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23 September 2010 @ 10:46 pm
Trinity 17  
Rev. Charles Lehmann + Trinity 17 + Proverbs 25:6-14, 2nd and 3rd Petitions of the Lord's Prayer

In the Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Solomon’s words don’t sit right with Americans. We are a proud people. We balk at the idea of social classes. Our nation was founded in the midst of a war of revolution against King George III of England. And even though we sometimes think romantically about the days of kings and knights in movies and on TV, Americans really don’t want the idea of nobility to have any place in our day to day lives.

We have no princes, dukes, barons, or kings. Americans acknowledge no titles of nobility. Our President has traditionally been addressed simply as, “Mr. President,” and the United States Constitution prohibits both the federal government and the states from giving noble titles to our citizens.

Nevertheless, Solomon’s words do have a place even in the land of opportunity. He writes, “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”

Even in Solomon’s day, a king was not worthy of greater honor simply because of who they were. It was because of the office that they held. Saul, David, and Solomon had all been anointed by God and placed into office so that they might, as God’s chosen instruments, rule, protect, and care for the people of Israel.

God had only given the people of Israel human kings as a concession to their own wants and desires. In the time before human kings ruled in Israel, God was their king. He ruled through the Law of Moses and acted through judges like Gideon, Samson, and Samuel.

But the nations that surrounded Israel had kings, and Israel decided they wanted one too. God, in mercy, ignored the slight that they were giving him and gave them human kings. He commanded that those kings spend their time listening to and studying the Word of God.

God gave His kings authority to punish evil, reward good, and to protect and defend His people. By looking at the king the people were supposed to see how God loved them and wanted to care for them.

The kings were nothing like our elected officials. They did not rule by the consent of the governed. They ruled because God had given them the authority to rule. In the Old Testament one way to honor God was to obey the king. God had appointed the kings.

Americans have a hard time with this concept. Though Scripture still teaches that our rulers receive their authority from God, we don’t like to think of government in that way. If government is ordained by God, then we have to be respectful when we criticize it. We can’t sit around a picnic table and blame all our woes on stupid politicians. We have to regard them instead as those whom God has given us to govern our nation. We have to show respect for their office even when we disagree.

Solomon’s words strike is as completely foreign. We put our politicians in office, and we can take them out. But the words of the Lord’s prayer remind us of a greater reality that is hidden behind the walls of the United States Capitol, the White House, and the Supreme Court.

We still have a King, and He rules us in justice and mercy. Even Jesus acknowledged this reality when on the day of His crucifixion He said to Pontius Pilate, “You would have no authority if it had not been given from above.”

In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for our Lord’s kingdom to come. When we ask this, we are not asking for god to come and rule us from the White House or even from the Garrett County commissioners’ office. We are asking Him to rule here, in His church, by His holy word.

We are asking that God’s reign take place among us. We are asking that He ensure that whenever we gather here it is to hear what He has to say. And so, when we come into the church, it is not on our own terms. This is the King’s house. There are protocols to be followed. We are beggars who have been invited to a feast in the King’s mansion. Though we can only by right live in beggar’s hovels, our King regularly invites us into His house to eat at His table.

We come acknowledging before God that we are sinners. We take the lowest place, that of those who rightly deserve eternal wrath from the God. But after we confess our sins, the King announces His verdict. Not guilty. Forgiven. He announces that we will not be treated like the criminals we are. Instead we will be treated like the children that, by nature, we aren’t.

But we are His children. He has adopted us. His forgiven children, we are invited to sit in the King’s House as members of His own family. When we pray for God’s kingdom to come, this is just what we are asking. We are asking for the Father to rule in the way He did when He sent His Son to the cross. We are asking Him to not hold our sins against us, but instead to rule over us with mercy.

This is the only way that a Christian can live in a world that is so ruined by sin. God knows this. He knows that even though He has given us a holy law of love that outlines the perfect way of obedience to Him and love for our neighbor, we can never keep it. Take those of you who stand lest you fall. There is no sin that you are incapable of. The mind of man is filled with all sorts of evil and impurity. The inclination of the heart of man is only evil continually. We cannot keep God’s Law. It judges and condemns us all.

Forgiveness is the only way we can live. It is the only hope that we can have of getting by in a world wrecked by sin. The life of a Christian is described brilliantly by Saint Paul in Romans 7. We do not do what we want to do. We do what we hate. Sin is always attacking us. It’s always dragging us down. It’s always got more suffering and more pain to throw at us.

Our life is a struggle. Though we dare not give up the fight and allow our sins to rule, the fight is hard. We get beat up. We fail frequently and in spectacular ways. We are weak. We can’t prevent the sins from overtaking us. We can’t win the battle. Eventually, it will kill us all.

Forgiveness is the only way for us to live. If Jesus had not been nailed to the cross so that He could suffer the punishment for all of our sins, we have no way to live our lives with any sort of peace or joy. We would just be battered by sin after sin. We would feel only the pangs of God’s Law which we have broken. We would be broken and there would be no way for us to be healed.

Thanks be to God whose kingdom has come! Thanks be to God who has suffered on the cross as our king! Thanks be to God who has established His holy church so that He might reign among us by the forgiveness of our sins.

It is only by receiving the forgiveness that Christ won for us and by forgiving one another that we can get along in the world. If the basis of our life together is what we do and say and how we treat one another, we will always fail. At our best we are still poor, miserable sinners deserving of the Lord’s wrath. The basis of our life together must be to receive the forgiveness that Christ has won and then to let that forgiveness overflow to one another. That is the way that God reigns among us, and it also the way that His will is done.

What we pray for in the Lord’s Prayer can never happen unless God does it. When we pray “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” we are asking God to come to us according to His promises. We are asking Him to reign among us by forgiving our sins.

To live under God’s gracious reign is not just the best way to live, it is the only way to live. If we do not have God as our king, we have Satan as our overlord. And in Satan’s realm there is no mercy and no forgiveness. In Satan’s realm we receive only what we deserve and nothing else. He wants us to keep our sins, and he wants us to make sure that our neighbor holds onto his. The way of love, mercy, and forgiveness has no place with the Evil One. He will do all that he can to prevent God’s gracious reign.

But Jesus has gone to the cross. He has crushed the head of the serpent. He has no power. You may now freely live in the forgiveness that He has won for you. Sin is robbed of all its power when it is forgiven. And you are forgiven. You are free. Christ has made sure of it.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.