Pastor Sherry’s Message for June 14, 2020

Scriptures Gen 18:1-15; Ps 116:1-2, 12-19; Ro 5:1-8; Matt 9:35-10:8

How many of you remember the TV sitcom, “Friends”?  I was not really a fan of the program, but I do recall that it had a memorable theme songTruthfully, though, who knew the words?  According to YouTube, the lyrics went something like this:

 So no one told you life was gonna be this way…

Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear…

When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your

year.

You’re still in bed at 10 and work began at 8…

You’ve burned your breakfast…

So far, things are going great.

Your mother warned you there’d be days like these…

But she didn’t tell you when the world has brought you down to your

Knees…

You know, some of us can truly relate to those 1st two verses….We all have bad days, sometimes bad weeks, months or even years.  We can catch ourselves talking like Eeyore (of Winnie the Pooh), saying things like, “whatever can go wrong will go wrong.”  We can become downcast or pessimistic, and may feel depressed and discouraged.  We stress over the Chinese Corona Virus, being quarantined (sheltered in place); being out of work, or not having a job to return to; watching riots and looting—anarchy—play out on the news; witnessing a new and reprehensible hatred for the police; observing no politicians stepping up to make the streets safe again; and hearing of dentists and other professionals being so discouraged and hopeless that they choose suicide over waiting to see how this crisis will work out.

In this environment, the chorus of the Friends theme song is important to remember:

I’ll be there for you

                    When the rain starts to pour.

                    I’ll be there for you

                    Like I’ve been there before.

 

You see, the song celebrates the value of true, blue friends; but it could just as well celebrate the love of God for us.

 

               Our Scriptures today all celebrate the love of God for us.

Let’s consider them together:

Our psalm, Psalm 116, is a thanksgiving or Hillel psalm.  Scholars believe Jesus sang it on his way to the Garden of Gethsemane (Hebrews 12:2–Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God).  Imagine knowing what was going to happen to Him, and nevertheless singing God’s praises as He went to His death!  How brave of Jesus!

The psalmist acclaims his love for and trust in God because he knows that God hears him, and pays attention to his cry for mercy.  Isn’t that true for us too?  We can take all of our stressors, disappointments, frustrations, health concerns, and fears, to the Cross and leave them with Jesus to redeem and transform.  V.12 asks, How can I repay the Lord for all His goodness to me?  Then David answers his own question:  We repay the Lord by lift [ing] up the cup of Salvation; And by fulfil [ing] my vows to the LORD in the presence of all His people.

Now what does this mean to us?  The cup of salvation refers to one of the cups of wine consumed at the Passover meal.  It represented the peoples’ thanksgiving to God for their deliverance from slavery in Egypt; it symbolized offering thanks to God for redeeming them.  Like them, we celebrate Jesus’ redemptive act in communion, when we call the cup the blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.   Our vows to the Lord is a Biblical expression of our decision to praise God.  We praise God, out loud, each Sunday when we spell out the ways He has blessed us this past week (our joys). Dr. J. Vernon McGee says, “Prayer springs from need; but praise follows deliverance.”  Praise, love, and obedience are the only things we can offer to God—He doesn’t need or require anything else from us.  Our psalm also calls this (v.17) a sacrifice of thanksgiving.  We take time away from our own concerns to think of the things for which we are grateful to God.  Then we take time away from our own concerns to direct our thanks to Him.

What are some things for which we can and should express our  thanks to God?  Again, our scripture lessons offer some examples:

Our OT reading (Gen 18:1-15) describes a visitation to Abraham by the preincarnate Christ (& 2 angels).  In the finest Middle Eastern tradition, Abraham offers Jesus and friends water, shade, rest, and food.  Jesus responds with a prediction that Sarah will have “the child of promise,” Isaac, within the coming year.  Now Abraham and Sarah have waited 25 years to have this child. Earlier, the Lord changed Abram’s name from “exalted father” to Abraham, “father of a multitude.”  Finally, in the year to come, Abraham would be able to finally feel like he had lived into his name.  Finally, Sarah would be able to hold and love on a baby of her own.  Don’t you know that they rejoiced and praised God!

In our Epistle lesson, St. Paul extols the benefits we received

from Christ’s atoning death for our sins. Because of Jesus, we have peace with God.  Because of Jesus, we have open access to God through prayer.  Because of Jesus, we have hope for the future (the proper antidote to the news).  Because of Jesus, we know God is with us in our troubles and He helps us triumph over them.  These are all fabulous benefits of our relationship with Christ and most worthy of our gratitude and praise.

Finally, we notice in our Gospel, Matt 9:35-10:8, two remarkable considerations for which we can be grateful:  First, v.36 tells us that Jesus looked about Him, noted the crowds, and …He had compassion on them.  He had been teaching and healing, and may have been tired; but instead of focusing on His needs, He felt great love and empathy for His people.  He still has great love and empathy for us, and we can and should be grateful to Him for this.

Second, He then sends the 12 out to do what He has been doing all along.  He changes their status from disciple (learner) to apostle (delegate); and He empowers them to (v.8)…heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.  He has authorized them to continue His ministry.  He has authorized us to do so as well.  We can be grateful to Christ for their ministry and for ours.

 As I was growing up, I often heard my non-believing parents, say (when frustrated or surprised) things like Oh, good grief! Or For heaven’s sake!  For crying out loud!  Good God Almighty!  (oops, that one is suspiciously like taking God’s name in vain.) And–uttered with great distain and frustration–For the love of God!  These statements were an improvement over some of their more “colorful metaphors,” but it occurs to me that they did not really know what they were saying.  Whether my folks recognized it or not, these expressions all reference the LORD.  And the last one, “for the love of God,” really does summarize what our Scriptures emphasize today.  Because of the love of God for us, we have many things

for which to be grateful to Him.  Friends are lovely, but no one is better at consistently loving us than God.  This week, let’s be grateful for our human (and animal) friends, but let us also be mindful of the many ways in which

God has blessed and continues to bless us.

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

 

 ©2020 Rev. Dr. Sherry Adams

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