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Great Is His Faithfulness

June 30, 2018 Pastor: Rev. George Fyler

Verse: Lamentations 3:22–3:23

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Lamentations 3:22-33
“Great is His Faithfulness”
Pentecost 6-B
CELC
Cleveland, OH
7/01/2018

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

            These words from Lamentations are words of Spirit inspired faith while facing the aftermath of God’s judgment against His people.  The prophet Jeremiah warned of God pouring out His “hot anger.”(Lam. 4:11)Now he sits amidst the rubble of what was once the majestic city of Jerusalem. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar sacked and looted the city, leveled the Temple and dragged leaders of God’s people into exile.  These were days of darkest doom and despair for Jerusalem.  God’s chosen ones had fallen from the heights.  Like a widow mourning the death of all her loved ones, Jerusalem concludes that God has abandoned His people and turned against them.

            But not so, says Jeremiah.  “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”(vss. 31-33)

            Can she believe it that Jerusalem will rise again? Yes, she turned against the Lord; but her exile will not last forever. God will bring His people back. He will once again dwell with them.  …But not in the same way.

Things will not remain the same.  They will be better! The compassion and steadfast love of the Lord will not be seen in the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.  God will do a new thing.  Israel willrise anew, yes, but not asa city of stone, instead, a “new Israel”:enfleshed in an only begotten Son, born of a virgin. He is, and always has been, the Father’s chosen Savior—Jesus Christ.  He is the compassion and steadfast love of God in the flesh sent to sinners.  He establishes a new kingdom—a kingdom not of this world.  It is a kingdom not dependent on the faithfulness of men, but solely on the faithfulness of God—a kingdom which cannot fail or be overcome.When God does the building, it is on the firmest of foundations.You can be sure of that!

            Paradoxically, the death of Jerusalem is Jeremiah’s opening to proclaim new hope in God.The destruction of Jerusalem is a dark day for God’s people, but a new day will soon dawn, and shine forth from on high the light of God’s steadfast love and mercy, His compassion and faithfulness.  Amidst the rubble of a once great city, and by the rivers of Babylon in a strange and lonely exile, God’s people will hear God’s promise renewed and a call to repent. God has brought them low, in order to raise them up.God’ssteadfast love will bring life from death.

            Listen up, young and old, notice the divine orderand therebylearn how God works! He does not give you life by letting you continue in your sin, nor by catering to your every desire, nor by spoiling you and giving what your hearts crave. That is the way of the world and what many today are looking for in a god. But that is not the way of the Lord! Not for Jerusalem then, nor for you today. For what your hearts crave, and desire is not good. No, His way is to give life from death. So, if God must first bring you low in order to raise you up; if He must first make you nothing in order to make you something; if He must first, in fact, kill you to your sin in order to make you alive—then that is what He, in His“compassion, will do.  Stripping you of your false sense of security, of your false gods, of your pet sins, of all that you seek to hang onto in this life—so that you find your rest and life in Him alone. That He might raise you and recreate you to be everything He once created you to be, and to restore you—not back to your old life, but to a new life in Him.

            Now observe His steadfast love at work on the day when Jesus was called by the synagogue official to the bedside of his dying daughter.  That 12-year-oldgirl died while Jesus was on His way to see her, but she was just as Jesus needed her to bedead.  She was the perfect patient for the Great Physician of body and soul.  Her life was overcome by sickness unto death but prepared for God’s compassion.  For if Jesus came not for the healthy but for the sick, then He came for the dead—to give life from death.

            Learn God’s lesson, it is for us.  In the raising of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus gives us a preview of what He was sent to do for us.  Make no mistake about it, we are the dead ones.  Dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1)—as dead as a city in ruins; as dead as a little girl whose heart and breathing have stopped.  For though we may put up a good appearance and look alive on the outside—maybe even some of us look like a great and thriving city! —on the inside it is not so.  On the inside we are dead.  Our thoughts and desires are captive to sin and death.

            The truth is, if the thoughts of your minds and the desires of your hearts were revealed from this pulpit today, would you not scurry in shame to hide from God?  If you doubt that, just remember the last time your love was repaid with selfishness, your care with callousness, and your generosity with greed?  What of your life and heart and thoughts and desires then?  How holy, how pureor how ugly, how deadly?

            Sometimes we think we can change all this.  If we just try hard enough and push the right buttons, then all will be well.  But no. There is only one way to a new life—it is through death and resurrection.  REPENT, i.e., die to yourselves and acknowledge your sin.  Join Jeremiah in the rubble, and the little girl on her death bed, and confess the truth about yourself.  It is not easy to do, but to deny now is to die later.  Yet, as God sees it—To die now is to live.Jesus went to the house of the synagogue ruler to confront death, so He has come to this house to do something about your death!  Only Jesus can say, “do not fear, only believe,”(Mk. 5:36b)asHe takes you by the hand and says to you, “arise.” I forgive you.  Only by Him, in Him and through Him:your sin and death are overcome.  Consequently, you do arise and live again—not the same old life, but a new life—the life of Christ.  The life of the One who took all of your sins into Himself to die in your place; the One (Jeremiah foreshadowed) who took the cross in silence, “put His mouth in the dust”, and “gave His cheek to the one who strikes”(vss. 29-30); who took all that you deserve, so that He dying your death, you will also rise with Him.  Or as St. Paul later writes: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”(2 Corinthians 8:9)

            Behold, you are rich.  Not in the things of this world, although God may so choose to bless you. But being rich in Christ is to be rich in life, to be rich in forgiveness, to be content with little or much, knowing that your life and riches are not in the visible things of this world, which come and go—but are riches hidden in Christ.  In His kingdom not of stone, but of resurrection.  Built by His hands—hands which touched lepers and made them clean, that touched the blind and made them see, and the deaf and made them hear.  His hands that gave speech to the speechless, and strong legs to the lame.  And His hands which reached out to a little girl one day in Capernaum, and said to her, “Little girl, I say to you, arise,” and so gave life from death.  His hands that were nailed to the cross, so that yours would never be.

            Those are the hands that are here this day to give you life. His nail-marked hands, Cross hands, resurrected hands; hands of His sacred Bride, through His ordained and called pastor brides maids, that baptize, hands that forgive, hands that feed, hands which reach out to sinners and say, arise.  And it is so.  The world may not think there is life here.  They do laugh, just as they did at Jesus that day and just as they did at Jeremiah.  But there is life here that cannot be denied, and which deserves a hearty “Hallelujah and AMEN!”Life as Paul wrote of the Macedonians in the Epistle—having joy in affliction, generosity in poverty, and overflowing in grace and love—that life is what you have received, andit is that life from which you now give.  You are blessed knowing that in all things, in death and in life, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”(vss. 22-23)

            In the raising of Jairus’ daughter, Jesus gives you a lesson on what He has come to do for you as Jeremiah said: "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."(vs. 24)His compassion for you means you do not have to do it yourself.  His compassion means there is one on your side, to stand by you, to help you, to carry you, to save you.  When that compassion is from the Lord, it does not just float around, and you hope it lands on you!  It is personal.  It has hands and feet, flesh and bone, voice and body.  It is the One who embraced your humanity as a baby, your sins on the cross, and your life in His resurrection.  It is the One who takes you by the hand and will not let you go … even if it means bringing you low, in order to raise you up and give youlife.  It is the compassion of the One who lived and died and now lives forever, and so His mercy, His love, His compassion, His forgiveness, His promise, and His kingdom, never change… and never end.

            “Do not fear, only believe.”(Mk. 5:36) Now having new life in Christ, come and receive His Body and His Blood as from His very hand by way of His chosen ambassadors.  It is“the medicine of immortality.”(Ignatius of Antioch)                                                                 
In the name of the Father and of the (X ) Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen