Saturday, March 25, 2017

Year A, Lent 4, Psalm 23, John 9.1-41, Why Me?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
Underlying this question is the simple fact that sometimes life seems unfair, even cruel, and it leaves us struggling with the question “Why?”
When Jerry and Susan spoke to me they left me speechless, simply not knowing what to say, and when I tried to say anything they had to correct me.
I didn’t know what SMA was.  Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
It’s a genetic mutation that results in a progressive deterioration of the nerve function, until in the end, a person is rendered incapable of all the vital things for life, like breathing.
When a child is born with SMA they may live a year, or two. 
Jerry and Susan’s newborn Spencer had just been diagnosed.  He would live but a year.
They tried again to have another child.  Andrew was also born with SMA, and died following his first birthday.
Life is cruel.
And we ask why.
Ben was the husband of my youth director, Kirsten.
A young man, a good husband, a new father.
In my office one day, they shared that he was seeing a doctor because of a weakness that had developed in one of his legs.
They were afraid that it might be something horrible like brain cancer.
Trying to calm their fears I remember offering the observation that when faced with the unknown we almost always fear the worst, and rarely does the worst happen. 
Above all, I wanted to reassure them that “it’ll be ok.”
Two months later Ben died of a highly aggressive form of brain cancer.
 Life is cruel.
And we ask why.
About the same time Brad, my doctor, and a member of the congregation in Sandpoint, had a seizure.
His colleague and close friend performed some tests, including an MRI on his brain.
Together they looked at the results:  three small tumors.
That began a two year journey of a slow decline and death.
One of the things he lost was his short term memory.
He would get up in the morning and call into work to see what he had on his schedule for the day, not realizing that hadn’t worked for over a year.
When Brad died he left behind a dear wife, and three young boys.
Life is cruel.
And we ask why.
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
There is a desire within us to find a reason, because if we can find a reason for our suffering, the world seems more fair, and just, less arbitrary and cruel.
I remember telling Brad as he shared the news with me that if our roles had been reversed, it would make more sense.
Afterall, I’m the one who smoked, and drank, and quite frankly didn’t live all that healthy of a life style.
Brad, on the other hand, did everything right.
Were I diagnosed with cancer everyone, myself included, would simply point to the choices I have made and said:  “He should have know better.”
But Brad did everything right.
There was nothing fair or just about his death.
He'd done nothing to deserve that fate.
And so we ask why.
Likewise with Ben, and Spencer and Andrew.
There is no reason to make sense of their deaths.
Their's was a completely innocent suffering and death.
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
Jesus’ words work well, when he is there to heal the blind man.
He was blind, but now he sees.
If every time we faced a grave illness or injury God would respond with a miraculous healing we wouldn’t ask the question why so much.
But people die, for no reason.
And we are left with our grief.  And our questions.

As I look back over nearly thirty years of ministry, what I find myself going back to, time and time again, is a simple truth.
We are mortal.  And life is fragile.
And try though we might we cannot pray ourselves out of our own mortality.
At the same time, I also am reminded of how many times the words of Psalm 23 were present amid all this suffering.
Words of comfort and hope.
I believe that Psalm 23 is to be read from the inside out.
We begin with where we too often find  ourselves.
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
The Valley of the shadow of death.
Faced with our own mortality.  Struggling with the death of others.
I preached many a sermon on the 23rd Psalm during funerals.
I read it many times during hospital visits.
I shall fear no evil.
Because we are not alone.  Christ is with us.
And the rod and the staff, shepherds tools that would be used to protect his flock, these give us comfort.  Just the knowledge that the Lord is there protecting us from evil, comforting us in our distress, provides hope.
Why is it that we can be  reassured and find hope?
First because of what God has already done.
We remember, looking back over the course of our lives, and take comfort in all the ways God has provided for us.
The LORD makes me lie down in green pastures and leads me beside still waters. You restore my soul, O LORD, and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
One of the rich blessings of growing old is the recognition that “this too shall pass”. 
I will always treasure the insights of my parent's generation when faced with difficulties.  They had grown up in the great depression.  They faced all sorts of hardship.  And when that passed, they had to deal with WWII.
Through it all came a recognition that God continued to provide for them and care for them in the most uncertain of  times.
“We may not have had much, but we had love, and that was enough.”
And then, as we remember all the ways that God has been with us in the past, we look forward to the promises of what is to come:
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Faced with our own mortality we take comfort in being an Easter people. 
Death will not have the final word, God will.
And by the goodness and mercy of God we are promised a place in the house of the Lord, forever. 
In a few moments we will gather around the altar, receive the bread and wine, and here get a foretaste of the feast to come.
The psalmist writes:
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
We come to the table Christ himself has prepared, and we join in a feast of celebration of the victory Jesus has won.
This we do, even as death, our age old enemy, still rages all around us and in us.
One of the special moments I remember with Brad, was that every Christmas Eve he would assist me in communion.  It was his thing.
And then, that final Christmas Eve, when he could no longer come to worship, we celebrated communion with him at his home.
Riddled with cancer, clinging to what life was left in him, we celebrated the victory.
This is my body.
This is my blood.
For you.
There was the assurance of forgiveness.
There was hope.
And most of all, there was life in Christ, the assurance that even as we die with Christ, and Christ with us, we will also be raised with him, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Year A, Lent 3, John 4:5-42, Touching Untouchables

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
To one extent or another, every culture has its ‘caste system’, or a social hierarchy that defines the status of people within that culture, and determines their relative privilege and social standing.
In India, this caste system is well defined, going back over 3,000 years.
In an article in the BBC news site, we read:
“The caste system divides Hindus into four main categories - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and the Shudras. Many believe that the groups originated from Brahma, the Hindu God of creation.
At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma's head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma's feet and did all the menial jobs.
The main castes were further divided into about 3,000 castes and 25,000 sub-castes, each based on their specific occupation.
Outside of this Hindu caste system were the achhoots - the Dalits or the untouchables.”
And to be clear, the lowest segment of Hindu society, the untouchables, were not themselves a “caste” at all, but were outside of the caste system, hence, we get the word “outcaste”.
In America, even though we believe that “all men are created equal”, we nevertheless have a caste system of our own.
Some would deny that we have a caste system in this country, and would argue, for example, that “anyone can grow up to be president”.  However, in truth, though it may be true that anyone can grow up to be president, it’s definitely harder for some, than for others, and virtually impossible for many.
The existence of a ‘caste system’ in America can be verified by simply tracing what was meant by “all men are created equal” throughout the years.
First of all, “men” was not a generic term meaning all “people”.  When our founding fathers wrote “all men are created equal” they meant “men”, not women.
There were many things women could not do, including owning property or voting.
And they didn’t mean “ALL” men.  What they meant was all landowners.  People who didn’t own land were not as privileged as those who did.
And obviously, slaves were not considered ‘equal’.  Nor were native Americans, or any number of ethnic minorities.
Education and wealth divide us into ‘castes’ within our culture.
To an extent, so does urban versus rural.
Citizenship is a big divider, as is very evident in today’s political climate, with undocumented people being considered one of the lowest castes within our society.
Gay and lesbian people have clearly been differentiated within our social hierarchy.  Many consider them to be “untouchable”, and “outcastes”.  They’ve had to fight for basic legal rights and protections.  In some circles, violence against them is considered justifiable.  Their very being is considered immoral.
The poor, especially those on welfare, are looked down on.
We could debate who the lowest class of people are in our culture, who are the true “untouchables”. 
I’d suggest that the homeless person, living on the streets, often riddled with mental illness, frequently chemically dependent—these we consider the lowest of the low.  So low, they don’t even have status within our society.

One day, Jesus and his disciples, weary from their travels, came to a well, Jacob’s well, around midday.
That last point, it significant, because it was not typical for people to be at the well during the heat of the midday.  Normally, the women would come to the well to draw their daily water in the cool of the morning or evening.  It was also a social time.  A time to gather together with one’s friends and neighbors.  To joke and laugh together. 
That Jesus found a woman at the well, alone, during the middle of the day is our first clue about her status within her community. 
She was not welcome at the well when the other women were present.
And then Jesus spoke to her.
“Give me a drink.”
I tend to believe that her response, seemingly so simple, was probably offered in her most seductive and alluring voice possible.
“How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?”
Likely, there was only one reason a Jewish man might approach and speak to a Samaritan woman, and as we learn later in the story, this certainly would not have been the first time she had been approached in that way.
Three things set her apart:
·         She was a woman.
·         She was from Samaria, and Samaritans were ‘half breeds’, and looked down on as impure.
·         And then, her marital status.
Perhaps because he was a prophet,
Or perhaps simply because he was aware that there was likely only one reason that women like her would be at the well at this time,
Knew when he asked her to go get her husband, that she had no husband.
Or rather she had many husbands, and none of them her own.
An adulteress.
A prostitute.
Shunned by her community.
But what follows is nothing short of remarkable.
She, perhaps to change the subject, engages Jesus in a theologically profound conversation, one of the most significant and profound conversations recorded in scripture, about the Messiah and where it was proper to worship God.
Jesus begins the conversation with a priceless offer:
“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
And when she speaks to him about the Messiah, he chooses to reveal to her, of all people, that he is in fact the Messiah.
One thing to note, about this story.
Jesus didn’t demand her repentance.
Yes, he pointed out who she was, and acknowledged the sinful broken life she had lived, but there was no demand that she repent.
Only and offer of a profound gift, eternal life.
We don’t know what happened in this woman’s life, after this encounter with Jesus, but we can probably guess that it was a life changing event for her.
And then, the disciples show up and remind us all how remarkable this was that Jesus would be talking to this woman, of all people.
They were astonished. 
But perhaps they’d come to expect this sort of thing from Jesus.
Throughout his ministry he was constantly reaching out to the outcaste, the untouchables, those at the lowest level of Jewish society.
Tax collectors and sinners.
In doing so, he offended the elite, the religious, and good and righteous folk.
But in doing so he also revealed to us the wonderful nature of grace, amazing grace.  God’s unconditional love and forgiveness offered freely to us all for the taking.
For us, this graciousness of Jesus is hard to practice.
We know we should, but it runs counter to so much of what we believe.
We have a purpose statement as a congregation that I have come to greatly appreciate.
“God’s purpose for our congregation is to welcome, love, and serve all in our local and global community.”
That’s easier said than done.
Almost every congregation wants to say in one way or another “all are welcome” but the truth is that some are more welcome than others.
We would be overjoyed to have a bunch of young couples with children visit and join our congregation.
OK, so even some older folks would be great.
But others would be more challenging.
Larry and I went out to lunch my first week here, and there at the Otis Grill was a homeless man, eating a meal, probably given to him by the management.
I remember thinking, “I wonder if he would be welcome at Peace?”
And, as you all know, a real divisive issue in the church throughout our country is related to gay and lesbian people within our congregations.  Are they welcome?
One of the most challenging issues, is one our congregation in Newport faced.  What about someone who has been convicted of a sex crime?  Especially a violent one.  Are they welcome?
Would we welcome and undocumented ‘foreigner’?
The list could go on and on. 
Saying that our purpose is to welcome, love and serve all, is easier than actually doing it.
But this is the thing:  Perhaps the persons we are most uncomfortable welcoming, are exactly the one’s God is calling us to serve.
Because, the very thing that makes it difficult for us to welcome them, is the reason they most desperately need to hear the Gospel we proclaim.
Remember this the next time you see and encounter one of the ‘outcaste’ of our society. 
That God loves them.
And that it is our responsibility and calling to proclaim that to them.
And most of all, remember that the Righteous have no need for a savior, but the sinners and outcaste do.
That’s why Jesus surrounded himself with the untouchables.
And that’s why Jesus, at the risk of offending the righteous, touched them.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Year A, Lent 2, John 3:1-17, Out of the Ashes

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
Sometimes, when we think we have so much to teach others, we end up being surprised with how much we have to learn, instead. 
This was my experience going to Russia back in 2002, and then with my wife, a couple of years later.
There was a parishioner, Bradn Buerkle, from my former congregation in Plevna, MT, who was studying to become a pastor.  As part of his training to become a pastor, Bradn, who got his undergraduate degree in Russian studies, was able to be assigned to a foreign internship.
His assignment was to go to Novgorod, Russia and serve as the pastor of a small congregation, mostly ethnic Germans, which had been reestablished following the reforms and new freedoms that Russians were experiencing under Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s program of “perestroika” (“restructuring”) and “glasnost” (“openness”), and then following the collapse of the Soviet Union, in the reforming Russian state.
A little background.
Russian had long been home to many people of German descent, dating back many hundreds of years.  A particularly large block of immigration from Germany to Russia occurred during the reign of Catherine the Great, in the 1800s.  These “Volga Deutch” had been recruited to help develop Russian agriculture, and were allowed to maintain their German culture, language, traditions, and churches. 
Of course, many of those German churches would be Lutheran.
Prior to the Bolshevik revolution in 1918, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in Moscow had over 15,000 members, its sanctuary seated about 3,000, and it boasted of having the largest school in all of Russia.  In St. Petersburg, similarly large and prosperous Churches were also thriving.  There is one block or so there that had three large churches, a German Church, a Swedish Church, and a Finnish Church, if I recall correctly.
Then with the Revolution, everything changed.
As you know, the Soviets adopted an official policy of atheism, and set about largely banning congregations.  A major persecution of the churches followed during which almost all of the clergy of every denomination were killed, including the Russian Orthodox.
This persecution became especially intense for the ethnic Germans following the Great Patriotic War, what we know as World War II.
The ethnic Germans in Russia had suffered during the German invasion as all Russians had, but then following the war, because they were German, those who survived were persecuted further, facing mandatory relocation to Siberia, or worse, being sentenced to the Gulags, basically concentration camps where they were starved to death.
Churches, such as the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Leningrad, or the old St. Petersburg, were seized by the government, and converted to other uses ranging from warehouses, or in the case of the cathedral in St. Petersburg, a swimming pool.
But then, due to the restructuring and reforms during the last days of the Soviet Union, and the early years of the new Russian Federation, everything changed once again.
Now, the Russian government took the opposite roll and became very proactive in supporting the reestablishment of the Christian church throughout Russia and the former Soviet States.
Where possible, the old Churches were returned to the congregations that had begun to gather again, and in some cases, the Russian government itself paid for the restoration of those buildings.
In Novgorod, Russia, which is located between St. Petersburg and Moscow, and which prides itself on being the original capital of the Russian State, over a 1,000 years ago, there had been numerous Lutheran churches.  One of those churches, St. Nikolai Lutheran Church, was reopened, and a small band of ethnic Germans began worshipping again.
It was this congregation that Bradn was sent to serve during his internship.
Because of my relationship with Bradn and his family, my congregation in Sandpoint decided to become a sister congregation to St. Nikolai’s.
The first thing we did as part of this relationship was to send a delegation of four of us to visit them.
Our guide, throughout much of our visit, was a man who had helped reestablish St. Nikolai’s, Alexander Fleischman.
Herr Fleischman was a survivor of the Gulags.  He had been spared starvation because he had found favor in the eyes of some of the officials and been given double rations.
The stories he told of that time were horrific.  He told, for example, of waking in the morning, and knowing who had died during the night, because the rats would immediately eat the ears and nose off of the corpses. 
He told of us his deep guilt and remorse, because as a young man he had been forced to be part of the crews that went into the former churches and whitewashed them, covering up all of the priceless art work that decorated the sanctuaries. 
Following his release from the Gulag, he was interned in a specific geographical area up north and prevented from leaving.  Imagine an Indian reservation, only with borders that could not be crossed.
Finally, he was able to return home to Novgorod.
When the opportunity came to reopen their church, the ethnic Germans did so both for religious reasons, but also to reclaim their German heritage.
One of the major challenges during those early years of St. Nikolai’s new life was that as they were gathering together and forming a congregation, many of the Germans that had become part of the congregation were leaving, having been given the opportunity to immigrate back to Germany.
One of the challenges Bradn faced during his time there was that he had studied Russian, but not German. 
A question that the Lutheran Church has had to wrestle with was whether they would be just a church for ethnic Germans, or whether they would become a Russian church for all.
Bradn became a professor at the seminary in St. Petersburg, and a new pastor came to serve St. Nikolai’s, one of their own members, Igor.
One of the questions we asked of our new friends in Novgorod, was how they survived during those 70 years of Soviet oppression.  Did they gather in homes to worship?  And what about baptisms?  We had heard here in this country that once it was possible, many Russians flocked back to the churches to be baptized.
Their response surprised us.  No, they didn’t gather in homes, because any gatherings such as that were suspect, and if they had done so, their neighbors likely would have reported them to the authorities.
But even more surprising was that they shared that no, there was no rush back to the churches to be baptized.  Most of them related that they had been baptized as infants, privately, in their own homes, perhaps by their babushka, or grandmother.
70 years.  And their faith endured from generation to generation.
And out of the ashes the Church was reborn.
“Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. Or “born again.” As some translations put it.
Probably, when you have heard this verse, or that most familiar verse:  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” you probably thought of it individually.
Many people speak about their “born again” experience, a coming to faith through repentance and renewal of the Spirit.
We think about this being born again as a very deeply personal matter.
But this is an American bias, and our radical individualism is showing.
I’ve come to appreciate more and more throughout the years that much of what the Bible says, it says to us collectively, as a group, as the Body of Christ. 
St. Nikolai’s Lutheran Church truly knows what it is to be “born again”.  For seventy years they were suffering and dying, and then, the Spirit moved through the land, and they were indeed “born again.”  New life dawned among them.
And where once churches were converted to warehouses, they bought a warehouse and converted it to a Church. 
In America, we enjoy a right to ‘freedom of religion’, and can worship where and as we please.
But increasingly across our country our ‘freedom of religion’ is becoming a freedom from religion.
We are becoming a secular state, not because of a government policy of official atheism, but because of a public attitude of simple apathy.
That’s one of the reasons we are struggling with declining membership here at Peace.  The Pacific Northwest is one of the most unchurched areas of our country, and it is so primarily because people simply don’t care or want to bother being part of a church. 
If I could do anything for you, to give you hope in the face of all the challenges we face here, I would love to take you to Novgorod. 
What better example is there that though people may give up on God, God will never give up on them. 
In Matthew 16, following Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, Jesus says:  “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”
Not the Gates of Hell.
Nor the Gates of a Soviet Gulag.
Nor the indifference of the American people.
Though the Church may die a thousand deaths, it will be born again and again, as the Spirit moves where it wills. 
This is true, because ““God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
When Jesus says “everyone who believes in him” he is referring not just to individuals, but to this body of believers that is the Church.
He is referring to St. Nikolai’s.
He is referring to Peace Lutheran.

And he is promising that die though we may, we will not perish, but rather we will be born again, and we will see the Kingdom of God.  Amen

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Year A, Lent 1, Matthew 4.1-11, What type of Kingdom shall this be?

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen
Just before our Gospel lesson for today we have the account of Jesus’ baptism.
And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased."
Son of God.
This is a Messianic title used for the Davidic King in Israel.
In Psalm 2, a psalm read at the coronation of the Kings of Israel, we read:
God said:  "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill."
David’s response was:  “I will tell of the decree of the Lord:
He said to me, "You are my son;
today I have begotten you.”
Jesus’ baptism was his coronation.  God declaring him to be King of Israel.  That’s the first thing to know.
Second, immediately following today’s Gospel lesson we read that “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."”
In between these two texts, the first dealing with Jesus begin declared to be King, and the second dealing with his announcement that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near, we have the account of Jesus’ temptation.
This is no accident, as the temptations Jesus faced at the beginning of his ministry, are temptations related to the Kingdom of God.
Having been called by God to be King, Jesus struggle was to determine what type of King he would be, and what shape that Kingdom would take.
And so he withdrew into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days.
At the end of the 40 days, when he was hungry and tired, the temptations came.
The temptations came in the form of what Jesus might do and accomplish as King.
Imagine, for example, what each of our President’s undergo in the days following their election as they prepare to take office.  An intense and frantic effort is underway to set an agenda for their first 100 days in office – which will shape the remainder of their presidency.  There are many competing ideas and people who are advocating for a certain direction for the country to take.
Temptations abound.
And somehow out of all of it, a direction must be chosen.
This is what is happening to Jesus.
The concept of the Kingdom of Heaven and a return of a Davidic King to the throne of Israel is not new in Jesus’ day.  There were plenty of people thinking about it, and many voices expressing the hopes and dreams of what that might mean.
In the Gospel lesson, the Devil is the one who gives voice to the hopes and aspirations of the people of Israel.
The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."
The problem was not that Jesus could not find something to eat.  There would have been food aplenty for him, as soon as he wanted it.  His fast was voluntary.
The temptation is about the Kingdom.
Later, Jesus would teach us to pray:  “Give us this day, our daily bread.”
Martin Luther explains what is meant by “daily bread” in the Small Catechism:
Everything that belongs to the support and wants of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, homestead, field, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful magistrates, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
In short daily bread represents and abundant and prosperous life.
“If you are the Son of God, just imagine what you could do, Jesus.  You could return prosperity to Israel, fill our bellies, and our coffers.”
“We only want, what all people want, which is enough money to live on and retire with.  We want a car or two, and the opportunity to take a vacation now and then.”
Or to quote another politician, James Carville, in counseling Bill Clinton’s campaign strategy: “The economy, stupid!”
“But Jesus answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. '

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,
6 saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
'He will command his angels concerning you,'
and 'On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone. '"

It is not uncommon for Nations to believe that God is on their side, and so they can do anything, and God will preserve and protect them.
Israel would look to its own history for reason to believe this. 
And in Jesus’ day, against the overwhelming odds of trying to defeat the vast Roman Empire, Jewish patriots thought that the Messiah, with God’s help and blessing, would be able to do the impossible, and so they would launch one insurrection after another.
The belief that ‘God is on our side’ has led many a nation into battle.
And underlying that bravery, was the belief that because their cause was a righteous cause, God would protect them, sending angels, so to speak, to insure victory.
Our own nation has believed throughout much of our history that we were/are a holy nation, and that the wars we fight are righteous and holy, and that indeed, God is on our side.
“Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test. '"

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
An unholy alliance if ever there was one. 
All these I will give you, if you just acknowledge and pay homage to me.
Again, History is ripe with examples of unholy alliances.
Jesus came proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and in response, the Church often resorted to unholy alliances, most often with the secular state, to advance the Kingdom of God, supposedly.
Much of Europe, for example, became Christian not by one by one coming to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, but because the State established Christianity as the official religion, and thereby forced it’s citizenship to adopt Christianity.
This pattern began with the Emperor Constantine, a few hundred years after Jesus, and to one extent after another, continues to this day.
But this has always been an unholy alliance, between the State and the Church.  And it was most definitely the Church that suffered as a result.
The Kingdom of God is so unlike the kingdom’s of this world, that marrying the two together makes no more sense than Jesus himself bowing down to worship Satan.
Perhaps Satan could have given Jesus all the Kingdoms of the world, but to choose this path would be to abandon the Kingdom of God that he was called to establish.
10 Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
'Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him. '"
Military Might.
And an unholy alliance with the powers of this World.
These things Jesus rejected.
Tempting as they were, Jesus would not bite.
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus describes this Kingdom:
18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

If prosperity, military might, and worldly power are not the things of the Kingdom of heaven, what are?

Good News for the poor.
And a new start, a new day, where all share equally in the blessing and abundance of God.
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."