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Political fleshy arms

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sermon for the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

Whom do you trust, these days?

Chances are that politicians aren’t going to be high on your list of trustworthy people at the moment. All kinds of accusations of corruption and abuse of power are being levelled at the most important people in our society. Perhaps we should be taking God’s word through Jeremiah seriously.

Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

That’s what God tells us, and it’s true. If we trust in any human being to the exclusion of God, then we have made an idol of that human being and we will fall with them. It’s even there in our language: we idolise our heroes. Groups of Christians are named after their founders and leading lights – Luther, Calvin, Jansen, St Benedict, et c. If we rely too much on them then God says we must fall.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord Jesus does not mince words when he upbraids the Pharisees, the spiritual leaders of Israel. He lays into them because they love their power more than God to the extent that the people who follow them are suffering. It seems that political leaders are not people who deserve our trust.

Yet we can put our trust too much in our political systems. We know that democracy is a good form of government: we fight for it; we seek to make it available to all people; and we end up idolising it. Look how some churches value Democracy so much that they are willing to put the truth of Christian Doctrine to a vote. The democratic vote has damaged the politics of many of our strongest nations causing division and resentment.

If we make flesh our arm and depart from the Lord, then we will fall.

[PAUSE]

This is the problem that we have in the West. We have made idols out of ideals that are not God. Human Life, Human Liberty, Human Dignity, Human Justice, Human Prosperity – these are not from God. Only in God do we find true Life, true Liberty, true Dignity, true Justice and true Prosperity because all of these are aspects of God’s being. It is the belief that we have a right not to be controlled that is preventing us from accepting that we need to be ruled.

All of our politicians are flawed. Certainly all of the politicians whom we regard as great are flawed characters. Would the likes of Churchill or Lincoln be elected to office now? Chances are that, as soon as they stand for office, the Press would rake up sins from their pasts and whip up the crowds to demand that they stand down. That’s how our society works: we build up heroes and then knock them down. Perhaps we even build up heroes in order to knock them down.

If we have lost God in our society then we have lost the means by which we can escape this idolisation of our leaders. Churchill describes Democracy as the least worst form of government. If our leaders sin and repent then we should forgive and learn to trust again.

[PAUSE]

Our society is missing God. We want our own way and we want leaders who are perfect. We will never be satisfied unless we find the perfect leader and follow that leader. There is such a leader – the Shepherd of our souls. If we learn to trust God then political turmoil will pass us by. If we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then we learn how to vote responsibly and play a part in our imperfect Democracy.

But Democracy will fall because there is only One God and His Will be done in Earth as it is in Heaven. We have to prepare ourselves for that when He comes again in glory to judge both the quick and the dead.

In the meantime, we must learn to be Holy for God is Holy, and sanctify our politics through prayer and attention to God. We must accept who rules us and remember that we are merely passing through to a better Kingdom.

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