Sermons

Summary: Even as the speech was delivered, a critter that could only be seen with an electron microscope was beginning to multiply through both the communist and the free world.

Tuesday of the 20th Week in Course 2020

When we catalogue the favored cultures and cities of history, the city of Tyre, cultural mother of the great and bloody Carthaginian empire, has to be written near the top of the list. The word, “Tyre” literally means “rock,” because in the time of the Kings of Israel it was a walled city built on a rocky island just off the coast of southern Lebanon. In this light the prophecy of Ezekiel that the city would be conquered by a foreigner certainly sounded bold. In fact, even the Assyrians had to abandon their siege of the island, and the Babylonians who destroyed the Jerusalem temple couldn’t conquer it, despite a thirteen-year siege. Wealthy from trade and haughty because of its favored geography and construction, it was the very paradigm of the prideful arrogance that Greeks called hubris. Even so, Ezekiel was correct in his prophecy, fulfilled long after his death, when Alexander constructed a causeway to the island and, using the tallest siege towers in history to overwhelm the defenders and send thirty thousand into slavery. Pride really does go before a fall. Remember that pride is the deadliest of the seven deadly sins.

The words of Our Lord then ring so true in my ears, especially as I look back over my active years. You’ll recall that yesterday we listened to the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to enter God’s kingdom. “Keep the commandments,” said the Master. The boy, probably a student of Torah, proudly claimed, “All these I have observed; what do I still lack?” He may have thought that Jesus would tell him that he was doing everything that he must. But Jesus, who Himself gave up the wealth and power over the universe, out of love for him and us, told the young man that if he wanted to be perfect–complete–it would be necessary to strip away, give away everything, and follow like the other disciples. But he believed that was too much, and went away in profound grief. That story leads to today’s proclamation. Many that are now on top will end up on the bottom, and those of low stature will be raised up. It parallels the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor; blessed are the meek; blessed are the persecuted.

It is with reluctance then, and a little embarrassment, that I repeat some words that our country heard last February: “Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share the incredible results. Jobs are booming, incomes are soaring, poverty is plummeting, crime is falling, confidence is surging, and our country is thriving and highly respected again! America's enemies are on the run, America's fortunes are on the rise, and America's future is blazing bright.” I admit that it felt good to hear those words and realize that indeed America was in better economic shape than we had been four years earlier. Our nation was in secular terms “on top of the world.”

But the speech was also disturbing because it seemed laced with hubris. Everything was wonderful. The present and future were all rosy, in the view of so many. Yet, yet the following week, several thousand tiny babies, some already seven and eight months old, were murdered in abortuaries or chemically destroyed at home. The following Sunday, millions of Americans were in the stores, buying and selling food and clothes and cosmetics and, in Texas, everything except liquor and automobiles, pridefully ignoring family life and our duty to worship the One who made all of our wealth possible. And all the other commandments that next week were ignored or blatantly mocked by blasphemy, idolatry, dissing of parents and authority, fornication and unnatural sexual activity and child abuse and theft and lie after lie after lie to cover it all up. Not a word about any of that in the State of the Union. The foundation, especially the family foundation, of the country was crumbling, and we were celebrating the new coat of paint on the facings, and the new roof.

Even as the speech was delivered, a critter that could only be seen with an electron microscope was beginning to multiply through both the communist and the free world. It was and is particularly dangerous to the elderly, who are supposed to be the repository of wisdom for the young, but who had over fifty or sixty years allowed or even encouraged the corruption of the national mores. Fear of the contagion, as usual, led to overreaction and a total reversal of the effects of tax cuts and deregulation and increased employment. Worse, it led to responses that linger today and make things worse. How is it that in some states you can buy alcohol or kill your baby but you can’t worship with your church family?

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