Stir up your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Nearly 80 years ago, in early December, imperial Japan poked a stick into a hornet’s nest by attacking the US Pacific fleet in Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and elsewhere. It would take nearly four long and bloody years, but the industrial might of the United States eventually overwhelmed the Japanese military. The Japanese Admiral Yamamoto had foreseen this result and urged his leadership not to do this.
We pray today that God would stir up his power. In our experience the stirring up of power is often a dangerous and deadly thing. It was in 1941. Millions of people died in that conflict, terrible forces were unleashed in atomic bombs, and the world is in some respects still recovering. Not long ago the city of Berlin was caught up in the middle of a fight over a statue of a Korean comfort woman which the expatriate Korean community erected and the Japanese are demanding that it be removed. The poor city council in Berlin had no idea they were stirring up another hornet’s nest.
Notice the enemy against which we ask God to bring his almighty power to bear: our sins. We are not asking God to stir up his might, rouse his angelic armies, put heaven onto a war footing, against some fearsome foe out there. It is a fearsome foe in here, right in my heart, my very being. We ask him to defend me from my sin.
This is a dangerous prayer to pray. God’s power is not something I can control. It kills me. In our baptism God has slain the old sinner. He did not chide him and tell him to shape up. He killed him. The rest of our mortal lives is the playing out of that protracted dying. God has roused his power and exercised his nuclear option against the foe. Christ’s death upon the cross left a crater in the walls of hell and death through which he leads people out to life and joy, but make no mistake about it, God uses His power against my sin. It will turn out well, but getting there involves a grave, a tomb, a cross, and being in the crosshairs of God’s power.