July 1, 2018 [Pentecost 6]  Lamentations 3:22-33  J.D.Roekle

 

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. 

 

Christians Can Hope in the Lord

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

          General Douglas McArthur was one of the most well-known and loved generals of World War II.  He also was the commander of the troops during the Korean War.  After President Truman removed him from that position, General McArthur returned and addressed Congress.  His memorable speech included these sad lines: “I am closing my fifty-two years of military service.  When I joined the army, even before the turn of the century, it was the fulfillment of all my boyish hopes and dreams.  The world has turned over many times since I took the oath on the plain at West Point, and the hopes and dreams have long since vanished.” 

          Life has a way of dashing hopes and dreams.  When we’re young, we look ahead with optimism.  As we get older, reality sets in.  Many of the things we hoped for were not at all realistic.  Disappointment and regret can set in when we realize that those hopes aren’t attainable. 

          But we do not live without hope.  Even if many of the things we hoped for are never realized.  We still can live with hope, when we hope in the Lord.  When we hope in the Lord, we have hope that is real.  Hope that is permanent.  Hope that never disappoints. 

          Hope is something that Jeremiah’s audience needed to hear when he wrote Lamentations.  For years, God sent prophets like Jeremiah to warn the people to change their rebellious ways or God would send judgment on them.  After refusing to change their ways, God finally sent an enemy, the Babylonians who conquered the people of Judah and took over Jerusalem.  A large number of people were carried off into captivity to Babylon. 

          Gone was all that they were familiar with.  Their beautiful city of Jerusalem as they knew it was no more.  The temple that they had regularly worshipped in had been desecrated and destroyed.  All their hopes and dreams had seemingly vanished. 

          It was within this context that Jeremiah wrote: “Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him.  Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.” 

          Those are pretty depressing words for the most part.  We do well to take them to heart.  We do so to remind us that much of the sadness we endure is due to our own sinfulness.  Due to the consequences of the things we’ve done wrong.  Yet, right in the middle of them, did you catch what the prophet said?  “There may yet be hope.”  There may yet be hope

          Think about the things that you as a child of God may have to endure.  You endure a daily wrestling match with your sinful nature.  You may be rejected or get the silent treatment by people because you are a Christian.  People may seek to humiliate you because of what you believe.  For some believers around the world, it also means that they endure physical suffering for the name of Christ.

          Jeremiah reminds us that the Lord has laid it on him.  Yes, the Lord puts these things in our lives.  Things that bring us sadness.  We see that truth in the Gospel lesson for today.  A man named Jairus, who was the ruler of the synagogue, came to Jesus with an urgent request: My daughter is dying. Help!  And we find out in the course of the account that his daughter did actually die. 

          You have faced this.  A loved one has died.  One day you’ll be faced with your own mortality.  How do we deal with these realities?  Much of the world around us falls into despair over these realities.  Many just give up and just go through the motions.  Others see nothing good ahead so they take their own lives. 

          Dear Christian, hang on to the words of Jeremiah: there may yet be hope.  Yes, there is hope.  When we hope in the Lord, that is.  “for men are not cast off by the Lord forever.  Though he brings grief, he will show compassion.” 

          There is no one more compassionate than Jesus.  He had so many important things to do.  He had an important plan to fulfill.  And yet, when Jairus summoned his help for his dying daughter, Jesus went with him.  As they were on their way to Jairus’ home, people came to Jesus and Jairus and reported that his daughter was already dead.  “Don’t bother Jesus about this anymore.”  But Jesus kept going.  In his compassion, he was determined to go to Jairus’ grieving household.  Jesus comforted Jairus by saying: Don’t be afraid; just believe.” 

          In his compassion, Jesus extends those words to you as well.  When faced with trials and tribulations, when faced with the death of a loved one, or when you are facing your dying day, Jesus’ compassion for you should ring out loud and clear: Don’t be afraid; just believe.  When we believe, we are putting our hope in what God says. 

          This hope is not empty.  This is a hope that is based on God’s steadfast love for us.  “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” 

          Jairus’ hope in Jesus did not disappoint him.  When they got to his house and found the daughter lifeless, Jesus miraculously raised her up from the dead.  The Lord did those kind of miracles in order to validate the fact that he is God and to validate the message he speaks. 

          And the message that Jesus has for us is the same he preached while he walked the earth.  It is a message of hope.  Not just hope that is here today and gone tomorrow.  It is a message that remains. That’s because the hope Jesus gives us is certain. 

          Our hope rests in the certainty of the cross and what it means for us.  It means that our sins are forgiven and that nothing can separate us from the love of God.  Our hope rests in the certainty of the empty tomb.  He lives, so also we live in him.  He lives, so also will we live even after we die.  And all of this hope is certain, because it doesn’t rely on you or me.  It relies on Christ alone. 

          We are in the time of the year where some of you put your boats in the water.  Ask yourself, whether or not you would go out into the water without an anchor.  Since so many things can happen while in the water, the anchor is a necessary part of the boat’s equipment.  In fact, there may be circumstances that arise when the hope of the boat doesn’t rely on you, or the motor, or the oars, but on the anchor. 

          The Lord is that anchor.  No matter what you might encounter in life.  No matter if your hopes and dreams are dashed.  The Lord remains the one to keep you grounded.  All else may fail, but he never will.  You can count on it.  You can put your hope in him.  Amen.