Scripture Psalm 145:8-14
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made. All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The Lord is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds. The Lord upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.
Sunday Message: “God’s Dominion Endures” Rev. James Renfrew
“God’s dominion endures, God’s kingdom is everlasting”. It’s a beautiful idea, that God is always present, always active, always getting involved, always with a purpose, from the moment of Creation right up until the present moment. Even if there are wars, even if there are diseases, even if there are terrible injustices, even if we fall flat on our faces, don’t worry, because, in the end, God endures. God’s love, healing and justice will always prevail. That gives me a lot of encouragement, especially during tough times like these, especially when I have to pick myself up after falling.
But this simple verse is the tip of an iceberg of theological debate, and has been for centuries. God’s dominion, God’s kingdom, how much power does actually God have? Some like John Calvin, 500 years ago, concluded that God is absolutely sovereign, there is nothing that happens that God does not control. God is in charge of everything.
But I said this is a debate, so what’s the other point of view? Is there a valid opinion that God is NOT in control of everything? It’s a tricky point to make, but if God is in control of everything, does that mean that God intends and causes wars to happen, viruses to spread, racism to flourish, and for you to fall off your bike? Whatever you choose – eat that piece of chocolate (or not), pull that trigger (or not); God has already decided. If God is in absolute control, then it’s not my fault that I am a tobacco user. If God is absolute control, then falling off my bike, or falling through the pond ice is simply God’s will. If I drop a bomb on a village, God meant it to happen. If I spread the virus, God meant it to happen.
If God is in control of everything, then what room is there for you and me to decide anything for ourselves? Why worry about making choices, because God has already made them for you. If we push God’s sovereignty to the max, we are nothing more than automatons or robots. God writes the program and we have no choice but to follow. I don’t think God would find that satisfying. God especially delights in transformation of the human heart, not just issuing commands. God has not programmed us for perfection, but delights in us developing our own capacity to love others and make the right choices. That’s what God delights in; that is how God’s dominion endures.
Have you parents ever had to instruct a child, “now apologize to your brother for wrecking his sand castle”? OK, your child will offer that apology, especially if forced to do so, but is it loving, is it generous, is it the stuff of God’s dominion? I would much prefer for my child to apologize on his or her own because it is the right thing to do.
This is the other perspective to God’s sovereignty: free will. God created us with the ability to make choices, the ability to decide for ourselves. Because God does not wind us up like little robots, God has created us with the capacity to learn and grow, to make mistakes, to change our minds, and to make better choices for the sake of others.
So when I read “God’s dominion endures, God’s kingdom is everlasting”, it does not mean that I am powerless to change myself or the world around me. It means that in spite of my many screw-ups, in spite of the gigantic screw-ups of governments, societies, churches, that what God intends is never erased or lost, it’s always there, bringing out the best in us, awakening our consciousness, inspiring our heart and soul, encouraging us to think of others.
In difficult, perilous times like these it is a great comfort to know that God’s love, hope and justice will endure. When we make mistakes, even serious mistakes, it may seem like God is somewhere else, but, no, God is as involved with you and me as ever. God’s dominion endures; God’s kingdom is everlasting.