There is an old story about a preacher who was told that a president was to be in his congregation on Sunday. I think the version I heard used President Andrew Jackson as the person, but regardless, the point of the story is this. One of the church leaders says to the preacher, “President Jackson is sitting in church today, Pastor. What are going to say?” To which the preacher replied, “I am going to say, ‘Andrew Jackson is a sinner.’” In the era of President Jackson it may have been possible to really preach that message, because it is unlikely too many people would ever find out about it. I mean, CNN was not around in 1829. But what about today, in the era of 24/7/365 news?
What if Donald Trump, in one of his campaign stops, dropped in on Hope Church in Sheboygan, WI one Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. this spring, what would I say? Well, of course, I would welcome him as our guest and offer him one of our gifts (a really nice travel mug), because, what else do you give a billionaire who may become president? What you offer Mr. Trump is what you offer everyone else who passes through your threshold. I would offer Mr. Trump the Peace of Christ. When we got to the time for confession of sins I would pull out my Andrew Jackson story, and then I would say, “Donald Trump is a sinner. Bill Te Winkle is a sinner. Each of you here is a sinner.” And as we moved to celebrate God’s love in offering us assurance of our pardon from our sins, I would say, “God forgives Donald, and Bill and each of you. Now, sin no more.”
And as we moved to the sermon, I would abandon my text and preach on Romans 3:21-24. (You should read it now). And here is the conclusion to my sermon for Donald Trump: “Mr. Trump, it doesn’t matter whether you say 2 Corinthians or 2nd Corinthians. The church is snobbish when it makes a big deal about petty things like preferred pronunciations. I apologize for our brothers and sisters at Liberty University who laughed at you. But, I did hear you say that you don’t really need to pray for forgiveness. On this you are wrong. You do need to ask for forgiveness, just like everyone else. Your behavior, no matter how good it is, will not earn you salvation. It’s not like running for President, where you need to display qualifications for election. You are elected by God because, in spite of your sin, God wants you. When it comes to your relationship with God, I offer you John Calvin’s three-word sermon: ‘humility; humility; humility.’ Mr. Trump, God loves you just as you are, and so do I. The grace by which you are offered that love is not for sale. There is no deal you can make to acquire it. You cannot “earn” grace, no matter how good you are. Will you receive God’s gift today?”