Sermon for Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 18, 2016, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Texts: 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and Amos 8:4-7
Sermon Theme: “All Need Prayer, Especially Our Leaders”
(Sources: Anderson’s Cycle C Preaching Workbook; Brokhoff, Series C, Preaching Workbook; original ideas; Emphasis Online Illustrations and Commentaries; Life Application Study Bible footnotes; Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia; www.worldreligionnews)
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” Paul says at the very beginning of today’s sermon text. Paul presents the ministry of public prayer as a number one priority in the church. The church has a mediator role, just as Christ has a mediator role.
We are called to bring the joys, sorrows, and needs of the world into the presence of Christ. Prayer should not be the only thing we do, but it should be the first order of business. We are especially called to pray for our leaders. We cannot have a Christian society unless society is answerable to Christian principles.
Thus, Paul urges us to pray for political leaders that we may have a society where there is peace and righteousness. We must have a government which will prohibit the abuses mentioned in our Old Testament text from Amos, — such as greed, dishonesty, enslaving people, marketing inferior products, and so on.
The hit musical, Fiddler on the Roof, was set in a small Jewish village in Russia on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution. The Bolshevik revolution was ripe to happen, because, not only were Russian Jews harassed and relocated by the government, but Russian peasants were treated like slaves by the Czar and the aristocracy. So, when one of the townspeople asks the rabbi if he were going to offer a blessing for the Czar, as Scripture commands, the rabbi pauses for a moment, as if stumped by the question, and then answers, “May God bless and keep the Czar . . . far away from us!”
In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it was believed that kings ruled by Divine Right, and if you got a bad king, it was God’s way of punishing you. By the time the Bolshevik revolution occurred in 1917, people no longer believed that kings or czars were bestowed with supernatural intelligence.
In fact, in a democracy like ours, the Divine Right of kings was rejected long before the Russian revolution. The politicians who ran our democracy were elected by the people, so God worked through the people.
Abraham Lincoln told a story about a king who wanted to go hunting. In preparation, the king asked the court minister if it was going to rain and was assured that it would be a sunny day.
The royal party set out for their hunting trip and on the way met a farmer riding a jackass. The farmer warned the king that it was going to rain but the king only laughed at him. Very soon there was a downpour that thoroughly drenched the hunting party.
When the king returned, he fired the court minister and sent for the farmer. He asked the farmer how he knew it was going to rain and the farmer told him. “I did not know. My jackass knew and he puts one ear forward when it is going to rain.” So the king sent the farmer back to his farm and appointed the farmer’s jackass to be the court minister.
President Lincoln stated that this was a great mistake on the king’s part. When asked why, he replied, “Why ever since that time, every jackass wants an office.”
The purpose of Paul’s letter to Timothy was to warn Timothy about false leaders in the Ephesus church who lead the folks into pointless discussions as well as false doctrine. Some false teachers were harmless, some were dangerous, but they all took away from exploring the truth of God’s word. Throughout his letter, Paul gave Timothy sound advice, which boiled down to ‘Stick to what the Scriptures say,’ – and in the section that is our test, he emphasizes the importance of prayer.
Paul makes three major points: ONE, he urges the church to engage in corporate prayer for the world and especially for those who are in authority. This is priority Number One. Martin Luther explained that God doesn’t just offer the gift of salvation to everyone, but actually places it in everyone’s lap. This is not to say that everyone is inevitably saved. Stubborn, foolish people may still brush the expensive gift away, and so be damned. It is downright stupid to reject this gift you have been given.
TWO, we Christians are called to the priesthood of all believers, for the purpose of bringing the world to God, because God wants ALL to be saved. Paul uses the word “all” four times in the first seven verses. No one is left out, — kings, high officials, men, women, children, everyone. Paul says in verse 3, “[God our Savior] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
THREE, after discerning God’s will and being filled with His power through prayer, we are charged to witness to others by proclaiming Christ, our mediator, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. This is a ministry we cannot begin to undertake without God’s power through prayer. I suppose you could call it, as some do, “Prayer Power,” as long as you realize it is God and not your praying that unleashes the power.
How well have we heeded the words of this text? As a congregation, we do have corporate prayer every Sunday in church, and, on Communion Sundays like today, we pray the corporate prayer that thousands of Lutherans are praying throughout Synod. We have established a prayer chain which we diligently use. But we must remember that in addition to praying corporate prayers, we must never neglect our individual, personal prayers.
As a nation, we have not done as well as we should. However, we have done something. There is a national Day of Prayer and a national Day of Thanksgiving. The prayer-day tradition started in 1775 by a declaration from the Continental Congress for prayers for the formation of a new nation. This was officially enacted by law in 1952. All presidents, with the exception of Andrew Jackson and Thomas Jefferson, have issued proclamations for a national prayer day. President Obama did issue such a proclamation for May 5, 2016, but he himself did not attend.
When George Washington issued the presidential proclamation, establishing Thursday, November 26, 1789, as a national day of thanksgiving, he said, ”It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God to be grateful for His benefits.”
In more recent times, the Presidential Prayer Team (www.presidentialprayerteam.com) was started in 2001 to give Americans a unified voice in praying for their president. The Team is convinced that if America prays for its president, whoever is in that office, would have divine wisdom to lead the nation. If he acted with divine wisdom, then all Americans would reap the benefits. God calls us to pray for our President and Vice-President, and for the candidates we are to vote for in November.
On the front page of The Presidential Prayer Team website is printed the opening words of our text: “First of all, then, I urge 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.”
Dale Turner, an influential pastor and newspaper columnist, once wrote , “It is incumbent on religious people to speak out – with the humility appropriate to limited vision – on public issues. But speak they must, or causes held dear will die by default. A society of sheep will soon beget a government of wolves. In a democracy, agreement is not essential, but participation is.” I think Turner should have added to the words, “speak they must,” “ and PRAY they must.”
Not one of us Christians would want the following words etched on our tombstone, “He was a member of the human race – but not a very active member.” Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.