Dec 25 - The Gift
Dec 24 - God's Love Changes Everything
Dec 18 - Lonely?
Dec 18 - Getting Ready
Dec 11 - The Desert Shall Bloom
Dec 4 - A Spirited Shoot
Nov 27 - Comin' Round the Mountain
Nov 20 - Power on parade
Nov 13 - Warnings and Love
Nov 6 - Saints Among Us
Oct 30 - Reformation in Catechesis
Oct 23 - The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Oct 9 - Continuing Thanks
Oct 8 - The Cord of Three
Oct 2 - Tools for God’s Work
Sep 25 - Rich?
Sep 23 - With a Word and a Song
Sep 18 - To Grace How Great a Debtor
Sep 11 - See the Gifts and Use Them Well
Sep 4 - Hear a Hard Word from Jesus
Aug 28 - Who is worthy?
Aug 21 - Just a Cripple?
Aug 14 - Not an Easy life with Christ
Aug 6 - By Faith
Jul 31 - You can't take it with you
Jul 25 - Companions
Jul 24 - Our Father
Jul 18 - Hospitality
Jul 17 - Priorities
Jul 11 - Giving
Jul 10 - Giving and receiving mercy
Jul 3 - Go!
Jun 26 - With urgency!
Jun 19 - Adopted
Jun 12 - A Tale of Two Sinners
Jun 5 - The Laughter of Surprise
May 29 - By Whose Authority?
May 22 - Why are we here?
May 15 - The Spirit Helps Us
May 8 - Free or Bound?
May 1 - Let All the People Praise You
Apr 24 - A New Thing
Apr 17 - A Great Multitude
Apr 10 - Transformed
Apr 3 - Here and There
Mar 27 - The Hour
Mar 26 - Dark yet?
Mar 25 - The Long Defeat?
Mar 25 - Appearances
Mar 24 - Is it I?
Mar 20 - Bridging the Distance
Mar 13 - What is important
Mar 6 - What did he say?
Feb 28 - Pantocrator
Feb 24 - Singing the Catechism: the Creeds
Feb 14 - Available to All
Feb 12 - Home
Feb 7 - Befuddled, and that is OK
Jan 31 - That We May Speak
Jan 24 - The Power of the Word
Jan 17 - Surprised by the Spirit
Jan 10 - Exiles
Remembrance Service - December 18, 2016
One of the special and durable things about scripture is its unflinching realism.
Nothing is sugar coated.
We are dealing with important things: matters of life, and death, and new life in Christ Jesus.
The Bible pushes aside every attempt to sideline it, or minimize its effect, or reduce its scope.
Where there is reason for pain and sorrow, the Bible-writers turn to a vigorous lament.
They complain to God, quite vigorously.
When there is reason for joy and celebration, the Bible does not trivialize the difficulties in reaching that understanding.
The Psalm that we use near the end of the service this afternoon is a good example.
I cry aloud to God, begins the Psalmist.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord.
I refused to be comforted.
Then without hesitation, he asks bid questions:
Will the Lord cast me off forever?
Has his loving-kindness come to an end?
Has his promise failed?
In times of pain and sorrow, many will ask those questions, and some will simply turn away and curse God,
saying something like:
If this is what happens when a person is trying to do the best that he or she can, then I want nothing to do with this God-business.
Just forget the whole thing.
I remember a woman from many year sago, who, after her mother's funeral, refused to come to church ever again.
The Psalmist does not fall into that swamp.
He asks the big questions about the seeming absence of God in times when we are hurting, and then he continues this way:
I will remember the works of the Lord
and call to mind your wonders of old time.
And then the Psalmist looks not only to the past, but anticipates that God will continue and renew his actions in the future:
You are the God who works wonders.
Your way, O God , is holy.
By your strength you redeem your people.
So now we have seen a three-fold pattern in Psalm 77, one which may suit us very well on this bittersweet day, so few days before Christmas.
(1)We are enabled to name the pain that plagues us today.
God, I am lonely, because my beloved is not here beside me.
Perhaps there are lingering regrets over things said or done, or about things not said and not done which should have been.
Just the sheer aching loneliness of not being able to do together the customary activities of Advent and Christmas.
(2)And then the questions come:
Why should this be happening to me?
Does God care about us? ...about me?
Why are my prayers so dry?
(3)And we are engaged in the third step of the Psalmist's process right now.
Here we are, together,
tellng each other the wonders which God has done in the past,
most especially his coming among us in the flesh and blood of Jesus in Israel 2,000 year sago,
and in a few minutes anticipating that his presence with us is renewed as we share the bread and wine
which he promises will be his very life among us now.
It may not be the answer to our question that we thought we wanted,
but it is God's answer,
and behold, it is very good.
The attitude that we discover in this Psalm is throughout the Bible.
The prophet Isaiah is singing his hymn of hope for Israel to come back from exile in Babylon, but he sings with a very realistic appraisal of what the people are like:
All people are grass,
their constancy is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades...
What should I cry?
Am I too empty even to have anything to say?
But Isaiah does not swell there.
He says: The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
With a voice of strength, say to the cities of Judah,
Here is your God.
He will feed his flock;
He will gather the lambs and carry them.
We are impatient; we don't ever want to wait for God's good time.
It is hard for us even to comprehend what it was like for Simeon to wait.
He was looking for, praying for, Messiah.
They thought of it in political terms, and in that sense they had been waiting nearly 600 years.
Imagine the joy of the privilege of recognizing God's fulfillment of his promises in this new baby!.
It is not a sugar-coated joy, however.
The next word to Mary is sober, stark, and
This child is to be a sign opposed by many; and your soul, too, will be pierced.
These days of Advent nearing Christmas may be quite difficult for all God's people, and for us as individuals also.
Don't be surprised that trusting the Lord Jesus will be troublesome because of the reactions of others around us.
There will always be scoffers:
--like Noah's neighbors,
--like Job's “friends,”
--like antagonistic Pharisees....
Nevertheless, the promises are still valid, despite our foe's objections,vand they are stronger than our loneliness, because they are backed by the Lord Jesus.
Our connections with each other are always through him,
forged and given by him,
maintained through him,
in spite of anything which would get in the way, including death.
Loneliness does not get the last word, today or any day, because Jesus loves us and keeps us connected with each other through himself in word and sacrament.
Our beloved are as near as Christ's communion rail.
With Christ, and through him, we will never wait in loneliness.In confidence, let all say Amen.
Please note: The preceding sermon is provided as a resource for the thought, prayer, and meditation of the members and friends of St. Mark's. It is the residue of a verbal event, and thus it does not have academic footnotes and other details that would be expected in a written document. The writer gladly acknowledges the prior thought and work of many Christians before him.