+ Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost +
13 September 2009
Who among you fears the LORD
and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
and has no light
trust in the name of the LORD
and rely on his God.
A grieving father wrote this: “Sometimes the grief hurts so much that even though you confess truth, believe truth, and deep down know that someday everything will be okay, there is a rainstorm going on in your heart that just won't go away. As I sit on the front porch and cry, mourning the loss of (my son) Stephen, the gentle, tearful streams of faith are almost drowned out by the loud, pounding rain of feelings.”
Isaiah, the prophet, anticipated times when it would be hard to keep focused on the comfort and security we have in God. Consider Isaiah 50:10,
Perhaps it is surprising to find these conditions grouped together:
• Fears the Lord and obeys the voice of the servant of the Lord
• Walks in darkness and has no light
Even as we walk through valleys of deepest darkness, the presence and power of God are with us and comfort us.
1. Who fears the Lord and obeys the voice of the servant of the Lord/
This kind of trust is what made Job say, "Though he slay me yet will I trust in him" (KJV). Job was willing to trust God in spite of having no idea why he was being afflicted. Just like us, Job had lots of questions. However, God never answered them. Surely if anyone ever deserved an explanation it was Job.
Job continued to trust God, and we need to trust God the same way. This kind of trust says that I don't have to understand what's going on around me. I don't have to try to make sense of my circumstances. This is faith that trusts God unconditionally.
b. Post-modern people: We live in a society that pays a lot of attention to feelings. That's not all bad: feelings are real and are not to be ignored. But faith and trust transcend and rise above feelings. You can decide to trust God unconditionally no matter how you feel.
Will this make the pain go away? No.
Will you immediately feel better? No.
Will it still hurt? Yes.
Will you still be sad? Yes.
So what's the benefit of this unconditional trust?
However, when you can trust God amid great sorrow and disappointment, you quietly preach a sermon that not only grabs the attention of detractors and skeptics but is noticed in the unseen world as well. Your quiet sermon of faith and trust baffles the unbelieving. It is also of great benefit to believers, encouraging them as much as would the most polished sermon.
Your faith and trust in God can sustain you, even while your emotions drag you down like a ball and chain. Faith transcends pain; faith transcends emotions; faith transcends feelings.
Indeed, even though the rough, sharp, piercing edges of despair will still be there, in time, as they rub against your faith, they will polish it, making it shine brighter than ever before.
2. How can we walk in the darkness as if we had no light?
a. The name of the Lord has been put on us in Holy Baptism
Romans 5:3-5 describes the benefits of persevering in the midst of trouble:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (NASB)
b. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Word and Sacrament, communion of saints+
As we endure dark days let us not lose heart. Let us heed the words of the prophet Isaiah. Let us trust in the name of our God and rely on him.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NASB)