In this final pre-election sermon, Greg reminds us that while the kingdoms of the world rise and fall and are ultimately doomed, the kingdom of God is everlasting and truly deserving of our hope.
In today’s final pre-election sermon, Greg puts things into perspective with some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news. And it is unfortunately, very very bad. Every election sells us hope. Each candidate through history always says “trust in me, I know what the problems are and I can fix them.” And based on the fury of this year’s election, lots of people truly seem to have hope in these messages. But in the context of history, this hope is entirely unfounded.
We tend to have an idealized vision of the founding fathers as wise sages who always knew what was best and were above reproach. But as explained in the book “Anything For A Vote” by Joseph Cummings, we see that this is a myth. In fact, throughout our history, our elections have been anything but peaceful.
There have always been two opposing parties — the Republicans who believed in a small and limited federal government which did not interfere in global affairs, much like the modern Independence Party. Thomas Jefferson was a member of this party. Then there was the Federalist party who believed that the federal government should be a strong global power, with an extensive military. Alexander Hamilton was a Federalist. And they were bitter rivals. It was not uncommon for there to be violence or even riots at conventions, and in fact Alexander Hamilton was actually killed in a gun duel by Aaron Burr who was the vice president! In 1880 James Garfield was elected through a scandal in which republicans bribed democrats to switch their votes, and not long after this, he was assassinated.
Rumors and name calling are also not uncommon. In 1800 Thomas Jefferson hired reporters to spread rumors that John Quincy Adams was a hermaphrodite. In 1836 the national hero Davey Crocket started a rumor that Martin Van Buren who was running for office at the time, was a cross dresser. And in 1855, a rumor started that a neck condition of James Buchanan, who was running for president, was caused by a failed suicide attempt, in order to make him seem mentally unstable.
Up until the 1980s journalists did not talk about the sex lives of presidents, but nonetheless sex scandals were also nothing new. It was said that Thomas Jefferson had 6 or more children with at least one of his many slaves. (later proven true with DNA). Alexander Hamilton had an ongoing affair with a woman who was married, and when her husband found out he blackmailed Hamilton. James Buchanan had a gay lover move in with him at the white house, and he was not even discrete about it. And of course JFK was a well known womanizer. In the middle of Cuban missile crisis he was found to have snuck Marilyn Monroe into the white house.
So this race is not unusual, and if you were hoping that the discourse would improve after this, you will likely be disappointed. In fact if you step back even farther into the context of world history, things get even more hopeless.
Throughout the ages of civilizations, we see a pattern of nations, countries and empires rising and falling like waves on an ocean. We don’t know where the US is on this arc, but one thing is certain: it will absolutely come to an end. It always does, despite the protests of the people who insist that their empire is everlasting. Case in point, the Roman Empire called itself the ”eternal empire,” and the exception to all others. It lasted for 500-some years but in 476, germanic tribes from the north came and toppled the whole thing. Likewise with the Portugese empire, which lasted for 584 years. The Ottoman empire was most advanced civilization on the planet at the time. and it lasted for 623 years, until it too failed. And the Ethiopian empire had a mighty army, feared by all, lasted for a long 665 years. But if you go there now you would never imagine that it was once a great empire. These examples are the longest running empires. Most fall much quicker than this. Russia only lasted around 70 years.
It is no coincidence that all of these empires were established with violence and ended with violence. There are no exceptions to this rule in history. They all proved true what Jesus warned: that if you live by the sword you will die by the sword. America too was founded on violence, so it will without fail, also fall with violence. This worldly rule is as certain as gravity. So if your hope is in our country being a truly exceptional nation, or if your hope is that this election will finally fix things or that we will finally start to get along, etc– the very bad news is you are betting on the wrong horse.
But don’t despair! Now for some Good News! After the crucifixion, the disciples were also in despair. They thought Jesus was the messiah, and like most Jews at the time, thought the messiah would establish the kingdom of God the way rulers of the world did— with violence. They expected a big army to overthrow the Romans, and establish the kingdom of God forever and ever. So when he was crucified, their hope came crashing down. BUT… on Easter morning, the power of the living God invaded that tomb and broke apart the chains of death and defeated evil and Jesus rose victorious out of the tomb! When the disciples witnessed that, their despair was turned into a new and vibrant hope. It was only after the resurrection that they could see that the kingdom of God is nothing at all like the kingdoms of the world.
The kingdom of God was not established with violence. Therefore it cannot be toppled by violence.
It was only after the resurrection that the disciples could understand how the prophecy in Isaiah 9:6-7 applied to Jesus. The reign of the kingdom of God is on Jesus’ shoulders. And unlike every other politician in worldly governments, you never have to worry about a sex scandal with this leader! He is the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega. He is the almighty God, and his kingdom immutable, incorruptible, invincible, here to stay and it will never fade away. This is the ONE horse you CAN bet on. And truly, he is the ONLY ruler you can put your trust in. Put all of your hope in Jesus Christ and his kingdom.
So does that mean that like other trusted leaders, we should sit back and wait for him to come back and fix things for us? No! Jesus is fixing the world already, but he is doing it through us! We are paving the way for his return by moving the world in a kingdom direction. God’s way of transforming the world is by bleeding, serving, and loving. This is how we “fix” the world — to be a “sneak preview” of the kingdom to come. We are to put on display now what the coming kingdom of God will look like.
In this worldly election, we see people volunteering their time and resources for their candidate, and it is because they truly have hope in that candidate. You can tell what a person has hope in by what they put their time and resources into. Hope drives our actions.
So if people out in the [ultimately doomed and hopeless] world are willing to put their resources behind a candidate, then how much more should we be willing to put our hope into action, and to make sacrifices for the kingdom of God and do the work of ministry that we have been called to do!
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