- They were not to be individualists – rather they were to go two by two with little luggage.
- They were to be dependent on the hospitality of others! That too is risky!
- They acted out and talked about the Kingdom of God.
And as part of their arriving they had a commodity that they traded with. Anyone pick that up? What was it? Healing? Preaching? NO – peace!
5 ‘When you enter a house, first say, “Peace to this house.” 6 If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.
How do we really understand this?
I think perhaps by comparing it with what they were instructed to do if things failed:
10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 “Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: the kingdom of God has come near.” 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’
If you extend peace – and you find a similarly minded (peaceful) person there who also promotes peace – your peace will rest on them.
If not – it will bounce back like an email sent to the wrong address.
In the context of extending the Kingdom of God through our ministry – outreach – care in the community – it seems to be about building with people who are open to what we offer – the peace of God.
The peace of God is not just a nice feeling – or a Miss World wish “I’m working for world peace ALL OVER THE WORLD!” It’s the gospel of reconciliation in one word! Listen to these passages:
- Joh_14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (Jesus’ gift of peace).
- Act_10:36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. (Peter is preaching here).
- Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Paul is speaking here).
The whole story (the kerygma or message) of Jesus is about a peace mission from heaven – about God reaching out to people who were estranged from him – in Jesus, and through Jesus’ followers today.
So really it’s about all of us and all of the gospel.
In the words of St. Teresa of Avila:
Christ has no body on earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which the compassion of Christ looks out to the world.
Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Yours are the hands with which he is to bless others now.
The harvesting image is really significant.
Sowing and reaping.
Paul uses that image to talk about giving in 2 Corinthians 9. What we give here counts towards the Kingdom – we are investing in the things that matter to Jesus – the reaching of those who need His gospel of peace.
Two quotes from writers illustrate this:
- This is not a hobby. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” He was talking not about a hobby, but a life’s work. You can see the kingdom come upif you’re willing to get your hands dirty–– and spend some time on your knees.” (Lawrence Wood)
- The church should be a community of dates instead of pumpkins.Pumpkins you can harvest in six months.Dates have to be planted and tended by people who will not live to harvest them.Dates are for future generations. (George Chauncey)
It is clear that we are messengers of Jesus – representatives. Paul speaks this kind of language when he talks about believers being a new creation in Christ. Do you remember the passage? I referred to it two weeks ago. Yes 2 Corinthians 5:17. Listen to it again and the verses that follow:
2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2Co 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
2Co 5:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
2Co 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2Co 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We are Christ’s ambassadors.
There are some pretty powerful images associated with that. Think of that nice Australian man Julian Assange. Been in an embassy in London for almost a year. Where is he? Actually he’s in Ecuador! In the Embassy.
Or that nice young American Mr Edward Snowden. Trying to find a bit of turf in an embassy to escape the wrath of America. Whistle blower, or spy? People have different views on this.
But like all fugitives embassies are useful places if they are friendly nations! (Think of the old Skp movies with the KGB or James Bond). Embassies are a piece of one country planted in another, and ambassadors speak with the authority of the country that sends them.
We are ambassadors of Christ – no wonder Jesus said in verse 16 of the Gospel reading today:
16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.’
Man that’s good. We are citizens of a different Kingdom. Paul says in Philippians 3:20 that our citizenship is in heaven.
We are ambassadors of that Kingdom – God’s kingdom. No pressure. Really.
Yes there is – because we can be pretty bad ambassadors. Like silent witnesses. Not much help really.
It does take the pressure off though. Because if our mission is rejected – if we are rejected because of our beliefs and what we stand for and proclaim – those guys are rejecting Jesus – and by rejecting Jesus the missionary (the sent one) – they are rejecting the one who sent Jesus – God!
Of course the 70 get a bit carried away in their report back:
17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’
Cool hey Jesus! Pretty cool! Super followers! Way to go!
Listen to what he says:
20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
Why? Is that not a bit selfish? Yay – I have a ticket to heaven! Woo hoo!
Actually no. It’s a profound thing that is being said by the Lord Jesus here. This is the beginning of a new people – a new family of faith – the people of God which would be made up by guys and girls from all around the globe – every tribe and nation – every language and colour – this is the people of God – the church – in it’s very first form.
You think you’ve been a member of the church for ever! Try these guys for vintage!
I don’t have the words for how profound this is. Paul writing to the Ephesians says it best. We’ll end with these words:
Eph 2:11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—
Eph 2:12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
Eph 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,
Eph 2:15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,
Eph 2:16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.
Eph 2:17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.
Eph 2:18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Eph 2:19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household,
Eph 2:20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
Eph 2:21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.
Eph 2:22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
…rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’
So there is some harvesting to be done.
It may begin with you and I sowing the seeds right where we are at this point in our lives. That is our mission. That’s what we invest in through our tithes and offerings – the work of making this place an outpost of the Kingdom, a kind of embassy where his ambassadors gather to be briefed, to report back, and to be sent out in His name.
Posted in Sunday Morning Sermons
Tags: assylum, authority, common purpose, community, consistent, embassy, harvest, healing, hospitality, integrity, Kingdom of God, loving, missional, not grumpy, peace, refuge, reject you reject me, rescue, salvation, speak peace, the seventy two, unity, written in heaven