A SERMON 9/25/2022 DO WE HAVE GROUNDS TO COMPLAIN? (or, MY POLITICAL INVOLVEMENT) Word Count: 1945 Presented to ASCENT CHRISTIAN CHURCH PRINEVILLE, OR INTRODUCTION Quoting, J.A. Thompson, New International Commentary, The Book of Jeremiah, pp 9-10. Section II. Jeremiah in his historical setting “The prophets were not merely religious teachers or philosophers in the abstract but saw themselves as the messengers of God commissioned to convey to the people of their own day the word that God had given them. They had a specific message to a specific people at a specific point in history. It was a message which would interpret the events through which their people were passing, or would pass, in the light of the demands and promises which God had given to their people. Clearly, this dimension of a prophet’s ministry cannot be understood unless the historical background of his times is known. The book of Jeremiah makes contact with historical events at many points. In many cases precise dates and otherwise known events are referred to. It was Jeremiah’s responsibility to proclaim a message about nations and kingdoms, ‘to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant’ (1:10). It was an age of crises. As Jeremiah began to preach, the Assyrian empire was in decay. At the collapse of Assyria, Egypt and then Babylon, the kingdom of the Medes stood waiting to pick the spoils of war. Judah herself was caught up in the drama. To begin she was nominally a vassal of Assyria, then for a brief period independent, then a vassal of Egypt, and finally a vassal of Babylon, under whom Judah lost even her identity as a nation when Nebuchadnezzar took her king into exile and destroyed her city and temple. Jeremiah lived through all this, and much of the drama of those years is reflected in his book. It was a time of agony for Jeremiah himself and for his people. Anyone who attempts to read the book without knowing something of the times will be more bewildered than ever. The arrangement of the book is complex and the variety of materials is considerable. If one lacks any sort of historical anchorage as well, the book is a bewildering one.” Therefore, Jeremiah’s ministry was from about 627bc to 582bc. 45 years, starting about age 18. It was near the end of his ministry when a Hebrew named Ishmael assassinated the Babylonian appointed governor. He also murdered the entire garrison of Babylonian troops. He hen fled to Egypt, taking many people with him, including Jeremiah. Judah remained desolate for at least 40 more years when the Medo/Persian empire destroyed Babylon. Then the people began to return to Judah around 540bc. I come now to our own time. In so doing, I’m reminded of Jeremiah’s later comment in his book of Lamentations, “Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?” We too live in a chaotic period of tumult. There is the big news of war, human trafficking, border crisis, on and on. Statewide there is an important election looming. There is the local community with conflicts about school curriculum. There is my own personal microcosm of conflict within myself as I try to cope with friends, family, and my inner self. How am I to understand my inner struggles as I also cope with what’s happening in my immediate world, let alone that outer world that seems to impose itself on my world? How is it that I might complain? We are commanded to go into all the world and as we go, to make disciples for Christ. Yet, how do we deserve to assume that responsibility? We ourselves are flawed. How do I deserve to preach today? Who among us does deserve to do so? The very presumption in preaching is that we have all sinned and are therefore of what we say to others. Is this why Paul referred to preaching as “foolishness?” And yet, we the church are tasked with the mission of Christ. That mission includes suffering, preaching, teaching, serving, fellowshipping, breaking bread together, prayers and more. If we suffer in our lives, we should realize it is just an understandable waste of time to complain. I’m not saying an honest conversation with God is bad. But let’s not waste the time with friends and family whining about our lot in life. This takes away from the responsible stewardship of our time, and of God’s love. HOW DEEP How deep the Father's love for us How vast beyond all measure That He would give His only Son To make a wretch His treasure How great the pain of searing loss The Father turns His face away As wounds which mar the chosen One Bring many sons to glory” God has set us free. Free from sin. Free to do what? Paul writes in Galatians 5:1 these words, “ It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” The “yoke of slavery” was of course, the law. Who makes the laws? Politicians. The tend horribly “to organizations, combinations and arrangements.” (Bastiat) They subvert the real purpose of law to turn law into charity, education, and the like, some of which plunder the population. They take from one group and give to another. Some is legal and some apparently legal (Bastiat). Nearly every law enacted… amounts to a means of legalized plunder. They make laws to solve problems created by the very laws they previously created. Will this find utopia? Will it find salvation? You know what Mark Twain said about government? “Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.” ― Mark Twain During the time of Jesus’ ministry, we remember he drove out the money changers from the temple (Matthew 21:12). He declared, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it a robbers’ den!” Then he proceeded to heal the blind and the lame who came to him (v 14). This was during the Passover when, every year, Hebrews from all over the world would return for the big feast. So travelers from far away needed to exchange their currency to buy the required animal sacrifices. That’s why these money changes were located in and near the temple. Jesus called them robbers because they not only exchanged currencies, but they would also charge the visitors exorbitant and excessive amounts for this service. With language barriers, and misunderstandings, this is easy to see the opportunity to cheat for extra money. Why should anyone complain? Jesus’ words here were not a complaint. He was speaking the truth to his generation. Just like the prophet Jeremiah had done in his generation. You and I are not Jeremiah. Not Jesus. Can we complain? “Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sin?” Having been forgiven our sin, by Jesus himself, it makes us free. Free to share that feeling, that liberating thought with others. Why then, should we make or suffer with a world full of rules and more laws? The only good law is one that seeks justice before God. Those are the natural laws that God himself set in at the creation. But we now are to be free from unnatural laws, created by man to enslave one another. SOCIAL JUSTICE. Have you heard that phrase? What is it? Never well defined, it has to do with the distribution of wealth, opportunities and privileges of society. It postulates equity, by way of government actions like taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services labor laws and regulation of markets. It often conflates and confuses the messages of the Old Testament prophets. But social justice is not Biblical justice. Social justice today is a product of progressive legal scholars from the early 1800’s into the 1900’s. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_justice) . Government by definition, is the aggressive use of force. I am not advocating an end to philanthropy. Biblical justice on the other hand, involves individuals acting out their beliefs without the encumbrance or force of government. Isaiah said, “Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.” (Isaiah1:17) Micah said, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 5:8) Therefore, I’m somewhat politically active. You know what Mark Twain said about politicians? “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.” ― Mark Twain There were some good politicians early in our country. Thomas Jefferson, who emphasized Jesus moral teachings over his miracles and resurrection, wrote this to some Baptist supporters: “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/godinamerica-early-america-formation/) Notice his emphasis on the constitutional restriction of congress. James Madison himself was outraged to discover that a number of Baptist ministers had been thrown into a Virginia jail for preaching without licenses. He committed himself to fighting for liberty of conscience, which he equated with religious liberty. (https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/godinamerica-early-america-formation/) We could go on and on…I’ll mention William Wilberforce, strongly influenced by John Newton who wrote Amazing Grace. Wilberforce was the driving citizen behind England’s abolition of he slave trade. Yes, I believe we must confront unnatural laws wherever we find them. Unless we do so we find ourselves subject to that same “yoke of slavery” written about by Paul. It doesn’t really matter to me whether it’s Jewish law or any other. Yet, I really am repulsed by politics! But how can I complain? Especially if I fail to vote!??? Jeremiah. Driven by the winds of people’s sin and competing nations. His own nation’s government in disarray and filled with evil politicians, malcontents and even assassins! He could have complained! Yet he spoke the truth, with or without success. Will we do the same in our time? What should we do with our freedom in Christ? Next week, we will hear from Ephesians 5:1, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” We are offering up our lives daily. Are we making good use of our freedom as we go toward the end of our lives? In Galatians 5, Paul encourages us to be led by the Spirit, and this will help us avoid the natural tendency to sin against God. It will lead to fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. May I ask again, “Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?” We should rather express the freedom in knowing Christ. So much nicer than complaining! After all, His love for us is very deep. Well friends and fellow travelers, on Friday I was asked to speak today. As Mark Twain said, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.“ — Mark Twain But here we are in two days.