An Election Day Sermon 2008

An Election Day Sermon 2008

There is a tradition in our nation of preaching Election Day Sermons, and this American tradition is one that is based upon the teachings of Christ and should not be abandoned. Yes, we have learned that putting your trust in politics will lead to disaster. Equally disastrous would be ignoring God’s clear warnings concerning the responsibilities of God’s people in this world.

I want to share these thoughts especially with pastors who will stand in the pulpits of our land in these days when our people will elect their leaders.

Historian Joel Headly wrote,

“These [Election] sermons were as much a part of the stately and imposing ceremonies as the election itself. The clergy were not a whit behind the ablest statesman of the day in their knowledge of the great science of human government. The publication of these sermons in a pamphlet form was a part of the regular proceedings of the assembly, and being scattered abroad over the land, clothed with the double sanction of their high authors and the endorsement of the legislature, became the text books of human rights in every parish.” (As quoted from an article by Tim Ewing)

Forgetting the works of God is a very dangerous business. Impatience with God brings disaster. As our nation faces an election, those of us who preach the unsearchable riches of Jesus would do well to join in that great American Puritan and Reformed tradition of Election Day Sermons. In it we are called, as we read about in Psalm 106, to recall the mighty deeds of the Lord and declare His praise (v. 2) from the pulpit. If we who are shepherds do not guide our flock to remember God in the founding of this nation and in the covenant our forefathers made with God for this land, then our grandchildren’s children will rise up and say of our generation, But they soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel”(v. 13).

Yes, and it will be said of us: He gave them what they asked (v. 15). Shepherds guide. Shepherds lead. Shepherds point out the way. In Psalm 106 shepherds recall, before the people, how God saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make known His mighty power (v. 8). Why do we not recall John Winthrop on the Arbella recounting his City on a Hill sermon (1630)?

Why do we not recall that first winter and the provision of God to our forefathers? Or should we not point out the sins of our fathers that led them to wander from God’s way? They in turn received “what they asked” and were led into a “wasting disease” as when our forefathers abandoned the system of every man working to feed his own family, rather than working for a collective. Yet this happened and this failed! This short-lived experiment in socialism failed and the people almost starved. Today people play with the ideas of wealth re-distribution and deny the Biblical injunctions that a man ought to work to eat.

Freedom, the essential character of man, is done away with as we surrender our own good ambitions to feed an inhuman governmental structure. Our forefathers learned from their sins. A government by the people and for the people was formed. This is not meddling in things outside of the church, my Beloved, it is preaching the truth to a generation who has forgotten. Shall we dare gloss over the matter of character in those whom we elect to govern us?

Were the saints in Acts 6 told by the holy apostles to pick out from among you seven men of good repute (Acts 6:3)?  In this very passage, Acts 6:3 and the matter of picking our leaders, we find the Biblical injunction of not only representation (which we must cherish as a God given right that governments have taken from the people when the people have abrogated that right of electing their own leaders), but also responsibility in choosing those who will lead us!

Quite clearly we find the Biblical view that our leaders should be men of godly character. “But,” I hear someone saying,  “Paul is talking about the church! This is not about civic leaders.” Do you think, then, that in our relationship with God as a people that we should elect ungodly leaders? The Word of God, in Proverbs 29 tells us:  When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2).  If a king faithfully judges the poor, his throne will be established forever. When the wicked increase, transgression increases (Proverbs 29:14,16).

Did not Israel suffer under Saul’s oppressive rule? Did not the very kingdom of David, under whose governance Israel enjoyed her golden years all the way through his son Solomon (who prayed for wisdom and did receive it, though he sinned in many ways), split in two when Rehoboam disdained godly counsel to become a “servant” to the people (1 Kings 12:6-7)? Instead of listening to this from the “old men” (v. 6), the king gathered his cronies around him who told him to lay a heavy yoke on the people (v. 11). Over and over again, we see the outcome of ungodly leadership.

Yes, in answer to a popular rhetorical question that arose a few years ago, character does matter!

It matters whether a man supports laws that promote abortion. Concerning the questions before us in this election, it does matter where we go to church, who we associate with, what our marriage is like, how we have reared our children, and who we gather around us as advisors and how we listen to those advisors. All of these things and more should be laid out before our people. We must guide the precious flock of Christ and we must speak as prophets to the nation, not just through how to rear their children and how to get along with their wives, but also how to come into the voting booth.

Or we will, as shepherds, in the name of supposed “separation of church and state” halt on the matter of preaching this part of the whole counsel of God. God forbid! For what is at stake, not only now in this presidential election, but in every election? What is at stake, among other things, is our faithfulness to the covenant that our fathers made with God that this nation should be a light, a Gospel light, to the world. What is at stake is also the ability of the Church to go forward with the Gospel without the unwanted element of governmental intrusion into the Church, or, in the last and most heinous case: martyrdom.

“But don’t we fare better when the Church is up against the wall? Isn’t it true that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church?” Yes on both counts. But that is not what you really want for your children, is it? Indeed, we are told to pray for a peaceful government 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 (1 Timothy 2:2,3).

This is our calling, dear pastors! This is our calling, seminarians. This is our calling, lay leaders, elders, and vestrymen. Our calling is, contrary to the ideas of some who prefer peace over truth, to advise the flock on the Biblical injunctions concerning our responsibilities in self-government.  But after we have done all, and the lot is cast, the matter is in the hands of the Lord. We pray for our president no matter his party or our choices.

That is another Biblical injunction, to pray for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions (1 Timothy 2:1, 2) because these leaders are “God’s servant for [our] good” (Romans 13:4). Indeed we must be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God (Romans 13:1).  Then, on November 5th, however the lot was cast, God will be on the throne. The Gospel mandate of the Church will not depend on this man or that man in Washington, but on the sovereign Lord who is building His kingdom and will not be stopped until the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15).

Thus, as we do what we are called to do, in our relationship with God and with man, in worshipping Him on the Lord’s Day in the sanctuary, as well as serving Him on election day in the voting booth, Christ Jesus reigns forever and ever.

Thou Great I AM, Fill my mind with elevation and grandeur at the thought of a Being with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day,

Let me live a life of dependence onThyself, mortification, crucifixion, prayer.

Almighty God, who, amidst the lapse of worlds, and the revolutions of empires, feels no variableness, but is glorious in immortality.

Turn my heart from vanity, from dissatisfactions, from uncertainties of the present state, to an eternal interest in Christ.

Give me a holy avarice to redeem the time, as I pray for all of our candidates and their families study the issues, the character, the principles of Your Word and the principles that they embrace, and exercise the gift of self government as a gift from Thee. 

The let me do my duty and leave the matter to Thee.

(A prayer based on and adapted to this message from the Valley of Vision “The Infinite and the Finite” [pp. 190-191])

About Michael A. Milton, Ph.D.

Michael A. Milton, Ph.D., MPA (University of Wales; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), is an American Presbyterian pastor, theologian, and author.
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