This sermon is part of a Lenten pulpit exchange between Trinity Lutheran Church in Girard, Illinois, Zion Lutheran Church in Farmersville, Illinois, and Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Carlinville, Illinois. It was first preached as the Lent 1 Midweek sermon at Trinity–Girard.
Psalm 2 Sermon (Lent Midweek 2), 2018
Psalm 2; Matthew 23:27-39
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt
This will be neither the greatest sermon you’ve ever heard nor the most enjoyable one.
I say—up front—that some of what I have prepared to say to you will make you uncomfortable.
Prove from Scripture that I am wrong—and I will gladly sing a different tune.
But if you can’t—perhaps you should read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest what God says and let your life be formed by His Word.
I don’t care if you agree with me. I don’t say that in meanness. Rather—and I know you’ll agree with me—more important than whether or not you agree with me, we should all agree with God.
Now, that said, is it controversial, in this place, to assert that America is the greatest nation in the world?
Is it controversial, in this place, to assert that America is not the greatest nation in the world?
I was once called un-American because I refuse to say that America is the greatest nation in the world.
By what measurement could you arrive at that conclusion? And I ask because there are several measurements that would at least seem to suggest the opposite answer.
We’re not the best at figure skating—not this year, anyway. I read that the reason the United States isn’t the greatest in the world at figure skating is because it’s cheaper to go into gymnastics. A skating rink is more expensive than a cushioned floor.
We’re not the best at math, and how bad we are depends on which study you read. I recently brought this up in Sunday school—I’m not trying to make fun of “new math,” but I honestly don’t understand why you would want to change what seems so obviously fundamental.
Memorize basic facts. Apply basic facts.
Memorize the times tables. You’ll hardly ever need a calculator.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest—let me say this.
I don’t care at all that the United States isn’t the greatest at figure skating. I will lose zero sleep over that.
And while I would prefer for us all to be better at math, that the United States isn’t number one in that category, I don’t know how much sleep I’ll lose.
Because I can’t count. But not that much, I’m sure.
But how about this one.
Why are we—the supposed greatest nation in the world—one of the absolute worst at keeping people alive?
You know what I’m talking about.
I’m not talking about keeping alive the man who walks into a school and commits murder.
Thus says the Lord, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Genesis 9:6).
So if the witnesses agree. And if the evidence agrees. What to do—while not pleasant—is easy.
St. Paul writes this: “If you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the one in authority] does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4).
You know what I’m talking about.
Can you guess where the most unsafe place is for a black child?
His mother’s womb.
Statistically, if he’s gonna die for man-made reasons, that’s where it’s going to happen.
That is a true statement.
And it is despicable.
So let’s do something about it.
I’m not making this suggestion for real—but let’s pretend. Let’s imagine the scenario where this conversation was actually taking place:
Let’s give up all guns. Imagine taking them from everyone everywhere in the United States. No one has a gun anymore. Impossible to hide them. Can’t manufacture them. No guns. Not even the security detail for the politicians who advocate for gun control get guns. No one does. Imagine that.
And—to get there—imagine zero abortions. And not just zero abortions. Zero forms of birth control that aren’t the words, “No, not tonight, dearest spouse of mine.”
Just as we decided to stop murdering people with guns, we woke up to the fact that neither should we avoid the greatest earthly blessing God can give us.
Neither should we murder them with pills, vacuums, and scissors.
But no child would need to be afraid sitting in a classroom.
And every child would get the opportunity.
Imagine the controversy that we all know would erupt.
No one will admit that the death of children is okay, but neither will anyone do what it takes to effect change.
When Anthony Esolen writes that your vote doesn’t matter, this is what he means.
It’s all a whitewashed tomb.
Outwardly beautiful and righteous, but within full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (cf. Mt. 23:27-28).
It doesn’t matter who’s elected, ultimately, because there won’t be enough turnover for anything good to get done.
We are a nation with some Christians in it.
We are not a Christian nation.
To us and all the world, though, thus says the Lord:
“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us’” (Psalm 2:1-3).
What’s more important? The First Amendment or the First Commandment?
Have you ever wondered, even, whether the First Amendment is in agreement with the First Commandment?
It’s a good question.
But here’s our dilemma. This is my point.
While I’ve been harsh, I believe I’ve been fair in what I’ve said.
How do we deal with honest critiques of where we are as a nation and people?
The nations still rage.
The peoples still plot in vain.
The kings of the earth still set themselves against the Lord.
The rulers of the earth still take counsel together against His Anointed.
What God has defined is constantly under attack.
Rarely is there an apparent victory for what Christians call natural law.
Have you noticed that the current year, whatever it is at the moment, is invoked for the reason why Christians should change?
You believe God intends marriage to be between one man and one woman for life for the procreation of children? Don’t you know that it’s 2018?
Don’t you know that God created time?
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (Psalm 2:4-6).
So our dilemma—dealing honestly with honest critiques—should be handled just as anything else in the Church—confession of sin, calling a thing what it is—absolution in Jesus’ name, remembering that all sin is forgiven in Christ—and a faithful life adorned with good and faithful works, obeying God and loving neighbor.
Because, again, thus says the Lord.
And hear this rightly—this is God the Father speaking to His Son, our Lord, Jesus: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel’” (Psalm 2:7-9).
I said earlier: “Rarely is there an apparent victory for what Christians call natural law.”
And that’s true.
Our victory will not be apparent until Jesus comes again to judge the quick and the dead.
Between now and then, the life of the Christian, the life of the faithful, is lived under the cross that God has given you to bear.
Bear it faithfully, and when our Lord returns He will remove it and wipe away every tear.
Bear it faithfully, and you will exchange your cross for a crown—and that, forever.
Because the earth is the Lord’s. And the nations that rage and plot and take counsel against God—they will be broken with a rod of iron and dashed to pieces like a potter’s vessel.
“Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled” (Psalm 2:10-12).
From the Gospel lesson, Jesus reiterates not the words that I’ve said but their meaning.
The psalm concludes: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:12).
And Jesus says to the holy city, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you [would not]. See, your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).
How should we deal with our dilemma?
To honestly deal with honest critiques?
Kiss the Son.
Hear His Word.
Be gathered together—in this place—to receive what God wants you to have: forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation.
Love your neighbor.
Learn that Christ must increase and I must decrease.
And finally, rejoice—blessed are all who take refuge in Him.
In Jesus’ name, Amen!