6 Pentecost (Independence Day)
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Psalm 2:1-6 Encore Sermon
July 5, 2015
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & The Service Book and Hymnal):
TLH 575 "Before The Lord We Bow"
SBH 346 "O Beautiful For Spacious Skies"
SBH 360 "My Country 'Tis Of Thee"
TLH 577 "God Bless Our Native Land"
SBH 356 "Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory"
WHY DO THE NATIONS CONSPIRE?
TEXT: “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One. ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters.’ The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying: ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.’”
September 11, 2001. I remember the day well, and I would imagine that you do also. It was sometime during the mid-morning hours when my telephone rang. It was my mother. “Do you have your T.V. on?” she asked.
I told her that I didn’t. I had been in and out of the house, out in the yard, and doing various little tasks. I admit that it is rare for me not to have a T.V. or radio on someplace, but that day I didn’t.
“Then you haven’t heard the news,” she continued. Then she proceeded to tell me that the World Trade Center in New York City was no longer standing. Terrorists had flown airplanes into the buildings causing them to collapse.
Of course I turned on the T.V. right away. And as I sat there watching, I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I had going on inside of me. I couldn’t believe that it was happening. I had been to New York City. I had seen those buildings, those two huge gigantic structures, which along with the Empire State Building, gave the New York City skyline its distinctive signature. And now only the Empire State Building remained.
I was in shock as I tried to take it all in. The sheer number of lives that must have been lost, the number of people affected, and the absolute horror connected with the whole thing was mind boggling. It was definitely a memorable day, and I don’t mean that in the good sense either.
And then I saw the American people rallying together. People everywhere wanted to help. From Lincoln, we sent out our Urban Search and Rescue brigade. We even had several chaplains from our chaplaincy corps go and help out.
Even though I wasn’t available to go and help out, I still wanted to show my support. And being the patriotic American that I am, I did what so many people across the country did. I took my flag from its place inside my front hallway, and displayed it on the front of my house.
I do like a lot of people do. I fly my flag on all those holidays that you’re supposed to, like Independence Day, and President’s Day, and Memorial Day, and so forth. So when I put out my flag on September 11th, I really didn’t give a whole lot of thought about putting it out.
I guess I should have, because a couple of days later, I went outside and saw that it was gone. Somebody had stolen it.
Now I’ve had stuff stolen from me before, and of course I don’t like it; but somehow this upset me just a little bit more than it normally would have. Here our country was attacked, and I wanted to show my support; but when I tried to do that, somebody, albeit passive, attacked me. They stole my visible sign of patriotism, my show of support—my flag of the United States. I remember thinking that the thief’s brand of patriotism was not the type of patriotism that we needed. And if they dared to fly that stolen flag, then in my estimation they should have been flying a banner telling everybody what kind of a thief they were, rather than what kind of a patriotic American they were. And I guess that this attests to the type of neighborhood I live in as well.
Life can be ugly at times, and the events surrounding September 11, 2001 certainly bear that out. The Taliban forces made the United States of America out to be their enemy, and they attacked accordingly.
And just to be clear about this, we must realize that the fundamentalist Muslims see this as a holy war, and their actions being sanctioned by Allah in the words of the Koran. Here are a few snippets: "O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil)." And it continues, ".... then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these we have given you a clear authority."
Just remember that this is not just an attack on Christianity or the United States, but upon anybody and everything that isn’t Muslim. And should a Muslim get killed in the midst of everything, or if they go on a suicide mission of some description, then they reckon that they die a martyr, and are especially blessed by Allah.
As we look at our text for today from Psalm 2, King David is amazed that the rulers of this world dare to plot against God and his Anointed one, Jesus Christ. Can you think of anything that is any more foolish or hopeless? How in the world can anybody think they can stand up and oppose the Almighty God and have any hope of being victorious?
But yet, this is what is happening. Rulers in this evil world, who frequently disagree on so many things, will find themselves united on one point, which is their opposition to God’s rule. Muslims see anyone who isn’t a Muslim and a follower of their false god Allah to be the enemy, and so they attack—even when it is an attack against the one true God.
All this serves to remind us that we live in a sinful world that likes to rebel. The sinful world likes to regard God’s will and his Word as slavery, and not the greatest freedom of all. The sinful world has this insane desire to fight against that which is good, even to the point of pointlessly killing thousands of innocent people, all in the name of Allah.
If we look at the Bible, we can see some classic examples of people plotting together against Jesus. People who were not on friendly terms at all were able to come together for a common purpose. Pontius Pilate and Herod hated each other, but yet they cooperated in Jesus’ trial. The Pharisees and Sadducees were bitter enemies, but they agreed on one thing—they had to get rid of Jesus.
Christianity has had some rather formidable opponents throughout history. The Roman Empire tried to eradicate it. Communism has actively worked to destroy Christianity in their lands. And do you know what? All their efforts have failed. The Gospel still marches on, Jesus Christ is still being proclaimed as Lord and Saviour, and God’s elect are still being gathered from every nation. And those who refuse God’s grace will taste of his wrath when he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
The influence of sin in the world can indeed be overwhelming. And as we look at ourselves, we have to admit that we haven’t been model Christian citizens all the time either. Oh certainly we haven’t flown aeroplanes into buildings or committed any sort of terrorist activity, but we’ve often rebelled against God’s authority. Maybe we’ve determined that our own ways are somehow better. Maybe we’ve thought at times we would be better off going it on our own without God’s help. And maybe we’ve rebelled through nothing more than our own apathy and indifference.
To those who insist on opposing God’s will, our text for today says in verses 4-6: “The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying: ‘I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.’”
The King on Zion, the holy hill of God, which strikes fear and terror into the hearts of unbelievers, is the one who gives us comfort and hope. This King is none other than Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Where others may look at him and fear his judgment, we can look at him for forgiveness and hope. Jesus is the one who is to be in control of our lives, because it is through faith in him that we are brought into alliance with God and become a member of his holy kingdom.
In John chapter 3, verse 17 we read these words: “God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Jesus came, not to begin a reign of terror, but a reign of peace. It was out of love for us that our Saviour came to this earth to call all people to himself. Faith in Jesus does not resemble bondage and slavery, but freedom from all earthly things that would capture and enslave our souls.
Just a few verses after our text, in Psalm 2 verse 6 we read these words: “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Nothing positive can be said about the way of the ungodly. They don’t heed God’s Word. They produce no fruit of righteousness. They will receive no blessing.
When we think of such people in terms of current events, names from the past like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden almost automatically pop up in our minds. We know that God will certainly have the last word in everything, irrespective of what we do. Whatever twisted type of holy war that has been plotted out, whatever schemes are being cooked up, God will indeed have the upper hand, and he will definitely deal with them accordingly.
As citizens of the United States, despite the many flaws in our country and government, yet we still have a lot to be thankful for. And as Christians who are dedicated to the will of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can also be proud of the country we live in. We can show our patriotism and our solidarity even when the ungodly threaten us with words and terroristic actions.
Just in case you’re interested, I replaced the flag in front of my house. At that time, every shop was completely sold out of them. I wound up ordering one off the internet. And I got smart this time too. I drilled a hole through the bottom of the pole and snapped a padlock through it. My flag could still be stolen, but they’d have to work at it to get it.
Even though my flag was stolen, my patriotism wasn’t. I was determined to replace that flag as soon as possible. I wasn’t going to wait for some store to get a new supply; I wanted it right away. And regardless of the risk of it being stolen again, that flag was going to fly outside my front verandah. And it hasn’t been stolen since.
A Christian has that same assurance with their relationship with Jesus. You can be beaten and flogged, stripped naked, and set out in the middle of the desert with no food or water. Everything can be taken from you, but nobody can steal your faith. Faith, somewhat akin to patriotism lives in a person’s soul, and nothing anybody can do can take that away from you.
I’d like to close this morning by reading the words of a short article written by Mr. Cornel Nistorescu that appeared in a Romanian newspaper on September 24, 2002. He entitled his article, “An Ode To America.”
They don't resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one another; and in matters of religious beliefs, not even God can count how many they are.
Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the army, the secret services that they are only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about.
The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: "God Bless America!"
Silent as a rock, I watched the charity concert broadcast on Saturday once, twice, three times, on different TV channels. There were Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert de Niro, Julia Roberts, Cassius Clay, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stallone, James Wood, and many others whom no film or producers could ever bring together. The American's solidarity spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul. What neither George W. Bush, nor Bill Clinton, nor Colin Powell could say without facing the risk of stumbling over words and sounds, was being heard in a great and unmistakable way in this charity concert.
I don't know how it happened that all this obsessive singing of America didn't sound croaky, nationalist, or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren't able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous, or suspected of who-knows-what mean interests. I watched the live broadcast and the rerun of its rerun for hours listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the Californian hockey player, who fought with the terrorists and prevented the plane from hitting a target that would have killed other hundreds or thousands of people. How on earth were they able to bow before a fellow human? Imperceptibly, with every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put in a collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit which nothing can buy.
What on earth can unite the Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases which risk of sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion. Only freedom can work such miracles!