Psalm 62: 5-12
Jonah 3: 1-10
1 Corinthians 7: 29-31
Mark 1: 14-20
I am writing on a day of human political power, when one leader goes away and another takes his place. As you probably know about me, I resist the temptation to tell you what I think of these individuals and their parties. But as a Christian pastor, I believe I must tell you the bottom-line truth about them: they are not God. They are merely human beings, with all the foibles that go with the flesh. We may prefer this or that policy, we may like this personality and dislike that one, but in the end, they are only mortals as we are.
We Christians and Jews and Muslims proclaim the sovereignty of God, Who is above all our human situations, Who is infinitely superior to us all in in holiness and righteousness. And we Christians proclaim the Lordship of Jesus, who baffled us by sacrificing his Divine life for us mortal sinners.
This psalm is linked with David, who ascended from shepherd boy to king of Israel, but— oh my!— he was all-too-human.
Trust in Him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us. [Selah]
Those of low estate are but a breath,
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
- Psalm 62: 8 – 9
Scholar Robert Alter comments on verse 9, above. First, he notes that the word translated “breath” is the same word that is used over and over in the Book of Ecclesiastes, “vanity.” Alter adds, “the poet... invites us to visualize all of humanity being placed in one pan of a scales and a mere breath in the other. The pan with humankind would rise higher, for even breath is more substantial.”
In our human politics and society, don’t we see enough of “vanity” ?
I bring you these thoughts not to scorn or mock our leaders, but instead to challenge you to cling fast to the One Who is utterly real and all-powerful and Who loves us and Who saves us far beyond anything we humans can do, or vote for.
Further, I want us to invite our groups and our leaders to stay humble and repent frequently. As comedian Robin Williams said, “Politicians are a lot like diapers, they should be changed frequently, and for the same reasons.” As should we all. Whenever we forget that we are sinners in need of repentance, God raises up somebody like the prophet Jonah to remind us.
When Jonah finally rinsed off the fish-spit and obeyed God, the people of the wicked, pagan city of Nineveh responded by humbling themselves before God: Their king gave the command: “Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. Who knows? God may relent and change His mind; He may turn from His fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” Jonah 3: 8 – 9
Today, many people are upset or enthused about the change of political leadership. But how can we get appropriately upset and enthused about changing our own attitudes and behavior ?
Listen to the prayer of Rev. Silvester Beaman, the pastor from Wilmington, Delaware, who gave the benediction at the presidential inauguration:
“We will give justice to the oppressed, acknowledge sin, and seek forgiveness, thus grasping reconciliation. In discovering our humanity, we will seek the good in and for all our neighbors. We will love the unlovable, remove the stigma of the so-called untouchables: we will care for our most vulnerable: our children, the elderly, the emotionally challenged, and the poor. We will seek rehabilitation beyond correction. We will extend opportunity to those locked out of opportunity. We will make friends of our enemies. We will make friends of our enemies. [sic] People, Your people, shall no longer raise up weapons against one another. We will use our resources for the national good and become a beacon of life and goodwill to the world. Neither shall we learn hatred anymore. We will lie down in peace, not make our neighbors afraid.”
A lot of that means repentance.
Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near: repent and believe the good news.” Then, as we will discuss this week, Jesus called ordinary people to follow him. He wanted them, and us, to proclaim it to our own selves and to our neighbors.