Still on The Throne

Because our country has now engaged in war I thought it prudent to pause from our celebration of Women's History month this week to address how we now respond to conflict in our world as people of God.

Several weeks ago I spoke to the issue of war from a biblical perspective, a Christian response perspective and a just war theory perspective. We have now moved beyond contemplating war, to the reality of bombs dropping and troops moving through the desert.

We are now a nation at war, and as a nation at war, and as Christians we are confronted with emotions, feelings, and thoughts associated with what war means, not only as a community, but also personally. The war with Iraq has also reached us in this congregation in a very personal way. We have friends in our congregation who have family or friends directly engaged in the conflict in Iraq.

So now in a very real way, our link to this war has a face and has become more personal.

I find it ironic that in this season of Lent, as we follow Jesus on his walk to violence, we as a nation and a world find ourselves also walking toward violence. And like Jesus, we walk seeking the will of God, hoping for victory. Not victory in war, but victory in peace and freedom for all humankind.

Some feelings we experience stem from our desire to be patriotic while remaining Christian. Can we be both? Can we be supportive of this war and still be a Christian, or must we be a pacifist to be a Christian.

These are questions I'm sure some folks are asking; desiring to be the people God wants them to be.

Yes it is possible to be both patriotic and Christian. The issue is where do we place God in relation to our patriotism and national loyalty. Our love for God must always be greater then our love of nation. Remembering we are one nation under God, and without God we have no hope as a people.

But as a nation we do come under the authority of our earthly governments and are required to follow our government's decisions within the criteria I spoke of several weeks ago. Paul speaks to this issue very clearly in his letters to the Romans.

Several weeks ago we also discussed the issue of war and how as Christians we can justify war while at the same time pray for peace. Prayer is one of the most important things we can do. Nothing can defeat a group of prayer warriors.

War is never the first option, but sometimes war is required to secure peace, and sometimes, as we have seen throughout history, war is the only way to stop oppression, persecution, abuse, and evil.

You know there is a tremendous amount of violence, or threat of violence in the world today, which has everyone on high alert and many people anxious.

But at this moment my major concern is not terrorism; it's not fear of being attacked, and it's not fear of chemical, biological, or nuclear weaponry. Although these are legitimate threats and worthy of concern, in the grand scheme of things they are short-lived.

Right now one of my main concerns is how Satan will attempt to use what's going on in the world to turn us, meaning all of humankind, away from God. This threat is long-term with eternal implications.

We know that often time's war brings people closer to God, and I pray God will use the events of this war to do just that. But evil is a powerful force. A force that, must not be underestimated, but overcome with vigilance by intentional focus on God. Evil is the reason we are at war today.

In this age of technology and information we are bombarded 24 hours a day with news, pictures, and analysis of war to the point we are virtually on the battlefield ourselves.

All of this information, as interesting as it may be, can become all consuming and overwhelming if we're not careful, particularly to children.

Yes we need to be responsible and concerned citizens keeping informed about what's going on, and supporting the efforts of the brave men and women engaged in liberating Iraq. But we need to be careful not to get so wrapped up in the war, or threat of terrorism, that we become fearful or paralyzed, like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, not knowing which way to go or what to do next.

We must be careful to not let this war, or terrorism, trap us in a place of despair, confusion, or uncertainty, thus turning our thoughts away from God, or believing God is not active or present. This is exactly what Satan wants.

One way to work through some of these difficulties is to remind ourselves frequently that no matter what's going on in our lives or around the world, God is still on the throne and is in control.

Our God is not an aloof God just sitting back on a couch watching what's going on. God is very much active in our lives and is present in all the events taking place in the world. No matter what, God is the King of all the earth, and at some point all nations of this world will recognize his lordship.

Our God is awesome beyond thoughts and words. This truth comes through loud and clear in our reading from Psalms this morning. And although we try, and the Biblical writer's try to describe God, anything we might say can't compare to the glory and majesty of God.

What is God? God is not a great heavenly tyrant who threatens and terrifies us with arbitrary and unpredictable divine power that may be used for us or used against us.

Nor is God a great heavenly grandfather or grandmother who does everything for us and makes our lives smooth, painless, and easy, without expecting or demanding anything of us.

Both of these gods are idols. However, both of these figments of our imagination have elements of truth in them. The Bible does tell us two things about the one living and true God. On one hand, our God is infinite, almighty, everywhere, all knowing, beyond the greatest and highest being our human minds can imagine.

On the other hand, God is also a God who draws near to us in intimate ways, much like a loving parent to a child, or as one who wants to be our friend and companion. The Christian life is, in part, an adventure in learning to entrust our lives to God and to realize the awesomeness of God. From the days of our infancy until the last breath of our life is taken, we're learning to build our lives on a foundation of God's love.

In a few minutes when we reaffirm our faith by reciting the Apostle's Creed, we join with millions of Christians through the ages in an understanding of God as a Trinity - three persons in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

From very early in our Jewish roots we've affirmed that God is one and indivisible, yet God is revealed in three distinct ways. "God in three persons, blessed Trinity," words from a familiar hymn, is one way of speaking about the several ways we experience God.

As we attempt to describe God we search for adjectives that describe the divine nature: God is over and above all that is, yet at the same time present in everything. God is everywhere at once, all-powerful, and all knowing. God is absolute, infinite, righteous, just, loving, merciful…and more. Because we can't speak literally about God, we use metaphors: God is a Shepherd, a Bridegroom, a judge. God is Love, Light, and Truth.

But in reality we can't describe God with certainty. However, we can put into words what God does and how we experience God's action in our lives.

Experiencing God occurs all the time whether we are at war, engaged in our own personal struggles, or when we are happy and joyful. We need to remain open to the experience and presence of God.

So I encourage all of us during this time of war to seek Gods presence perhaps in one of the following seven ways.

In God's creation. In the beginning God created the universe, and the Creation is ongoing. It's not just one event that took place a long time ago. From the spinning galaxies, to subatomic particles, to the vast wonders of our own minds and bodies, we marvel at God's creative wisdom.

Knowing God sustains us. God continues to be active in creation, not a passive bystander, holding all in "the everlasting arms." In particular, know that God is involved in our past, present, and future.

Through the love of God. God loves all creation. In particular God loves human kind, created in the divine image. This love is like that of a parent. We've followed Jesus in speaking of God as "our Father," while at times it seems that God nurtures us in a motherly way as well.

Understanding God suffers. Since God is present in creation, God is hurt when any aspect of creation is hurt. God especially suffers when people are injured by violence, abuse, injustice, prejudice, hunger, poverty, or illness. The living God suffers in our midst.

As we grieve over war and loss of lives, as we become fearful or uncertain, we must remember God shares our pain. God hates it when we are suffering, and let us never forget God knows first hand what it means to suffer and to be in pain through his son Jesus. But God's promise to us is that he will never leave us alone.

God does judge. All human behavior is measured by God's righteous standards - not only the behavior itself but also the motive or the intent behind the behavior. God knows when we sin and why. And Jesus alone will judge both the living and the dead. God redeems. Out of infinite love for each of us, God forgives our own self-destruction and renews us within. God reconciles individuals, groups, races, and nations that have been set apart for his holy work. God is redeeming all of creation, desiring to restore human kind to the divine image.

Remembering God reigns supreme and is in control. God is the Lord of all creation and of all history. Though it may oftentimes seem like the "principalities and powers" of evil have the stronger hand, we can know with absolute assurance God's eternal presence and reign will never cease to exist.

As Easter people this is the hope we have been promised "To God be the glory forever!"

Read other messages by Pastor Wade