Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1–6, ESV)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
I would like to visit with the Pres. of the United States. There are just a few issues I would like to discuss with him. But, imagine, if I walked up to the front gate and asked for an audience with him. I don't think I get too far. The truth is there's just too many layers of security between me and the president for that to happen. I don't have any political connections. The president doesn't have any compelling reason to see me.
But let's be honest. What is true for me is most likely true also for you. There are far too many barriers between you and the president. The gates are locked. The guards wont let you in. The staff doesn't know your name. Far too often you don't have the right connections, know the right people at the right time to accomplish all the right things that are needed to see him.
Now let's even be more honest. There are many barriers between you and the president, but as many as there are, there are even more between you and God. Just why is that? Well, we discussed that last week. Paul is not the only one who is "chief of sinners". The barrier between God and human beings comes down to that simple word "sin".
In Scripture, we find over and over again the primary sin of human beings is pride. Adam and Eve pridefuly ate the fruit God told them not to eat. They thought they deserved to know good and evil. They thought they knew best what was good for them. They didn't listen to God. When the people at Babylon wanted to reach up to God they built a tower. The thought they had the ability to get to God by their own cunning. King David thought he was better than his soldiers and stayed home from the war and had an affair with a bathing beauty on the roof. Over and over again in Scripture pride is the most deadly sin. Medieval art pictures pride is a peacock walking around arrogantly. In Paradise Lost, Milton, portrays pride in these words "Better to reign in Hell, then to serve in heaven."
But you don't have to go to the Bible to see examples of this sin. Turn your head side to side and see your friends and neighbors. There's pride there. But, you can go even closer. Your own pride, makes the three hardest words to say in the English language, "I was wrong." And the four hardest words, "I am not perfect." And the five hardest words, "I guess you are right." The six hardest ones, "I think I need some help." These are a reflection of the sin of pride that is deep seated in our hearts. It's the same pride that wants to solve our sin problem with God through our own good deeds. It is the same sin of pride that wants to earn God's favor instead of receiving his grace. It's the same pride that rejects God's free gift of Jesus Christ on the cross in favor of the things that I do. All pride leads to the same place. We place ourselves in the place of God. We make ourselves self-sufficient. We don't need anyone, and especially God. In the sin is clear. The sin of pride actually gets in our way of our access to God. But it's not just that sin. All sin ultimately pushes us away from a holy and perfect God. All sin is a rejection of God. Those who reject God in any way deserve to be separated from him forever.
Back at the White House, your poor pastor still hasn't gotten in to see the president. But what if the president would lookup window and see? What if the president would give the command and the security detail would escort you right into the Oval Office? What if the president attentively listens and makes all the changes you want? Well, that would be too good to be true.
But we do have access with God the Father. This is exactly why St. Paul tells young pastor Timothy to pray for all people. Look at how many times he uses the word "all" in the first sentence of the text. We are to pray to God because we have access. We pray for all people because we have access. And we have access because we have a mediator in Jesus Christ. Jesus bridges the gap from sinful people to Holy God. On the cross Jesus does what only God can do – offers a sinless life of perfection. On the cross Jesus does what only man can do – bleed, suffer, and die. He is the bridge. Our sin, pride and all the others, pushes separation between us and God. Our sin deserves God's anger in punishment. Jesus is the bridge, the gap filler. He suffers our punishment. He is the propitiation. That is the atoning sacrifice. All the weight of our sin and guilt is piled on Jesus on the cross and he bears it all as God and man together. Has St. Paul said to the Romans:
and [we] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:24–25a, ESV)
Jesus Christ is the ransom paid for our sins.
On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the father Almighty. We have the right connections with the right person at the right time to accomplish the right things. And you are not outside looking in hoping to get an audience. You have access. You are on the list. God has bridged the gap to you from himself through Jesus Christ. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.