Summary: Sermon of the sovereignty of God over the nations.
The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 14, 2011 Proper 15 A
St. Andrew’s Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
Blessed to be a Blessing
On August 13, 1961, Berlin woke up to discover East German soldiers blocking off streets and erecting a wall of cemented paving stones topped with barbed wire. Over the years the wall that separated East and West Berlin and East Germany from West Germany grew in height and sophistication. The roughly 97 mile long wall was augmented with minefields and other obstacles. Soldiers were instructed to shoot to kill anyone who tried to defect to West Germany over that wall.
Over the years, an estimated 5,000 people tried to flee East Germany into West Berlin. ABC News recently reported the official number of 136 dead at the wall. Historians say that between 600 and 700 died there, and victims’ groups put the number even higher.
Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel laid a wreath at the Berlin Memorial Site in a ceremony that marked the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall.
Who foresaw the events of November 9th, 1989 when the wall was breached by sledgehammers, other hammers and chisels? Who believed on June 12, 1987, when President Ronald Reagan challenged General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” that less than three years later the wall would come down?
In the events that led up to the removal of the Berlin Wall, and more recent events like Arab Spring and the riots in London, a person of faith might wonder what role God plays in any of this. Bill Muehlenberg, who directs a ministry called Culture Watch, asks the question, “how do a sovereign God and morally-accountable human beings coexist.” Furthermore, “how do we understand the rise and fall of nations in light of God’s purposes and plans?” [http://www.billmuehlenberg.com/2010/06/26/god-and-the-nations/]
With the hostilities of Arab Spring continuing to rage in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Western Sahara, one might wonder whether God is involved at all.
We know in so many ways and at so many levels that we live in a dangerous world. Our plea as Christians and believers in a sovereign God is voiced by the psalmist.
v. 1 May God be merciful to us and bless us, and show us the light of his countenance and come to us.
We need the mercy of God because left to our own devices our self-destructive tendencies and the malevolence of others takes its toll. We need God’s favor and blessing. We need God’s pleasure and delight, because otherwise the despair of this world infects even people of hope like us.
Life without God cannot yield the answers that we seek for ourselves, our country and our world. Even in a less complicated time, the psalmist prays,
v. 2 Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations.
God’s ways are not just for God’s people – those who believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They are for the entire world.