I have made reference in the past weeks to something called sphere sovereignty. The three spheres of authority are the family, the church and the state. We have already talked about this at the national and state level. This morning let us consider another sphere of sovereignty called the church over which God has placed elders
Last week I mentioned there are two key texts in the NT that teach us how to relate to those in authority over us, I Peter 2:11-17 and Romans 13:1-7. Last week I read I Peter 2, this week I read Romans 13 so you have in mind the context for my reflections. I am not naïve. I know preaching these texts especially in times like these can flush more birds than can be shot in one or two sermons. I know that some of you are saying, “But what about ….?” And “Yeah, but what about this or that?” I also understand that our context is very different. This is not first century Roman empire but twentieth century America. We are still living in a constitutional republic. And now add to all this, on Friday President Trump whacked the beehive by declaring all houses of worship open. Can he do that? Does his authority override governors? Does his authority override the elders of churches? Or parents in the home?
Today is the 20th Sunday of 2020. This is our 10th Sunday out of our sanctuaries, the same number we were in at the beginning of the year. There is an ancient curse, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we undeniably are living in interesting times and they are definitely starting to feel like a curse. The novelty has certainly worn off this so-called novel coronavirus. You can hear the increasing annoyance and frustration, people chafing under the restraints. We see it on the news with protests and rallies and lawsuits and people defying orders. We are all wanting to resume corporate worship and wondering when that can happen. In the light of this growing angst toward those in authority I want to reflect with you this morning what Scripture has to say about government authority. It is not my intention to whack the beehive, but to give us some clarity and guidance as we seek to manage our thoughts, actions and emotions in these interesting times. Our text this morning is one of the two principle passages in NT on this topic, the other one being Romans 13. I commend both of these to you for your continued study, reflection and prayer.
This is a pretty challenging Mother’s Day for several reasons. For some mothers their children and grandchildren can’t come and visit or have dinner or share the day. For some mothers that would put their health at risk. You have to settle for phone calls and cards. For other mothers it is sort of an opposite problem. They have all the kids are around all the time and the added stress of trying to figure out homework and homeschooling and juggle everything else. I am hearing some stories of real tension and burnout. Rather than have everyone around, you would like a little peace and quiet, a day off from being mom. On top of the home and family concerns come added financial pressures, added relational pressures, and depressing news 24/7. Then there are those who wish they could be moms and those who have lost their moms. To call this Mother’s Day happy might be a stretch. For some there isn’t a lot to be happy about, not much to laugh at. So a sermon with the title, How to Laugh at the Future, comes off sounding rather pie in the sky, especially on Mother’s Day 2020. For some thoughts of the future make us sad or want to cry. And it’s not just moms. All of us have been overtaken by the unknown and this particular version of the unknown has a lot of death associated with it. Life seems more risky now than ever. Covid-19 has created a future that is fearful. How can we laugh at that?
I don’t know how many times I have read this story recorded twice in Scripture as I have read through the Bible, but never have I considered how much there is here for us especially in a time like ours. We have already squeezed a lot of juice out of this story about David and the great pestilence. Today we will pick some more relevant fruit off of this tree. We have already seen how God is in all that happens. God’s anger was kindled against Israel because of her sin and disobedience and idolatry. God incited David through His agent Satan, to take a senseless censes. Rather than count on God, David counted his fighting men. We have seen the result of sin that leads to great suffering and lots of deaths. We have seen the sweeping impact of God’s judgment and talked about the solidarity of suffering we are experiencing in this worldwide virus. That solidarity of suffering really took a huge step forward in our community this week with the cancelation of the fair this August. My heart sank, what a blow to so many kids. Kids have been spared from the virus itself, but not from its effects. Last week we talked about how sin always has consequences and leaders’ sins impact whole nations. But we saw the great blessing and hope that is ours because with our God, mercy wraps around wrath and responds to repentance. David manned up, he did what men do, he took responsibility. Sure, Israel was guilty, sure God brought this upon David and Israel because of Israel’s guilt. But David took all the blame, Lord, lay this all on me. The buck stops here. This is what Jesus did, He stepped up, took responsibility, was willing for God to lay all our sins on Him, to let the shepherd die for all of the sheep rather than all the sheep die. This morning we are switching over to the parallel telling of this story in I Chronicles 21. Here the writer gives us a fuller description of what happens with more details. We will see three incredible results that come out of this great crisis.