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Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Buckingham Palace has announced this past week that on Sunday, June 13th, Queen Elizabeth will meet US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle. President Biden will be the 12 serving president the Queen has met in the course of her 69-year reign. Everyone, except for LBJ.
Americans have always had a peculiar interest in the British royalty which they abandoned over 240 years ago. American comedians love to make fun of the Royal family. Jay Leno once said, “It seems that England’s royal family is running out of money. They are down to just $500 million. Well sure, that’s what happens when nobody in your family has had a job for the last thousand years.” He went on to say, “Due to the bad economy, the Queen’s salary will be frozen for the next four years. In fact, to make ends meet the queen is thinking of having a yard sale. Getting rid of a lot of stuff they don’t use anymore, like Canada.”
Of course, it is not just Americans who are intrigued by the kings and queen. It can be found the world over. It is a curiosity and passion that is centuries old, if not millennia old. 3000 years ago, from the time that Moses brought the nation of Israel out of the Egypt and into the Promised Land, the nation had been ruled by twelve judges, who were both legal adjudicators and spiritual prophets. You may know the name of some of the Judges, Ehud, Samson and Gideon. There was even a woman among the twelve, Deborah the Prophetess. The last of Israel’s’ great judges was the Prophet Samuel. Unfortunately, the Israelites were not satisfied. As one scholar wrote, it took eleven days to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but it took 40 years to get the Egypt out of the Israelites. Time and again they returned to former ways, forgetting the God who had save them and worshiping foreign gods instead.
In the Book of 1st Samuel, we read that the aging Prophet Samuel had newly appointed his two sons to become latest judges over Israel, but his sons did not follow in his ways or example. They turned aside after personal gain and took bribes and perverted justice. So, the elders of the people demanded that Samuel appoint for them a king, so they could be like other nations. The nation was at a crossroads.
Yes, even though God had saved Israel from slavery under the Pharaoh, the people had grown forgetful and ungrateful. Israel was supposed to be unique because God would be its leader. Yet, just as years earlier when an entire generation died in the wilderness because it could not imagine a life of freedom, this generation was unable to envision a nation of freedom led by God. They wanted to be like other nations.
God warned Israel through the prophet what would come to pass. The king would take their sons and put them to war. The king would take their daughters and put them to work. Furthermore, the king would gather their resources, share them with his inner circle, and keep some for himself. Taxes would be taken and people would be put to work. Even more tragic, there was the possibility that the king might abuse his power. The life and well-being of the nation was at stake. Still, selling their freedom short, the elders of Israel wanted a king who would win their battles for them- at whatever cost. That is the story we will consider this summer in my sermon series as we study the stories of the early kings of Israel, Saul, David and Solomon.
Surprisingly, you and I can be a lot like that generation long ago, who pleaded with the prophet. We can be so caught up in the world, so enamored with the spellbinding kings and queens and leaders and entertainers, that we cannot see that we ourselves are being spellbound and are willing to place God squarely in the rearview mirror.
Well, I don’t think we have to worry about our nation suddenly returning to the British monarchy with President Biden’s visit to Windsor Castle. Nor can I imagine our First Lady strolling past the U.S Marines guards with a perfectly matched handbag. But like every generation that has gone before us, we must ask, what role do we want God to play in our lives going forward- especially in the new life that is unfolding before us in a post-covid world?
My friends, what have you discovered about yourself this past year? Are you still seeking a king so that you can be like all other people? Let me share with you two things that I have learned about myself. First all, being stuck at home and here at church, has forced me to realize how much of my life before this has been simply rushing through one event after another. I was slowed down in ways I hadn’t experienced since I was a child. Personally, I liked the first of weeks of the pandemic- until the world discovered Zoom. I always said I preferred to be busy, but the last year has forced me to slowdown and to think about what I want my life to look like moving forward- in relationship to others when I would see them again. Frankly, returning to the former, hectic normal is not all that appealing.
Secondly, I’m trying to figure out what it would look like to intentionally “build in space” in my life to breathe, reflect, and focus on the most important aspects of life the people around me who make it all worth it. Don’t worry. I am not talking about early retirement. Like many of you, I have spent most of life doing the right things, with the right people and attending the right events that can push a career and lifestyle always upward to be like other nations seeking kings. So what place will I have for God moving forward? Or will I place him squarely in the rearview mirror? I can assure you I have no “post-pandemic goal” of filling every waking moment with a commitment of some kind.
God said to Samuel, “Let them have a king.” But he also gave them a choice. In time God would provide his own alternative. Would they seek a king as the world knew, adorned with a crown of gold, and seated on a throne demanding to be served? Or would they follow a king, wearing a crown of thorns and hanging from a cross who longed to serve and heal and forgive and love? That is your choice as well. Which king will you choose to be a part of your post-pandemic future? Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.