40 is kind of a scary number. It is one of those numbers of Biblical proportions, like Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness. In the Bible 40 is a number of testing, preparation and completion. We figure since we have completed this wilderness wandering now we are ready for the Promised Land of marital bliss. We’ve been told the first 40 years are the hardest. Since I am preaching on my 40th anniversary I thought I would take it as an occasion to offer some Biblical reflections on marriage and the secrets of long marriages. But what about those here who aren’t married? The teaching in Scripture about marriage and family has many applications. It is not just limited to those who are married. Our understanding of these parts of God’s Word will help us in all your relationships. So on many levels it is valuable for all of us to be a part of biblical conversations about the home. Being married and having kids are two of the hardest things you can do. Especially when you factor in how long it lasts. Marriage is one of the most sanctifying things anyone can do. Having kids is another. Those two things expose your heart, your sin, your selfishness like few other things. This doesn’t mean you can’t be sanctified if you aren’t married or don’t have kids. God is very creative and can accomplish that in a thousand ways. A roommate, health issues, a job, a boss, parents, siblings, the driver in front of you, the list goes on and on. Whatever it is in your life that God is using to sanctify you, that thing is being used by God to make you more like Jesus. We can resist and rebel, or we can submit and cooperate. Marriage is a spiritual battle ground. Instantly after the first marriage Satan was there to destroy it. He is the enemy of all marriage because marriage is a reflection of Jesus and His Church.
Healthy families live together, laugh together, cry together, help and support each other. Healthy families love each other and love to be together. One of the metaphors in Scripture for the children of God, for Christians is a family with God as our Father and we as brothers and sisters to each other. One of the dynamics of a happy and health family is the desire to come home and to be with our brothers and sisters.
When I think about 2020, my mind starts to swirl. Just think of all the new words in our vocabulary, words we didn’t know or use in 2019. Social distancing, new normal, flattening the curve, 6 feet apart, face masks, covid-19, coronavirus, epidemiologist, CDC, aerosol, reopening. Think of the news headlines just in 2020. Australian fires, African locust, worldwide coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, murder hornets, racial injustice, riots and violence, autonomous zones. Truth is stranger than fiction. When I think about 2020 the phrase that keeps coming to my mind is, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” So I decided to turn to that Psalm this morning.
How many times in your life have you heard this benediction of Paul spoken at the end of a worship service? Countless times, times beyond number. If you are over 50 it is safe to say you have heard it and read it thousands of times. What difference has it made in your life? What effect has it had? Are they just nice sounding words, a good thing for a pastor to pronounce before you go home? So what? Have you ever given those words a second thought, actually contemplated them. And here is a strange idea, have you ever spoken them or prayed them or wished them for someone else? Let me tell you why I was prompted to take up this text this morning. I have had a growing burden in my heart for our flock these past three months. I have had a burden for our senior saints who have been isolated from family and friends. I have had a burden for our families, and especially moms who have had to become instant teachers and homeschool kids every day. I have had a burden for our high school seniors who have missed out on all the things that make senior year special. We have come to the end of the school year, to the start of summer and I want to speak life and hope and encouragement to all of us. Then when I realized this was Trinity Sunday I thought this text is the perfect blessing we all need in the midst of the stress and craziness of life. This text is a Trinitarian blessing, a triple blessing. And what could be better if I wanted to give a blessing than to give a triple blessing. Consider this a three scoop blessing, a Neapolitan. Some is good, more is better and too much is just right. Can I get an amen? So senior saints and high school seniors, moms and stressed out parents, those of you feeling isolated, those of you bummed by all we are missing out on and all that has been canceled, those trying to do work in very different ways, those of you weary of the news, those wondering about the future, those weary of doing worship on a screen, receive God’s triple blessing.
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.
I am finding my study of II Samuel to be a fruitful blessing and the more I dig into it the more I am amazed at how relevant and timely it is for us in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, so much so that I realized the end of this chapter which I was going to skip is also timely, so we will take that up next week. I hope you will read and pray over and meditate on this chapter and what God would say to us through it.