Worship Sunday at 10:30

Bethany Evangelical
Lutheran Church

Ishpeming, Michigan † Est. 1870

 
  Northern Great Lakes SynodEvangelical Lutheran Church in AmericaBethany on Facebook  
 

Pentecost - 6/10/07

  The words toward the end of today’s gospel might sound familiar; “God has looked favorably on his people.”  Maybe you think, “I’ve heard that before, somewhere.”    “God has looked favorably on his people.”  Mary…didn’t Mary say something like that?? Her words when she understands that she is to be the mother of the savior; “My spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”  We heard that last December; if you were here for the Wednesday night Lenten services we also sang those words every week.  They’re familiar. 

Then there’s Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, remember, struck dumb for his failure to believe the prophecy of the angel concerning John’s birth but when it finally happened and Zechariah’s speech was restored he said, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.”

God has looked favorably on his people.  Another translation is God has graciously visited his people.  This gracious visitation of God or God looking favorably on his people is an underlying theme of Luke’s gospel, even a short summary of it.  The whole story of Jesus is a story of God’s gracious visitation to this world and its people.  It’s a visit that we in no way deserve, but we get it anyway; not God’s angry visitation which we probably do deserve, but God’s gracious visitation. 

Today’s story about Jesus raising the widow’s son at Nain is another reminder in these early chapters of Luke that where Jesus goes, grace happens; the blind receive their sight, cripples walk, sickness is healed, demons are cast out and even the dead are raised.  In and through Jesus, grace happens.  In and through Jesus, God has looked favorably on his people.  In and through Jesus, the world is different.

One of the main reasons we gather for worship every week is to be reminded of this truth and it’s a reminder we do need; it’s so easy to be discouraged and cynical about the direction things seem to going and the apparent inability to change that direction and it doesn’t matter if you’re talking about the local scene or the state, the country or the world.  Things don’t seem to be headed in a positive direction.  It’s also easy to think that we’re the first people who have ever experienced a cycle of history that seems irreversible, a cycle that it seems like nothing can change.

But then we come to church and we’re reminded of the people of Israel in slavery to Pharaoh in Egypt until the Lord acted through Moses and the irreversible was reversed; grace happened.  We’re reminded of the people of Israel in exile in Babylon until the Lord acted in a surprising, even shocking way, through Cyrus of Persia, a foreigner, unthinkable, and the irreversible was reversed; grace happened.  In gospel readings like today’s we’re reminded of the many instances of the grace of Jesus reversing the irreversible, especially the great reversal of the resurrection.  We’re reminded of the early church struggling against the supreme power of the Roman Empire, an empire that seemed like it would last forever.  The Roman Empire eventually collapsed, but the church is still around, another reversal of the irreversible.  It has all happened before.

So we gather to be reminded that God has looked favorably on his people, that God has acted and will act again although it might be in ways that totally surprise or shock us.  The God who created heaven and earth, the God who raises the dead is still with us, lest we forget.  We get discouraged when we think it’s all up to us, that we have to change the world, that God has no hands but ours as you sometimes hear.  Well, “God has no hands but ours” is a good reminder that we can act, there are things that we can do, but as people of faith we believe that God continues to be involved, that God acts apart from our hands; we count on that involvement and trust that God has looked favorably on his people. 

Then…having been reminded of God’s favor, we respond with thanks and praise, another reason that we gather every week.  Note though, that it’s not naïve thanks and praise that denies the reality we find ourselves in.  We recognize that reality but insist that there is another reality, another possibility on which we pin our hope precisely because we believe that God has graciously visited us, that God does look favorably on his people.  That’s the starting point of our praise. 

 And…because we believe that God looks favorably on us, because we’ve heard the stories of reversal, even as we offer our thanks and praise we can engage in honest dialogue with God; we can boldly go to God in prayer and faithfully insist that he make his gracious favor known to us again, here and now, in our time.  In our praise and thanksgiving, we remind God that we’ve heard the stories of his gracious visitation so we know we’ve got plenty of reasons to offer thanks and praise, but we want another reason, because we know God can do it.

Our faith is richer with this dialogue with God, our relationship with God deeper.  The Psalms especially witness to the fact that this dialogue takes place, that God invites it and responds to it.  Today’s psalm is an example of this. (look at it)

It’s mostly a psalm of praise, but one of the things Walter Brueggemann suggest that you do when you read the psalms is to ask “Whose psalm is this?  What are the circumstances that prompt this prayer?”  Usually we don’t know.  Some of the psalms have superscriptions at the beginning that supposedly tell you what’s going on but they are probably just one person’s opinion, or maybe there was a committee, who knows.  In any case, we can ask the question again.

Psalm 30 starts in praise, “I will exalt, you, O Lord;” but…there are reasons for this praise, it doesn’t come out of nowhere: You have lifted me up; You have restored my health; You brought me up from the dead; You restored my life.”  Exactly what the problem was isn’t clear, but there was a problem; healing of some kind has taken place, God’s favor has been granted.  But note verse 2, “O Lord my God, I cried out to you.”  The psalmist is part of the dialogue, initiating this healing by crying out, by insisting that God be God.

Then…more praise; more praise for the new orientation the psalmist has found.  But now, in verses 4 and 5, it’s not just the psalmist, it’s the whole community…all you faithful…because thanks from just one person isn’t adequate.  Another reason we gather every week; the news of God’s gracious visitation calls for us to offer praise and thanks together.  We need to hear each other’s stories so we can celebrate together.  After all, it’s not much fun to celebrate alone.

Verses 6 and 7 review the initial move from orientation to disorientation, from security to insecurity.  I felt secure.  I shall never be disturbed.  That sounds like pre-9/11 United States doesn’t it?  Nothing like that could happen here.  But then you hid your face and I was filled with fear.  In fear what do we do?  The psalmist cries to the Lord;  he pleads with the Lord.  He cries and pleads because he believes.  He believes that God looks favorably on his people.  He believes that God’s anger is but for a moment, that God’s favor lasts a lifetime.  Weeping spends the night, but joy comes in the morning.  With joy comes praise.  My heart sings to you without ceasing.  I will give you thanks forever.

Whose psalm is this?  It’s someone who believes the message of Luke’s gospel, who believes that God has looked favorably on his people, someone who knows how that feels.  But it’s also someone who knows how it feels to be in the pit, and someone who isn’t afraid to cry out to God from there.  It’s someone who believes in the great reversal of the gospel, that God has acted and will act again.

          Whose psalm is this?  It would be good if each of us could say, “It’s mine.”
 
 

Bethany Lutheran Church
715 Mather Avenue
Ishpeming, MI 49849

Phone: 906-486-4351
Fax: 906-486-9640
contact@bethanyishpeming.org

Rev. Warren Geier, Pastor
pastor@bethanyishpeming.org

Previous Page

Home

Map

Newsletter

Calendar

Church Life

Sermons

Contact Us

“Whoever
welcomes
one such child in my name
welcomes me, and whoever
welcomes me welcomes
not me
but the
one who
sent me.”
 
 

 

Website designed and maintained by Superior Book Productions