October 6, 2019 Sermon
World Communion Sunday
“Keep on Keepin’ On”
Old Testament Scripture: Lamentations 1:1-6, 3:19-26
How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal.
She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies.
Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress.
The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter.
Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
From daughter Zion has departed all her majesty. Her princes have become like stags that find no pasture; they fled without strength before the pursuer.
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall! My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me. But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him."
The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.
Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-14
That is not my intent. My hope is to simply unfold some of these letters that Paul wrote to different folks in different churches, and try to see how they fit or don’t fit in our lives. Above all, please don’t take my words, or Paul’s words as an additional burden that you have to bear. God forbid. If anything I have to say is a blessing, I am glad. If not, please feel free to ignore it.
Gene reminded me of this reality yesterday, when we were talking about the book of Lamentations. Jeremiah was feeling down, as he was want to do, and he was complaining, as he normally did, and he heard a word from God, which happened a lot, and the word was this: I didn’t create you to run against men, but against horses.
And that’s a great reminded that we need not compare ourselves to the efforts or abilities of other people. Our self-esteem need not come from the appreciation of other people. Our sense of self-worth need not be based on whether or not other people applaud or even notice what we are doing. We do what we do out of a sense of gratitude for what has been given to us, and our efforts are for an audience of one.
The idea that we can trust in God for our security, that we are called to welcome the immigrant into our community, that we give ourselves in every way we can to the benefit of others is not only foreign to us, it’s dangerous on the face of it.Who wants to put themselves in that position? To be mocked, ridiculed, taken advantage of, even hurt, betrayed? What could possibly motivate us to take that kind of abuse?And what’s the payoff? What’s our reward, our thanks for putting ourselves out there like that? Where are the cheering crowds, the academy awards, the ticker tape parades for people who put themselves into positions of service, who speak for the voiceless, who clothe the naked and feed the hungry? Well, we know that answer to that. The reality is, there aren’t any. A life of Christian service is a hard, thankless, scorned, and occasionally dangerous job. After all, look where it took Jesus. All the way to a cross. And so, the question remains, why do it? Why continue to put ourselves in a position of serving a world that doesn’t recognize or appreciate the effort? What’s in it for us?
And sometimes, it’s not even about doing what we do for other people that’s the problem. Sometimes, it’s just about getting up in the morning and putting one foot in front of the other that is the problem. Sometimes getting out of bed is the problem.
I know from personal experience that illness and injury can make you consider just giving up, giving in, and quitting. That sometimes, the journey ahead looks too hard, too much, and it would be easier to just stop trying. I mean, who really cares? Does what I do really make a difference, or am I just fooling myself?
The world can beat you down, and sometimes it can get the best of any of us.
But when I think that it’s just too hard, I’m reminded of my childhood baby-sitter, Twila, who has come to church here a couple of times from Lubbock.