Dear Friends: July 18, 2018
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Great Britain had such vast global power that it was said, “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” This was an expressive way of observing that even when the sun was setting in one part of the world, it was rising in another; and so at least part of the empire was always in sunlight. The slogan had another meaning as well. It expressed confidence (overconfidence, as it turns out) that the British Empire would never disappear – that it would always be the world’s greatest power. History has proved otherwise.
But while that picturesque saying turned out not to be true of the British Empire, it is true of the kingdom of God. It ever will be true! The sun never sets on God’s Kingdom. By giving us the gift of faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, God rules in the hearts of people throughout the entire world. This is beautifully expressed in a hymn found in the Lutheran Book of Worship.
“We thank you that your Church, unsleeping, while earth rolls onward into light,
through all the world its watch is keeping, and never rests by day or night.”
“As to each continent and island the dawn leads on another day,
the voice of prayer is never silent, nor dies the strain of praise away.”
“The sun, here having set, is waking your children under western skies,
and hour by hour, as day is breaking, fresh hymns of thankful praise arise.”
“So be it, Lord; your realm shall never, like earth’s proud empires, pass away;
but stand and grow and rule forever, till all your creatures own your sway.” (LBW #274)
The hymn rejoices that the voice of prayer never falls silent; that when one group of Christians is sleeping, another is awake and praying. The last verse especially addresses the notion of “the sun never sets.” It clearly proclaims that “earth’s proud empires” certainly do pass away; but God’s kingdom never will. It uses an old-fashioned expression: “Till all your creatures own your sway.” It means, “Till all God’s creatures acknowledge His Lordship” – when all the world will recognize and confess His unequaled power and authority over all things.
“Onward Christian Soldiers” expresses a similar thought: “Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane. But the Church of Jesus constant will remain!” Christians know better than to place over much confidence in earthly rulers or politicians, or to fear them too greatly – no matter how good or bad they may be. We know that God is in charge, ultimately; and that therefore no king, emperor, prime minister, president, or any human government or governor, has any lasting control over things.
Here’s something else we know. God rules over all things through His word. Therefore, just as the voice of prayer is always being heard throughout the world, so also will God’s word always be heard throughout the world, no matter how often or how many worldly powers try to silence it. This is a cause of great confidence and hope for us all. But it is not a cause for complacency. Our certainty that God’s word will be heard does not mean we should say, “I don’t need to bear witness to Christ; after all, God will see to it.” For it may be that the very way God intends for His word to be heard is through you! As Esther’s cousin Mordecai told her, “Perhaps you have come to the kingdom for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:14) Perhaps the very same thing can be said of you and me. It may be that God has placed you at this time and this place so that you can be His mouthpiece, His spokesperson, making His word known among your neighbors, thus making sure that the sun never sets on this corner of His kingdom.
Sincerely in Christ,
Pastor Carl L.M. Rasmussen