February 19, 2017
Tomorrow is President’s Day, a day set aside to honor great men who have led this country. Originally we celebrated George Washington’s birthday, which is actually on February 22nd, and later included Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which falls on February 12th. And while each of the states classifies it a bit differently, the official federal holiday is now the third Monday in February, and is a celebration of all who have served in the office of president of our beloved United States of America.
Sadly, our nation is very divided over celebrating our current president. It seems to me that people either love him or hate him, but I haven’t run into anyone yet that is neutral. And while I am not going to preach about his policies or changes he has or will make, I will say that this man was elected as our leader, and as I have stated in a previous message, the Bible says it is God Himself that both raises up kings and removes kings. Therefore, it is our obligation as citizens of the United States, and as Christians, to pray for President Trump. 1 Timothy 2:1-3 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” Yet what do we see in the news? Many American citizens in opposition to our president are leading any BUT peaceful and quiet lives, and are hardly making prayers of thanksgiving to God for their leader, nor interceding for his protection, nor petitioning the Lord to grant Him the wisdom and courage he needs to successfully lead this country. It is up to God’s people to pray for our nation and its leaders! Even if you voted democrat? Yes, a democrat should not dishonor a republican president any more than a Methodist should dishonor a Lutheran pastor, even if they do something we don’t entirely agree with. I know a Lutheran pastor who will not serve communion to anyone who is not Lutheran, even if they have publically acknowledged their faith, and were baptized in a different Christian denomination. Do I agree with that position? No. But would I disrespect him or demand that he do otherwise? No, even though I was questioned by someone who was offended by his actions, as to why he would act this way.
The president, and other government leaders, are not the only ones who need our prayers. There are leaders among us right here in this church. Teachers are leaders. They are leading the next generation by giving them knowledge and guidance, and serving as living examples. Our nation depends on the leadership of teachers, because it is the next generation that will be running this country someday. Pray for our teachers. The Lord holds them doubly accountable, as the Bible states in James 3:1, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
Of course, pastors are leaders, too. In Acts 20:28 we are given this command, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” It is a very solemn responsibility to watch over God’s people, and we need your prayers, encouragement, and support. God was not happy with the shepherds tending his flock when He spoke to the prophet Ezekiel in chapter 34. And unfortunately there are some pastors today that I am sure these same words would apply to. Ezekiel said: “Then this message came to me from the LORD: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds, the leaders of Israel. Give them this message from the Sovereign LORD: ‘What sorrow awaits you shepherds who feed yourselves instead of your flocks. Shouldn’t shepherds feed their sheep? You drink the milk, wear the wool, and butcher the best animals, but you let your flocks starve. You have not taken care of the weak. You have not tended the sick or bound up the injured. You have not gone looking for those who have wandered away and are lost. Instead, you have ruled them with harshness and cruelty. So my sheep have been scattered without a shepherd, and they are easy prey for any wild animal. They have wandered through all the mountains and all the hills, across the face of the earth, yet no one has gone to search for them’. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: ‘As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, you abandoned my flock and left them to be attacked by every wild animal. And though you were my shepherds, you didn’t search for my sheep when they were lost. You took care of yourselves and left the sheep to starve’. Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘I now consider these shepherds my enemies, and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will take away their right to feed the flock, and I will stop them from feeding themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no longer be their prey.’” It is my sincere hope and prayer that I never fit that description, for if I ever did, I too would be considered the Lord’s enemy. Pray for your pastor, that instead I would do as the Bible says in 1 Peter 5:2-3, “Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly - not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example.”
Besides teachers and pastors, what other leaders do we have? How about our bosses? Some of them are God-fearing, righteous, and compassionate, and thus a joy to work for. But not always. Then what? We remind ourselves that we must still honor and respect them, and we remember the words of Colossians 3:23 - and maybe even post them above our desk or someone else in our workplace. This verse says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” For even if our boss (or pastor, teacher, or other leader) does not honor God or follow His Word, keep in mind that he or she will have to answer to God for themselves. If they behave badly, that does not give us the right to do so as well. And it is still our responsibility to pray for them!
And if you ARE the boss at work, how are you to lead your staff? Remember what you heard in our Gospel reading (Matthew 20:20-28). Do not be among the bosses who are more concerned with climbing the corporate ladder than with the well-being of their employees. But rather, be like Jesus, who led by example, and who, even though He is God Himself, did not think it was beneath Him to wash the feet of His disciples.
So children respect your teachers, workers respect your superiors, Christians respect your spiritual shepherds, and citizens respect the leaders of your country - and pray for all of them - for they have to answer to God for you. May the Lord grant us all wisdom and courage for the facing of this hour. Amen.
I asked the children three questions:
1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
2. What skills and traits will you need to do this job well?
3. What skills and traits do you think the following leaders should have - the president, a teached, a pastor, a company boss?
Got some interesting answers - from the congregation as well!