Sunday, April 30, 2023

He Will Have Compassion

 Lamentations 3:22-33

The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.  "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."  The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the LORD.  It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth.  Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him.  Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope.  Let him give his cheek to the smiter; let him be filled with reproach.  For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.  For He does not afflict willingly, or grieve the sons of men.

Sermon for Jubilate Sunday                                              4/30/23

He Will Have Compassion

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Life is never exactly what we want.  Have you ever noticed that?  No matter how hard we try, something always goes wrong.  Something is always missing.  You can make a lot of money, but there is never enough.  Our needs, or our desires, always outrun our income.  You struggle for the perfect home, but there is always one more project.  Something that wasn't even conceivable before, now it seems almost imperative.  We struggle to build the perfect congregation, but just when it seems that we are almost at the verge of success, something changes, and that perfection eludes us.

The problem is sin.  The consequences of sin are much more readily apparent to us than the underlying cause.  We are never quite satisfied.  Others don't respond to us – or our circumstances – the way that seems only reasonable to us.  We give it our best and it is never quite good enough, or when we achieve what we set out to do, it is no longer satisfying, and we stretch toward the next goal in search of that elusive thing called satisfaction, or success, or happiness, or whatever we may call it.  Sometimes it is minor and we can ignore it for a while, but trouble or dissatisfaction  always comes home to roost.  Sometimes it is striking, and painful, and un-ignorable.  In every case it is the consequence of the imperfect nature of man, and the imperfection that our failings bring to the world around us.

The pain is called "the cross" for Christians.  Like the cross of Jesus, it comes on account of sin – not necessarily specific sins, but on account of our shortcomings and our failure to be perfect and holy.  Now and then, it even comes to us because of the sinfulness of those around us.  We are tempted, at times, to give up, or to feel crushed and defeated by the difficulties of life.  If we have the big problems under control, the little ones drive us nuts.  It tempts many people to think that God is punishing us, that our troubles are God's response to our sins.  That is one of the reasons it is so painful when a sermon speaks the Law of God too clearly, and we feel personally attacked, and personally offended.  Well, God speaks to us in our sermon text this morning, to address this very frustration.  God says, through the prophet, that in the midst of this gloom and temptation to despair we can be comforted by the promise that He will have compassion.  And that is our theme this morning.

The Prophet's words for this morning begin with the goodness of the Lord.  The LORD'S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Thy faithfulness.  That is the point at which we must begin.  Christians must begin and only Christians really can begin with the knowledge and the certainty that the Lord is good.  His lovingkindnesses never cease!  How great is our God!  How good He is to us!

Every morning, when you get up, there is air to be breathed, and it is filled with Oxygen and in just the right proportions.  The peculiar properties of water still work to your health and advantage.  Food is still digestible, and it nourishes your body.  The properties of electricity, which God prepared, still work, and the trace elements in your body are still so constituted that they allow nerves to sense and muscles to flex.  It may seem absurd to think this way, but philosophers have thought long and hard on this issue, and they can find no logical reason for everything to remain consistent and favorable for our existence.  Our answer to the philosopher's enigma is the goodness of God.  His lovingkindnesses never cease!

On rare occasions, the human body loses those abilities we take so for granted day-by day.  We call it "disease," or "paralysis," or "Muscular Dystrophy," or "Parkenson's," or "Osteoporosis," or "cancer."  Things like that don't always seem rare to us because everyone gets sick and everyone dies eventually – but consider the wonder of your body!

Your body functions flawlessly for decades.  It works twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  You go to bed, your body keeps working.  Your heart pumps millions of gallons of blood every year – for sixty, seventy, eighty years!  Your brain keeps calculating for close to a century, doing more work every hour, even while you sleep, than our greatest supercomputers manage to do with all their giga-hertz computational speeds in a week.  You store memories in sound and color pictures or video in a space the size of a grapefruit that would require a roomful of Compact Disks to store, and you keep them indexed by subject and person and season and emotion and scents in the air on that day, available for instant retrieval.  You smell that smell, or hear that sound, and you experience deja-vu – you may not even know that you are remembering.  Or you smell something cooking and immediately your mind is back in Grandma's kitchen sixty years ago.  We get frustrated on those days when our retrieval system fails us in one or two memory request out of the thousands each hour we just take for granted.  When the whole system finally fails, we call it "dementia" .

I could go on for hours just about the wonders of the body – and then there is the world around you, and then the universe.  God tells us that it is all created for us and for our blessings.  His lovingkindnesses indeed never cease!  He feeds us and clothes us. He has made us wealthy.  I remember speaking to Rev.  Fehrmann a couple of years ago about missions in the third world.  He travels extensively in the third world in his work.  He told me that only about 10 percent of the third world population has even irregular and undependable electricity.  They rarely have televisions.  They only now and then have a radio.  They have very few cars outside of the big cities.  The big question for them is not "What shall we do tonight?", or "What shall we watch tonight?', but, "What shall we eat tonight?" or, "Shall we eat tonight?"  Even upon those in poverty, His lovingkindnesses never cease.  How much more is it clearly true for us?

His compassions never cease, they are new every morning!  Every day is filled with His goodness to us.   That is why the Prophet cries out, "Great is Thy faithfulness!"  And chief among His goodness to us is Jesus Christ!  He gave His only-begotten Son into death for our sins.  He hung Him on a cross to bleed and die in agony, that we might be forgiven.  And He raised Him from the grave on Easter to show us irrefutably that our sin have been forgiven, paid for completely, punished to the last drop of the wrath of God against sin.
He is Risen!  Your sins have been paid for.  

You are forgiven.  You have been redeemed by the blood of the very Son of God!  

It is finished!  He loves you with a love that transcends any full comprehension!

So, why do things keep going wrong?  Why do we get sick?  Why is life painful and difficult and frustrating at times?  Our text says that it is for our good.  It doesn't say exactly why or how, but it says it is good for us.  Through our troubles, God strengthens us and purifies us.  He disciplines us – and He tells us that every child loved by his Father is disciplined by Him.  God also demonstrates for us in the New Testament how our patient and faithful endurance in times of persecution and pain confesses Christ so clearly and effectively to those who see our patience and observe our faith and faithfulness while we are in the midst of troubles and suffering.

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.  It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD.  It is good for a man that he should bear The yoke in his youth.  Let him sit alone and be silent Since He has laid it on him.  Let him put his mouth in the dust [a reference to humble prayer], Perhaps there is hope.  Let him give his cheek to the smiter; Let him be filled with reproach.

I cannot tell you how every event in your life is good.  I cannot even imagine how every event in MY life is good.  But God can, and He tells us that it is good.  I cannot bring myself to call God a liar, so I must accept that even the things I do not like are for good, and that God is with me.  That is the present, day-to-day value of faith in Jesus Christ!

"The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."  That is the true answer!  I trust in God.  My hope is in Him.  The writer of Lamentations, unnamed, but believed by most to be Jeremiah, writes, For the Lord will not reject forever, For if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion According to His abundant lovingkindness.  For He does not afflict willingly, Or grieve the sons of men.

God does not willingly afflict means that God has no desire for us to suffer or have troubles just so that we suffer or have troubles – everything He does has a place in His plan and purposes.  Every bit of it is for our good and the good of our neighbor.  He blesses with every event, whether we find it happy or sorrowful.  His plan is always for our welfare and blessing, so even when it is necessary to permit us to suffer pain or sorrow or temptation, He will have compassion!  He will rescue us from our troubles and bring us out of sorrow, and bless us. When He causes grief, as Jeremiah says, Then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness.

Another way to say it is to ask the question I always ask you to answer:  What is the will of God for us? [Our salvation].  

If you believe in God, then you want to keep that truth uppermost in your mind.  If you believe in God – that is, if you trust in Him, then you will know that no matter what it feels like at the moment, the Lord will have compassion.  The Lord is my Portion, says my soul, therefore I have hope in Him.

And that is the message this morning.  He will have compassion.  Last Sunday we talked about the Good Shepherd, and His care, and His culling of the flock.  Today we talk about the other reality of life – that it hurts, that we will suffer pains, and we will have to endure frustrations and sorrows.  In the face of that reality, the Church rejoices – that is what Jubilate Sunday means – and we rejoice because, in the depths of woe and sorrow and pain we hear the promise of God that He will have compassion!  And, ultimately, that is very good for us!

Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I will say, Rejoice!

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
(Let the people say Amen)

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