The Reverend J. Howard Cepelak
Pentecost V – 1 July 2012
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
II Samuel 1:1, 17-18, 23-25; Psalm 130, II Corinthians 8:7-15, Mark 5:21-34
From the Second Book of the Prophet, Samuel:
Hearing the account of the deaths of King Saul and of his son, Jonathan, King David lamented and said, How the mighty have fallen.
From St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Church at Corinth:
The apostle, encouraging the Corinthians to fulfill their promise of financial support for the failing church in Jerusalem, spoke these words – Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us – see that you excel in this gracious work also.
From the Gospel According to St. Mark:
Jairus, one of the rulers of the synagogue, saw Jesus and he fell at his feet, and besought him, saying My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.
And later, a woman seeking healing, touched the hem of Jesus’ robe and Jesus perceived that power had gone forth from him.
Let us pray.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation,
In the latest issue of the Steeplecock News, as I wrote about celebrating Independence Day, I said that we are actually celebrating God’s hand moving in human history. I fully believe that the founding of this great nation, the writing of the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights came about through divine inspiration and intervention. God’s Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, powerfully moved in, on, over, under, around and through the founders – all of whom were receptive to that power. Our Founding Fathers believed in divine inspiration and in divine providence – and were not ashamed to publicly proclaim it.
I know that many people do not believe that God actually does move in human history, especially regarding any involvement in the political and economic affairs of nations. Such involvement, so they think, is limited to the Biblical accounts. For their perspective, God has withdrawn from history leaving us to our own devices.
For the true believer, we know that God still acts in history just as He did when He called Moses into service to deliver His people from Egyptian slavery – just as h
He did when He commissioned Samuel to serve as the Judge of the Hebrew people – just as He did when He become fully human in His Son and changed everything in the crucifixion and resurrection – and just as He did when He sent St. Paul to proclaim the Gospel and establish churches all over the ancient world. The power of that proclamation changed everything from the individual’s heart, mind, body and soul to the government of the Roman Empire.
His hand moved powerfully again when this nation was established. His hand is moving now. He has not withdrawn and left us to our own devices. He’s paying attention to how we handle the reality that we face right here and right now as we live in the year of our Lord, 2012. And, yes, it is the year of our Lord. Time belongs to Him as well as history.
We’re living, as I have so often said, at a pivot point in history – a time that, come this fall, will determine whether or not this nation survives and as a Constitutional Republic or becomes a socialist, and ever increasingly atheistic state, with the loss of personal freedom, religious freedom and every form of liberty previously guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. With that loss will come also the loss of what little prosperity any of us might currently enjoy.
Should the worst happen and the nation chooses socialist atheism, we will do so because we have chosen to believe the great lie – that somehow and in some way, socialism can work. It does not because it cannot. Socialism, parasitic by nature, eats it’s host and when the host has been eaten, it dies as well. Socialism does not – and cannot – generate wealth. It destroys it. It eats it.
The European socialist economies have been able to sustain themselves only because they could invest here. Micro-socialism can survive only if it’s an integral part of macro-capitalism. In other words, small socialist entities can survive so long as they can participate in a much larger free market capitalist economy. But as our government has so dramatically reduced our free markets, there’s nowhere for anyone to go. Hence, the incremental implosion of the European economies. As the Lady Margaret Thatcher so rightly said, The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other peoples’ money. That time has come.
Back in history, we read about St. Paul’s letter to the wealthy church at Corinth that had pledged financial support for the failing church in Jerusalem. The apostle was encouraging them to keep their promise.
The Jerusalem church practiced socialism. Individual wealth had to be contributed to the common fund and get distributed according to individual’s needs. They, of course, quickly fell into poverty. As is always the case, the needs far outweigh the ability of a few to meet them. In a socialist entity, the means of wealth production just does not exist.
Although St. Paul continued to raise money for the failed Jerusalem congregation, he eventually admonished the churches not to do this kind of thing. Because of the abuse, he wrote in Thessalonians, He who does not work does not eat!”
Now – back to the future – to us in the here and now. Because of the government’s departure from the Constitution over the past couple of decades – the very Constitution that each senator, congressional representative, Supreme Court justice and president swears to uphold, we have begun our implosion. Hence, the pivot point. The time has come. Decisions must be made God is watching. And God is calling.
The intimate link between faith, faithfulness, freedom and economics, as manifested in our founding documents, is a part of the divine plan for this world – it didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Any careful study of Scripture will reveal that close link. Men and women in any generation, sensitive to God’s Word, can perceive what’s happening at various decisive points in history. Mankind has had many such decisive points – pivot points – some minor – some major.
James Russell Lowell, the son of a Cambridge clergyman, lived at a pivot point in history. He wrote, at one of those points in his – and our – history, these magnificent words:
Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth and falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new messiah, offering each the bloom or blight.
And the choice goes on forever, ‘twixt the darkness and that light.
This poem became the text for the hymn entitled Once to Every Man and Nation, # 441 in the Pilgrim Hymnal. Lowell wrote this text in response to the Mexican – American War of 1836 – 47. That war arising out of Texas declaring its independence from Mexico – the pivot point. The hymn pretty much hits the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to all pivot points in human history. False messiahs popping up, lying to the people who are all too ready to believe in him and in the deception because they do not believe in Jesus Christ, the only true Messiah.
Now pivot points are always power points at any point in history. When Texas declared its independence from Mexico, they threw off an oppressive power for the power to determine their own lives.
God wants His people free. He has moved in history to establish that freedom. The prophet Samuel, the last of the judges of the Hebrew people, implemented a massive power shift as the divinely granted power over the chosen people moved from the judges to a king. Samuel did not want to make that transition. He spoke against it proclaiming the word of God to the people that having a king would be a bad thing.
Samuel proclaimed that divine word when he told the people what God had revealed to him – I would paraphrase. He said that the king will take the best of the young men and place them in front of his own chariots as they go to war so that they will die as they protect the king. Furthermore, he will take the young women and make of them his servants. And on top of that, the king will take their money, give it to his friends and keep heaps for himself and the people would be enslaved. Check out I Samuel 8:11-19 to see if my paraphrase is accurate. I think it is.
But the people demanded a king- All the other nations had one why can’t we? – so they said. They forgot that God was their King – but they had had enough of that
God allowed for their faulty choice. Yes, He leaves us free to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, freedom and oppression.
Yet, within their bad choice, God inserted His hand, choosing a King through his judge, Samuel. And Saul was selected. We know the story. Saul went bad. King Saul had a good son, Jonathan. Jonathan had become the best friend of the next king; David – a young man of God’s own choosing – selected to eventually take the power.
That pivot point came when the mighty King Saul – and his son, Jonathan, were killed in battle. David, always loyal to the Lord’s anointed even though Saul, the anointed king had gone bad, nonetheless lamented his death – and even more so the death of his dearly beloved friend, Jonathan. And David proclaimed in his grief, How the mighty have fallen!
The apostle Paul was one of the most powerful individuals in history. He implemented and expanded the tectonic shift in power that came with our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection. St. Paul, as well as St. Peter and the other apostles – but Paul primary among them as the evangelist to the pagans – changed history.
Eventually, Christianity became the dominant religion and the power of God properly recognized. We know about all of history’s abuses. People remain free to do right or wrong. But God had moved powerfully.
Scripture bears witness to God’s movement in human history – the power of His Truth – personified in the Holy Spirit – and the saving and redeeming power of Jesus Christ. God the Father in God the Son – on the cross to save us from sin and death and then up from the grave to bless us with eternal life.
It’s all about power. When Jesus lived with us in the flesh, He healed many of their deadly afflictions. Witness this morning’s passage regarding Jairus’ daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage. The power of health over affliction, of life over death. As He healed, Jesus could feel the power go out from Him.
On the cross, His divine power went out from Him to destroy the powers of sin and death. His power came back to Him as He rose from the dead. And His crucifixion and resurrection was then – is now – and will be forever – the single most important and definitive pivot point in all of human history. At that pivot point – at that power point, God offers us – as individual men and women as a nation – the choice between truth and falsehood, good and evil, right and wrong. To quote James Russell Lowell’s words again,
Though the cause of evil prosper, Yet the truth alone is strong
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne.
Yet that scaffold sways the future, And behind the din unknown
Standeth God, within the shadow, Keeping watch above His own.
Knowing that evil always disguises itself as good, that the big lie always claims to be the great truth, nonetheless we also know that God does keep watch. If we turn to Him in these most deceptive times, He will sustain us and lead us onto a glorious future. If we do not …. Well scripture tells us what will happen then.
In the meantime, come to this sacred table. Receive the broken body and the shed blood of God made Man. Take and eat – and be thankful. And be free.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we pray that you will powerfully call your people unto yourself. Bless us all with keen discernment. Deliver us from our own temptation to believe in deception. And grant your people the victory – given in and only in your Son our only Savior,
Jesus Christ the Lord,