An unexpected cure. You know about unexpected cures—things that you never imagined would help but they do. On this baptism morning an unexpected cure for for what ails a baby…a cure for the pain of that wonderful problem called diaper rash. In order to ease the pain from a diaper rash, a warm soak in colloidal oatmeal will do the trick. Colloidal oatmeal works in two ways. It sooths the pain and it dries the skin. As mentioned before, we want to remove the moisture and drying actually helps heal the skin. You can let the baby sit in the bath for 10 minutes and just enjoy the water. Be sure to dry them gently and thoroughly afterward. Just in case you have no idea what colloidal oatmeal is, Colloidal oatmeal is a product that consists of oats that have been ground very fine for use as a home remedy.
So here’s where we are —we are talking about “the cure”, cures for things in our lives—but as we talk about “the cure” what we are going to discover is that there is an unexpected cure for many things that ail us. The cure: knowing who God is and living out of that reality. So let’s do a pause for a moment.” Or try this: “Do I believe that knowing who God is and living out of that reality is the cure for living a wisely in the broken world of politics?
Since we are going to be taking politics today it only makes sense that we do some polling. So here is our first poll…who is your favorite president…
- George Washington
- Abraham Lincoln
- Teddy Roosevelt
- William Henry Harrison
Come with me to the streets just outside Jerusalem, the road that runs down, steeply down the Mount of Olives. As we come to that place we find a rather excited group of people on that first Palm Sunday and they are all about doing something, being a part of something. Something that is big. Here’s what’s going on: They are declaring that Jesus is king.
“The [disciples] brought [the colt] to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”” (Luke 19:34–40 NIV11)
Blessed is the king…. Make no mistake about it, on Palm Sunday Jesus is being declared king. Everything that Luke writes is filled with the imagery of Jesus being declared king. The picture of him coming on the Mt. of Olives connects to the OT book of Zechariah—which shows God as a mighty warrior king. The disciples put Jesus on the donkey which connects to the time when the Solomon becomes king and he is put on a royal mule. The laying down of cloaks for the donkey to walk on is all caught up with another OT king, Jehu, who when he becomes king the people lay down their cloaks for him to walk on. It’s all about Jesus being declared king. When some Pharisees try to get Jesus to stop the proclamation, he tells them that the rocks will cry out if he his followers stop the celebration. Rocks cry out—it doesn’t mean that the rocks will begin to declare him king, no this is a Rabbinical saying based on Habakkuk 2.11, which means that the rocks will cry out accusing the disciples of Jesus of failing to do the right thing. These people who have come here have come to declare Jesus as king.
Jesus is being declared king. Now step out of Jesus’ day and into our own, into 200-year-old experiment of separation of church and state, in the context of the Enlightenment that told us that faith–religion and politics don’t mix—therefore we assume that Jesus must’ve been apolitical, never concerned about the great issues of his day or commenting on them, instead he stuck to the spiritual stuff. Because of all of this we miss the radical claim of the Palm Sunday, we miss the radical political claim of the Hallelujah Chorus, that the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
We miss it because of our context and because we don’t understand the context of Jesus. The people of Jesus’s day would shake their heads in confusion at our 200-year-old experiment of separation of church and state, they would’ve laughed at the idea that faith and politics don’t mix, for them you couldn’t separate your faith, your religion from your politics. Come with me to the world of Jesus a place where we find Sadducees and Herodians and Pharisees and Zealots and Essenes—every one of them political in their own way. The Sadducees and Herodians had hitched their political wagon to the Roman Empire. They believed the best possibility for success and power was living in cooperation with Rome. The Pharisees and the Zealots believe that selling out to Rome was exactly the wrong thing to do. They look for a different path, a path that would allow them to overthrow Rome and once again be a sovereign nation. This path included violence and the hope of the Messiah. The Essenes withdrew to the desert and prepared the way for the Messiah to come. His coming would bring the restoration for Israel and particularly for the Essene community. For each of these groups their religious beliefs and their politics were inseparable.
It is into this world that Jesus is born. It is into this world that Jesus speaks. It is a world where your so-called “spiritual words” carry political weight. In the Gospel of Matthew the first words that Jesus says are, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In our context of separation of church and state, where we believe Jesus only speaks spiritually we load these words up with spiritual meaning. Repent means to be sorry for your sin. The kingdom of heaven is a spiritual reality, maybe even a code word spending eternity with God. But for the Jewish people of the first century the kingdom of heaven does not refer to a place called “heaven” where believers go after death, instead it is a very earthly thing, it is God’s rule and reign over the present world and when Jesus tells us to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” he is doing nothing less than telling us to give up our own agenda and to trust him, to be part of his new movement.
His kingdom agenda which after he calls people to in Matthew 4, he spells out in Matthew 5–7, we call it the Sermon on the Mount, and again because we view the words of Jesus as spiritual we miss part of the conversation he’s having with the political parties of his day. To the Pharisee and Zealots who are looking to overthrow the Roman government violently we hear the words, “turn the other cheek”, “if someone asks you to walk 1 mile with them go two,” and “love your enemies.” To Sadducees and Herodians who were about wealth and power Jesus speaks of not storing up treasures for yourself on earth, that where your treasure is there your heart will be also, that you really cannot serve both God and money. To the Essene community that was highly critical of everybody else he says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Jesus takes on the teaching and politics of each group and at the same time reestablishes the ways and priorities of God’s kingdom, and how that kingdom works and deals with the kingdoms of this world.
When we understand the context we see that Jesus is political, surprisingly political. He speaks to the political parties of his day and if you watch and listen you see he speaks to the political issues of his day from who should be ruling to taxes to how to deal with the powers that be.
Now some may argue that seeing Jesus on the political stage his day, commenting on the political issues of his day simply misunderstands Jesus. Especially since Jesus said to Pilate,
“…My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
“… My kingdom is not from the world”, literally those words say, “my kingdom is not from here” in other words, my kingdom does not find its basis in this world as the kingdoms of this world do, its base of power, its values, its goals come from another place. If my kingdom found its basis in this world that I would have an army of men who would be fighting for me right now, I would be acting just like the other kingdoms of this world, but my kingdom is different than all these other kingdoms.
We need to recognize is that although Jesus’ kingdom comes from a different place, has different values, and different goals it remains a kingdom that will conquer all the other kingdoms of the world. The words, “my kingdom is not of this world” bring to mind passages from the book of Daniel. We read in Daniel 7 we find these words,
13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
The kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ is not of this world but it shall overtake this world. Or think about it this way: we hear a lot about being on the right side of history.
Poll 2: When as the last time you heard or read something about being on the right side of history? (not including right now)
- This past week
- This past month
- In the last six months
- I’ve not heard that idea used.
We are told over and over again with whatever movement is happening that we want to make sure we are the right side of history which means whoever is saying this is telling us that they own the future, that the future of the world is heading in the direction of their way of life, their understanding of the world. Here is what God is saying, “I own the future, so if you want to be on the right side of history, if you want to end up living now in the way things are going to be, if you want to grab on to the truth that will be the truth of all eternity, then you need to own me.
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12–13 NIV11)
God owns the future, he is the beginning and the end, he is King of kings and Lord of lords, if you want to be on the right side of history…
If you want to be on the right side of history live as children of the Great King, the father of Jesus. Live as a prince of the Great King, live as a princess of the Great King. As an adopted prince, an adopted princess, as an adopted child of God. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians,
“But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:4–7 CEB)
The Great King, the Lord of the Universe desires us to be his children. To make it possible for us to be his children he sends his one and only son, Jesus into the world—so he could redeem us. To be redeemed means that Jesus pays a high cost, the cost of his very life on the cross, the cost of taking he pain of the sin of the world on himself on the cross, the abandonment of his Father on the cross—so he can’t cry out, “Abba, Father!” but instead cries, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus pays a high price so that we can adopted as God’s own children, sons and daughters of the king.
Adopted. It means God has made a legal move. When a child is adopted a legal move is made in court so that a child officially is declared part of a new family and the parents now have legal rights to the child. Imagine yourself in a courtroom and the Great King is there, he has declared that he wants you as his child, you’ve accepted his acceptance of you, and now the court declares that because of the price paid by Jesus on the cross you are God’s own child.
God’s own children, his adopted children who receive all of the amazing gifts of being part of his family. We are given forgiveness, we are redeemed from our brokenness, we are placed in the security of God’s family and given a new identity as his sons and daughters, we are given the Spirit who makes it possible for us to cry out to the Great King, “Abba, Father!” We are given the Spirit to empower us to live as children of the Great King and we are made heirs of the kingdom. Listen to these stunning words from Revelation 5,
God, You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve you, and they will reign on the earth.”” (Revelation 5:9–10 NIV11)
Poll 3: What benefit do you most celebrate that comes because of your adoption or which benefit would you most celebrate if you accepted God’s offer to be his adopted child?
- Redeemed from brokenness
- A Place of Security in God’s family
- Being able to cry out “Abba, Father”
- Being an Heir of the Kingdom
We are heirs of the kingdom of God, we will reign on the earth. Which brings us back to this whole politics deal. If we are going to reign on the earth as the adopted children of the Great King then it only makes sense that we begin now living the ways that reflect our eventual reign. Or putting it another way, “if we want to be on the right side of history politically, we need to live the politics of Jesus now.”
Something important to know in living the politics of Jesus now—it is the best life to live, it is the best political life to live. Back to the Bible, to Psalm 33
The nation whose God is the LORD…is truly happy! …Kings aren’t saved by the strength of their armies; warriors aren’t rescued by how much power they have. …But look here: the LORD’s eyes watch all who honor him, all who wait for his faithful love, to deliver their lives from death… Psalm 33 selected CEB
The reformer John Calvin in his sermons on the 10 Commandment reminds us that when we actually get to know God, we have entered into the playful, joyous world of living as the adopted children of our gracious Father, the Great King, as we united to Christ and empowered by the Spirit then,
When we begin to conceive of God as he truly is, that is, in his justice, integrity, wisdom, virtue, and righteousness, we will only want to accommodate ourselves to him.
When we see the wisdom of our Father, the Great King, when we see his virtue, integrity, righteousness, his justice we will have a deep longing in our hearts to form our lives according to his ways.
Conform to the political ways of the Great King and his one and only son who is surprisingly political. As adopted children of the king who rules over all we speak out on what governments should and should not do, on who is really in charge what that means for our life as a nation. The early church understood this lived as these children of the king—even in the Roman world where they certainly had no vote. Christians challenged the political status quo in all kinds of areas including slavery, infanticide and the status of women. Christians were not able to create a new form of government but they understood that even when there is an Emperor if you serve the King of kings and Lord of lords who has called you to love your neighbor that carries social and political consequences. When those who claim to be adopted children of the great king have ignored this reality and this call disaster results as happened in Germany when the Nazis ruled and large parts of the church supported Nazi rule and even promoted it. God’s children mourn those disasters and work to assure they don’t happen again so that name of the Great King is never attached to such a movement of cruelty, hatred, and a crushing of people who are created in the image of the Great King.
And more: as adopted children of the Great king who are living joyful for him, we know governments have vast resources that can be used to create a civil society, to bring justice, and do good. Because of that and because one day we will reign on the earth, we never abandon the political realm or give it over in hopelessness. Instead, we engage that world of politics, we do what we can, when we can to call our government to create a civil society, to bring justice, and to do good.
And in living this way we find the cure for our own political brokenness—however that brokenness shows itself. We are cured because we enter the world of politics as adopted children of the great king, not at self-interested people, not as a “give me mine” people, not as an angry people who feel their nation has been stolen from them, and a 100 other ways we enter into the political world that reflects our brokenness, but as adopted children of the great king who calls his children, the princes and princesses of the kingdom to live the politics of the one who was declared king on that first Palm Sunday.
So pause for a moment.
We are in this highly charged political season. Ask yourself: “Am I living out my political life as an adopted child of the great king?” “Do I even know what it looks like to live that kind of political life or have I believed that politics and religion have nothing to do with each other? “Am I living so that I am on the right side of history, God’s side of history, for finally all will end up according to his way.”