Fourth Sunday after Epiphany          03 February 2019 A.D.   Holy Communion

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany          03 February 2019 A.D.   Holy Communion

         The Epistle: Romans. 13:1-7   The Gospel:   Matthew. 8:1-13

                                O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so
                                many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty
                                of our nature we cannot always stand upright; Grant to us
                                such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers,
                                and carry us through all temptations; through Jesus
                                Christ our Lord.                                 Amen.

                           “Obeying a higher power”
                                    Or rebellion 2.0

 As followers of Christ we have many essential obligations, not a list of dos and don’t as such, but things we should do as Christians to provide a witness of our faith in Christ.    This is the hardest when we apply the lessons from the passages of scripture we read or heard today. 
    As an average American, we generally follow the rules, we stay within the speed limit, try to not pass in dangerous areas and mostly follow the laws of the land.  We probably do the worst job when we drive, simply because it seems everyone else is breaking the law.  But that aside, we usually have a few questions about ceding ourselves to a central authority.   We have this legacy that came from our earliest time both in the colonies and as a newly minted nation to bend or test the rules and to always question authority or the authorities.  
It really is a human condition, we have been breaking rules since the first days in the Garden of Eden.    But as Americans we have gone to the point of making it a national passion to question and pick at the authorities of the land.  

 And yet is this really the Christian way to live?  
 We have the lessons of today’s scripture to point us in the right way.  

    There are several reasons we are to submit to authority.  

1. Number one is that God has mandated it.  “For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God..”  
     Yikes. Does that mean someone like Fidel Castro was in power because of God. 
 Yes.      Why ?     God’s purpose is not ours .     We tend to forget that He has plans and the time to do what He wants, in spite of what we want to do.  “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers...”
 This whole concept opens up so many avenues of questions, many of which make us very uncomfortable, especially if we think of the times of rebellion in our own lives. 
Rebellion?  Yes, how about the time we defied mom or dad ?  Or how about the time we disobeyed the teacher, coach, law enforcement officer, etc.    Wow, guilty as charged.

2.  Another reasons we pray for our leaders; we are compelled by the Word of God. St. Paul tells us to pray for those in authority over us.
  I remember several years ago, after a Morning Prayer service, a young fellow, father of at least five children, came up to me as said I shouldn’t be praying for the current president.   This fellow said since the president was not acting in a Christian manner that he did not deserves our prayers.  I reminded him of St Paul, writing, while in prison to a number of city churches, urging them to pray for those who “hold the sword” of justice and law:   “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” 

     I believe this young man lost the point of why we are to pray for ALL who are in authority over us, we are both asking that justice be true and balanced and that those charged with carrying out the law do it according to the law. As we find in Morning Prayer, pages 17 & 18 or in Evening Prayer page 32 in our prayer book, there set out three different prayers for the president and all others in authority.  These prayers have been a fundamental part of daily and weekly worship for centuries. 
 In verses six and seven of the Romans passage we read today St. Paul sums up the civic lesson, important to a civil society and mandated by God:
  For  this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

 Let us always remember, that God is in control, He has set the boundaries of everything, things that happen are for a purpose. “...Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake...”

  The bad things happening, because we live in an imperfect world.   It is a fallen world, thanks to the first Adam.  He disobeyed God, the Father and Creator, we are all still paying for that disobedience.  
    But not all is lost, because God provided a way, that He compelled the prophets to speak of, the angels to sing of , the Gospels to proclaim the WAY.  For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.

 Yes He sent his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to fix, once and for all, the problem of the fallen world. 
The Second Adam came to fix what the First Adam broke, so all who call on the Name of Jesus may be saved from the destruction brought on by a disobedient creature.  

 And now from the Gospel reading we see first hand the concept of authority.  Here we find secular authority and sacred authority: both having equal bearing, secular being used correctly, not in abuse or corruption.
 Mt 8:5-13
 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him,
 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented.
 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him.
 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.
 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.
 But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
 And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour.

We are still struggling with that disobedience, we are still trying to find a way around the very clearly marked warning signs, laws that point us to the Gospel, and the life of Christ which leads us to salvation.

Let us pray.   

 The Lord is my light and my salvation; who then shall I fear ? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid ?  Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in the right way, because of mine enemies.   As the psalmist of old wrote and sang, Lord give us the same peace and comfort he found in your word, help us daily to seek your word, to seek your will, and to serve you in gladness so those around us can see that we serve the Risen One, the savior of the world.   Go with us this day , keeping us from sin and error, lift us up, help us in the week to come to do your will, these things we ask in the Name of the Father, in the Name of the Son, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end,         Amen

ALMIGHTY God, the supreme Governor of all things, whose power no creature is able to resist, to whom it belongeth justly to punish sinners, and to be merciful to those who truly repent; Save and deliver us, we humbly beseech thee, from the hands of our enemies; that we, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore from all perils, to glorify thee, who art the only giver of all victory; through the merits of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O GOD, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to us who call upon thee, and grant us thy help in this our need; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O LORD Jesus Christ, who saidst unto thine Apostles, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; Regard not our sins, but the faith of thy Church; and grant to it that peace and unity which is according to thy will, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.