A Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

Sermon…

Children’s message…

Let us pray…

Sovereign Lord, your reign extends across time and space. You ruled through ancient kings and governors of all countries, and you govern our time and nation too. Help us therefore, to trust you with the governance of our country, paying our taxes and obeying the laws of the land. Give us the courage and conviction to also return to you what is yours, giving ourselves fully to your mission in the world; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

God goes before us, just as he went before King Cyrus of old, leveling what seem to us to be high and mighty places—flattening even death and hell themselves by bringing his salvation with glory and great strength. What would we chosen and elect ones do then, but throw ourselves wholly in to Christ’s kingdom, worshiping him and becoming devoted disciples and imitators of the Lord?

When this trust in God’s reign happens within us, we change in a fundamental way. We concern ourselves with matters of his eternal kingdom instead of being preoccupied with the things of this world. We know that God will take care of the world we live in, governing it just as he did Persia, Babylon, and Israel.

God has used many earthly kings to accomplish his will. He still employs the rulers of our world so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10). We believe this implicitly, as this is what we pray, even as Jesus taught us to pray:

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Our prayers should attend kings, presidents, and other rulers. So yes, we should pray for President Trump—even as we ought to have prayed for President Obama. These are not perfect men. They require our prayers—and we are commanded to pray for them (1 Ti 2:1–2). This is simple, first-order business of the Church.

“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.”

Yet, as much as God used a king named Cyrus, he has used the King of kings to accomplish far more. God subdued nations before King Cyrus but the forces of Hell itself have been vanquished through the cross of Christ. He is the one who causes people from the east to the west to know that there is none besides the Lord who accomplishes these things. God may use a Cyrus or even a Trump or a Putin, but it is the Lord who subdues nations and levels high places. There is no one like God, our God, who brings prosperity and creates disaster. Such matters are the work of God—not political parties. Let us trust in him alone. To do otherwise is to put your trust in other gods, idols, not the creator of heaven and earth.

We should fear, love, and trust him “above all things…worshiping him with prayer and praise, and thanksgiving” (SC), for it is he, as the psalmist says, who “will judge the people with equity” (v10), or as the Creed states, “will come again to judge the living and the dead.”

Knowing this to be true, we should be emboldened to declare the glory of God to the nations. One way to accomplish this is by offering more for missions than we do for government—in terms of money, as well as work and prayer. We give 20, 30, and 40 percent in taxes to the government. Yet we only give a tithe (if that) to the Lord’s work. I wonder what would happen if we gave as much to the Lord’s mission as we give to the government. Could we trust God by living on half of what we make? Will we actually dare to ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name? What would the Church look like if we lived so daringly? How would such living influence the world? What could our country look like if we understood discipleship in a radical way, throwing ourselves all in with Jesus?

For it is “our gospel” (1Th 1:5), the gospel of Christ’s Church, that ultimately impacts the world. Taxes, civic authority, and armies are of some use. Indeed, God uses such things. Yet in the end, our trust must be placed in the Gospel of Christ’s kingdom. Then our efforts and prayers will be with those workers in the true kingdom on this earth, those who are spread as his kingdom throughout the kingdoms of the earth. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, individual lives are changed. Even whole nations can be changed when the Church does not yield to the temptation to be less than they are called to be.

He has chosen us (v4) to be an example to all. This example is not simply in words but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our steadfast faith and certain hope can be an inspiration not only to believers but to all. When we do not give in to the temptation to be Sunday-believers, instead being sold out to Jesus, wholly committed to his Gospel, God will change lives through your example. He will change your life, your family’s, your country’s, and the lives of people all over the world.

So, pay your taxes…and pray to God. Jesus has called us to do both, trusting the Lord with the nations. Certainly, God will use our prayers even more than our taxes but we are called to be faithful in each. This is not a matter for debate; it is a matter of obedience—Christian obedience to God.

As you continue to prepare to receive the Holy Meal, examine yourselves concerning the temptation to be disobedient in these things: whether in the matter of paying taxes or giving your tithe. Pray, “Lead me not into temptation,” and resolve to do the Lord’s will today.

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Mark

I am married to Susan (Allender). We have two daughters, two sons-in-law, two granddaughters, two cats, and a dog. I am a Lutheran pastor and write for Sola Publishing Company.

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