S-1177 5MIL/3C 3/17/2010 Hymns: (O) #153; #183; (S) #402; (C) #558
Texts: Psalm 107:1-15; 1 Peter 4:7-11; Passion Reading
Theme: “How Can I Believe in A God Who Would…?” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Question: “How do you cope?” (5th in Sermon series on “Life Together”)
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Fifth Midweek in Lent is from the Epistle Lesson: “In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by) various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved, a wife walks into the house and is shocked to find her husband lying on the bed non-responsive. Right next to him is an open bottle with a note. The note read: “Darling, I am so sorry to put you through this. But I can’t take life any longer. Without a job, I am unable to provide for you and the children. I feel all alone, there is no hope in this life and I feel forsaken. Tell the children that I love them!” The wife calls 911 and the ambulance rush her husband to the hospital and pump his stomach clean. PAUSE.
A young couple is in the delivery room about to give birth. They have had five miscarriages and now ready to give birth. The Dr. instructs the wife what to do. After a long, hard labor and delivery, the Dr. looks at the couple and says: “I am so sorry; you gave birth to a still born baby.” The husband hugs his wife and both begin to sob. The wife with tears looks up to heaven and utters her frustrations and anger: “Why God? Why after 5 miscarriages, after nine months of carrying this baby, the baby is born dead? Dear God why? Why wouldn’t you answer our prayers? Why do you forsake us Lord?” PAUSE.
On Sunday evening I got this message via e-mail: “I certainly know that there is no easy answer to the question I will pose. Also, God never has to give us an answer… He’s God, not we humans. But…I wish I could see some type of reason or purpose that this pastor came to our church. Never have we had such conflict and division. Yes, there have been some problems, as we are all humans, but never this! What good can come of this as a church?”
These are the voices of people who are going through afflictions and agony. You can hear the pain in their voices, and aches in their hearts. You know there is sorrow and suffering in their lives. I have spent time in prayers and on the phone speaking and helping whenever possible. I have tried as a pastor to point them to the only place possible–God’s Holy Word for comfort and consolation.
These are not isolated situations. These events happen daily in the lives of God’s people. How often do people cry out to God over failed relationships? How many people cry out of the despair of unemployment? How many would-be mothers have begged God to give them a child to hold, nurse and nurture? Does God ever hear us? Is He even real? Did He ignore the cries of His people?
Tonight, we need not go the woman’s home, the delivery room or the church in ND to hear the aches and pains in their voices. Instead come with me to Calvary. Open your ears and hear the voice of Him who is hanging on the cross crying out to His Father and saying: “My God, My
God, why are You forsaking Me?”
As the dark clouds swirled over the head of Jesus, He faced His greatest trial—everything He stood for hung in the balance. In a matter of hours He would be dead, and already He had been shamed, humiliated, and discredited. Everyone around Jesus had reason to abandon faith because the pressure to despair was immense. What good was it for Him to patiently wait any longer? What could He possibly be waiting for as death reached out to embrace Him? How could this be the arrival of God’s kingdom that He had so forcefully preached? How could He be the Messiah and long-awaited King of Israel? Had He been mistaken? Now was the time to own up to that! Now was the time to give up! No one could fault Him for it! But stubbornly, defiantly, Jesus pressed onward. He did the unthinkable—He resolved Himself to patiently wait on His Father in heaven. He refused to give up His hope that God’s kingdom was at hand. He did not fight to bring Himself down from that cross. He did not call on an army of angels to intervene. He did not curse God. Foolishly, some mocker would say, Jesus threw Himself into the hands of His God. Foolishly, a scoffer would ridicule, Jesus continued to bless and love those who stood against Him. Following the way of love, He persisted till the end and refused to back down. He would not be deterred; He threw Himself headlong into the destructive path of death itself. And to the despair of those who stayed and watched, death did not yield—it pushed forward unwaveringly, crushing this Jesus under its feet. PAUSE.
In this world death also stands on your doorstep—diseases, disasters, destructions of every sort, wars, and violence rage all around threatening to tear your life apart. Will you continue to look to God in hope or will you walk away in despair? Alone, you will eventually fall into despair, but with others there is a chance for hope. Like the wife, the childless couple and the ND congregation, it is important that you and I face the harshness of reality in the company of each another. If you and I try to go it alone, then we will not make it—we are simply not strong enough. God has given us a community of brothers and sisters that we might build each other up and strengthen ourselves in the face of the world’s darkness. Peter’s first letter was written to Christians facing persecution, people tempted to give up on God. 1 Peter 1:6-7 says, “Now for a little time you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine.” He wrote these words to Christian communities, not to individuals. He wrote about facing despair as part of a community in Christ. Without community gathered around the cross the task ahead of us would be too much. When you and I stare death and despair in the face, refusing to buckle, we need each other. The hymn writer put it this way. “When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer” (TLH 279, v. 4).
On Friday they laid Jesus’ body in the tomb. He had stared into the abyss and it swallowed Him up. It looked like the kingdom He preached never came and now He was just another dead Messiah—a failure. Scoffers said His trust in a God who would let Him face rejection, suffering, and crucifixion was a joke. How, they ridiculed, could He have thought that such a God was real? His God had been too late—His trust had been in vain. In a world where the strong conquer, He had been weak. In a world where wisdom ruled, He had been a fool. In a world where death had the final say, He was dead. This dark and unforgiving world once again asserted its strength. But as it pressed down relentlessly on this weak and seemingly foolish Jesus, its iron grip began to slip. On Sunday morning, the way of the world was shown to be a fraud. The world that everyone thought they knew was completely turned on its head. Jesus, this crucified failure, was bodily raised to life! His foolishness was proved to be true wisdom—His weakness, true strength! Everything the world thought it had figured out began to crumble in a pile of rubble. PAUSE.
In the stories shared with you this evening, and in countless others throughout the world, we are given small reminders that our natural understanding of what is good or evil, right or wrong, wise or foolish, strong or weak, has been turned upside down in Jesus Christ, the crucified. The insignificant and humble ways of faith, hope, and love are shown in Him to be God’s way. The dark world around us continues to mock their foolish hope but our confidence is that the outcome of faith in our God is nothing short of true rescue on the other side of death.
Until then, we have a living Savior. No one stays closer to you than Christ. Christ is better than the most faithful husband, more understanding than the most comforting wife, more reliable than the best friend. No one is more available or more interested whom you can talk to in the middle of the night, or at any other time, simply by calling out in prayer.
No one comforts better than Christ. In the midst of your deepest pain, His presence brings comfort and strength, through His Words of promise, often delivered by trusted Christians.
No one sees the benefits of your pain clearer than Christ. He sees through the dark, winding tunnel of your Gethsemane all the way to the end. You see only the unrelenting, frightening, thick darkness. He sees beyond it into the shining light of eternity, knowing that the difficulties help to keep you close to Him until you see Him in heaven. This is why you and I can say, with Peter: Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (I Pet 1:8-9).
My beloved and His beloved, from the cross Jesus in the hour of suffering and agony looked up to heaven and cried out in a loud voice: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Do you know why? So that you and I may never, no ever be forsaken by God. Isn’t this wonderful news? You bet it is. Though the world plants doubts in our hearts and heads by asking, “How Can You Believe in a God Who Would…” You may answer because He is the ONLY true God who promises, “LO, I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS EVEN TO THE END OF THE AGE.” Amen.
Now the peace…