Sunday the 18th of September 2016
1 Timothy 2: 1-7
I wonder if you could imagine a person walking into parliament house in Canberra, seeking an audience with our prime minster Malcolm Turnbull. Better yet, imagine that person is you. Imagine that you want to speak to him because of some burning issues, that are very important to you, that only he can help you with. Not going to happen is it? The fact is that there are too many barriers in the way between the prime minster and ordinary people like you and me. You would have to get through that much security, and the security would not let you in. That would not even know you name. The only way you could see the prime minster is if you knew the right person who could get you in the door so to speak. You could not just walk in and have an audience with him. Life can be like this in that often, when we really need help we feel like we don’t have the right connections with the right person and the right time, to get the important things in our lives dealt with.
One of the things about living in a Western country is that we have very strong sense of being an individual. There are many good reasons why we have this strong emphasis, but it often has a down side when people are struggling, particularly when the issues have to do with injustice. Too often people have issues that they are dealing with in life, where they need others to support them, where they need access to someone in a higher position of authority, but they can’t get this access so they struggle with these alone. People can actually feel very alone, even when they are surrounded by people. It’s like they carry things with them and they don’t have anyone to talk to or anyone who they believe will listen to them or help them. There are people that can help them, but they feel like there are too many barriers in the way, so often they do not seek help, they try to do it alone.
Not only are there barriers that get in the way accessing those in authority on and earthly level, but all the more there are great barriers that exist between us and God. And the major barrier is of course sin. If you go back to the book of Genesis before the fall you have Adam and Eve in the garden talking with God. They had full access to him, they had a perfect relationship with him, but when sin entered this world it put up a barrier between them and God, a barrier that still exists for many to this day.
The apostle Paul says this in 1Timothy 1: 15: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” The reality is that Paul is not the only person who is worst of sinners. You are and so am I. One of the biggest sins that we have in us is that of pride. The thing about pride is that it refuses to say the hardest words in the English language: “I was wrong”, or “ I am not perfect” or “you are right” or even “I think I need some help”, I could go on, but I am sure you get what I am saying here. The thing about this pride is that it blocks our accesses to God. It puts up barriers in our relationship with him.
If we go back, for a moment, to how I started thinking about having access to our prime minister. Imagine if you were at the doors of parliament house and Malcolm Turnbull looked out his window and saw you. And imagine that he gives the command of his security people and they escort you right into his office. And imagine that Malcolm listens to you attentively and makes all the changes you ask for. Now I know full well that this is very difficult to imagine given the state of our parliament at this time in its history. And it would be too good to be true.
When it comes to our God, who has authority over all things, the situation with between He and us is different. Hebrews 9:15 says this: “ For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” and in today’s second reading: “5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.”(2: 5-6). You see because of Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and us, we all have access to our Heavenly Father. And how did this happen. Well it happen when Jesus Christ gave himself up for our sins on that cross and took the punishment and paid the ransom for our sins before God. Not only this because he rose again on the third day, you and I have access to our God. The barrier of our sin has been removed. Think about it this way. You and I finally have the right connections with the right person at the right time to accomplish all the right things, for the glory and honour of God!
It is because the barriers have been taken down between us and God that we urged to pray. Hebrews 4: 16 tells us to: “…approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need”. In today’s reading we are urged to pray about all things and for all people. We are even told to pray for your rulers, our government of all things. Notice how prayer is to be made for rulers, not to rulers. This is a subtle rebuke of emperor worship. After all, Jesus Christ is the Saviour, not Caesar, not Malcolm Turnbull or any other government leader for that matter. But also notice why we are to pray for them: “… that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (v 2-4).
It is fair to say as I have been doing visiting throughout this parish that I have heard many people talk about the state of our Christian Faith, and also the Lutheran Church here in Australia and the world at the moment. There are many who are deeply concerned about the decisions that our government is making and how it is impacting, or is likely to impact us as Christians. The temptation is always to think that there is nothing that we can do. There is a sense among Christians at the moment, that we are alone or powerless to do anything. However because we do have access to our Heavenly Father through Jesus, we are encouraged to pray, knowing that there is no barrier and we will be heard by him. We are told to pray for peace and quietness so that the Gospel of truth may be proclaimed and people come to know of Jesus Christ and who he truly is. It is important that we do not stop praying for our leaders and those in authority.
It is not only about praying for those in authority, we are encouraged to pray for all things in our lives. Again one of things gets in the way of our praying is that many of us feel as we are on the outside, alone, standing on that sorry sidewalk, feeling as though we have no access to the most powerful person in the universe? The reality however is that we do have access to God, because of Jesus. And our prayers are important, they are heard by him, God does indeed act on our concerns.
I encourage each of you, when you see so many things getting in the way of your relationship with God, to remember that Jesus Christ has removed those barriers. You are able come to him and any time and pray to him about anything, and he promises to listen. Be encouraged by this and encourage one another to not let pride get in the way, but to come freely to him who wants to hear you and speak to you about your concerns in this life. It is easy to be discouraged as we look at the world around us at the moment, but don’t let this take your focus away from your access to our Heavenly Father, in whom you can always pray to.