Roger's Postings

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lamentations 3:22-33.                        Hope in hopeless times.          1/7/12

 (Lam 3:22-33)  Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. {23} They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. {24} I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him." {25} The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; {26} it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. {27} It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. {28} Let him sit alone in silence, for the LORD has laid it on him. {29} Let him bury his face in the dust-- there may yet be hope. {30} Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. {31} For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. {32} Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. {33} For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

 Hope for hopeless times could well be the title to this passage that we have before us this morning, as well as the Gospel reading. With that in mind we might well say to ourselves that this doesn’t apply to us here now, so let us switch off and change the subject. Yet, I want to say to each one of you, this topic is important for you now. There are some here this morning, who even now, are going through very difficult times: some worse than others. We also need to remember that all of us at some time or other will go through our difficult times, and we will have to face death itself. The question is, what is or is going to be our source of hope in those times of difficulty and even hopelessness?

 Now this reading from Lamentations was written at a time when God’s people had lost everything; their city and nation; their temple and their very freedom. Things could hardly be worse than that. Except for the family in our Gospel reading; who had lost the life of their young darling daughter: what a tragedy! Yet we are reminded by our Lord that in both situations that all is not lost. We still have every reason to live in hope. For the Lord is still God; and he is our portion. We can still live in hope even in the very worst of times – even in the face of death itself.

 There however, is the very reason why so many today find life and the future hopeless, both inside the church and outside. The have discarded God as one who has control over all things: Yes even life and death. Instead they have placed their hope in society, technology, the almighty dollar and themselves. When these things collapse, as they inevitably do and will, then they find their hope gone and the future empty.

 It would seem that the answer to this dilemma is then to bury our heads in the sand: get busy in our life and our pleasures so that we don’t have time to think about these things. We fool ourselves into thinking that it won’t happen to me, or those who are near and dear to us. But surely that fact that we have one of the highest suicide rates in the world amongst our young people, and that for middle-aged men it is the most common reason for death, must tell us something. On top of that the drink and drug abuse that is so prevalent certainly adds to the picture.

 But the message here this morning is that there is hope. No matter what our situation may be in life – there is hope – there is a future, if only we would accept it. If only we would open our eyes and believe. We can face loneliness, difficulty and whatever else this world can throw at us. We can even face death itself because there is now One who gives hope no matter what we face. There is One who is beyond the realms of this world who has what it takes to give us every reason to live in hope. Yes he even has power over death itself, so he can give us what we need in order to get through.

 The one who does this is the none other than the Lord God Almighty himself. But he is also the God who has come right down into our world itself, and lived among us. He even raised this little girl from the dead so that we can know that he has that concern for us and the power to do something about it.

 Here in Lamentations it is made quite clear to us that the Lord is our hope even in the most hopeless of situations. We read again: “ For people are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love.  For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.”

 The point is made that no matter how bad the situation, his love for us is such that he will never allow us to be completely overcome by it. We can trust that he will never fail us, even if he may take us to the brink. All the way through he has our good and the good of others in mind. Yes he may  bring grief, but he will show compassion.

 We are like that with our children and our love is not perfect. We discipline them and we might even spank them, or we might allow them suffer a little while for their wrongdoing, so that they might learn from their misdeeds. We do it because we have their welfare at heart. We want them to remember and live by the things that are important in life. We want those values that are good and right to be a part of their lives, and to not forget them. So we may allow them to suffer when they depart from that way, so that they might learn to remain in that which is good and right.

 So also does our God allow problems, difficulty and even death itself to come our way. Yes, he allows us to suffer as a result of the sin of this world so that good may come of it for us and for others. He loves us to the extent that he allows us to learn and grow from our wrongdoing, and so that we might become more attune to what is right and good. No matter how difficult things might be he is seeking what is truly good for us or for other people through us. All the while he is faithful to what is for good, and has compassion on us.

 Like the writer, we too can say, ‘The Lord is all that I have, therefore I will wait for his goodness.’ ‘His mercies are new every morning.’ As much as we are involved in and see the importance of our work, knowledge, money, freedom and all the rest, we know they are nothing when it comes down to tin tacks. They are nothing when we are confronted with the fact that these things have no answers to those difficult issues of life. They are nothing when we know and see the power of God and the love of our Lord Jesus Christ at work in a very real way in our world, and especially in the face of death.

So we wait patiently on him, knowing that he alone is the one who can truly bring us through those hard times. The Lord himself will save us from the mess that we have gotten ourselves into. That is our sure hope. That is the certainty that comes our way because of our Lord’s unfailing love toward us. Especially in Jesus’ coming into our world and his life, death and resurrection for us, we now know that he has won forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for us. And through our baptism and our coming forward regularly to the Lord’s Table, we have that constant assurance that nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God. With the Lord Jesus’ unfailing love toward us, nothing can now defeat us. Not even death itself. His love will not allow any of those things to win over us.

So the encouragement we have here again is for us to look away from ourselves and the things of this world, to the Lord Jesus Christ and his unfailing love toward us. Sure we still have to live and work in this world, and we have to be real; and have to be involved and active our society, but our hope now is not centred on ourselves, and the things that our world trusts. Instead we remember that the Lord God Almighty is in control, and that he has our best interests at heart. Even if at times it may not look that way.

 Our assurance that this is the case for us, we only look to Jesus Christ our Lord and saviour. He not only raised that little girl from the dead, but he himself rose again after dying on the cross for us. So now there is hope for us in hopeless times. There is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory and honour now and always. AMEN.

 Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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