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Sermon for the week

Navigating uncharted land

Because opportunities to attend church services may be limited for several weeks, the newspaper has invited local clergy to submit sermons for publication here.

Marion Presbyterian Church

What a strange and uncharted land we have found ourselves in all of a sudden.

For my family, hopping in the car and running down to Wichita for an evening out, or to pick up something we couldn’t find in Marion, was a no-brainer. We didn’t give it a second thought. Yet now, we find ourselves second guessing everything. Should we go to Ace, should we run over to Carlsons’ or should we stop by the pharmacy? Your pastors and church leaders have found themselves asking, “Should we gather for worship on Sunday morning or should we modify what worship looks like in the midst of a pandemic?” Some of your churches have already answered that question and others, like the Presbyterian Church, will have answered it before the end of the week.

We are all responding to the current reality in different ways. One of the ways I have responded to it is by compiling a playlist on iTunes titled Corona Time featuring songs ranging from “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles to “Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen to “No Thief Like Fear” by Jason Gray to “Welcome to Paradise” by Green Day, to “Great is Thy Faithfulness” played by Chris Rice. I have enjoyed finding songs which are relevant or ironic given the current situation.

It appears we are in the early stages of this pandemic. And like others who have been God’s people over the years I find myself, like some of the prophets and psalmists saying, “How long, O Lord?”

In Psalm 13 the Psalmist, David, writes, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed over him,’ lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt beautifully with me.”

As you read through this Psalm you get the sense that the individual is in distress and experiencing turmoil. Then in verse five the individual becomes content and faithful. Can this be the same person? Indeed it is, and it is attributed to David.

One scholar says, “The hymn as it were advances in waves that are constantly decreasing in length, until at last it is only agitated with joy and becomes calm as the sea when smooth as a mirror” – Franz Delitzsch

Many of us find ourselves asking the same question as the Psalmist. “How long?” How long until life goes back to normal? How long until the stock market rebounds? How long until my income is restored? How long until my kids can go back to school? How long until I can leave my house without being afraid? How long until Major League Baseball starts? How long will I be cooped up in my house? How long, O LORD?

God is big enough for our “How longs?” He can handle our frustrations and our despair. At the same time, He is faithful to remind us of His steadfast love. There is one word in Hebrew for “steadfast love.” It is hesed (hé sed). God’s hesed is unwavering, unchangeable, rock solid love for His people in the midst of whatever they are experiencing. You and I can trust in God’s hesed, His steadfast love for each of us regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

As followers of Jesus we witness God’s steadfast love in the very death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s love for you and me was demonstrated in Christ’s obedience to the Father and the sacrifice He paid for my sins and yours. We know, far better, than the psalmist even, what it means to rejoice in God’s salvation for we have witnessed it firsthand.

As we navigate this uncharted land for the foreseeable future may we remember we are not alone at any time. The God who sustains us and loves us promises to never leave us nor forsake us. May we be compassionate and humble and may we experience the steadfast love of God.

Last modified March 18, 2020

 

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