Relationships According to Design (NHS Induction Message)

Teach Me Your Ways

Psalm 25:4-5

National Honor Society

Induction Ceremony

Lutheran High School Northwest

October 30, 2013

I believe I had most, if not all, of you for Old Testament last year.  I know we spent a significant amount of time studying the Bible’s account of creation.  I know I taught you that the Lord formed the earth on the first three days before he filled it on the next three.  I know that we reflected on the fact that everything was created by the Word of God as he spoke it into existence.  However, due to time constraint, there was one aspect of creation that I was not able to share with you then.  Well, I’d like to share it with you tonight.  The hidden story of creation goes a little something like this:

First, God created the cow. God said, “You must go to field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of 60 years.”  The cow said, “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for 60 years. Let me have 20 years and I’ll give back the other 40.”

So God agreed.

Second, God created the monkey. God said, “Entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I’ll give you a 20 year life span.”  The monkey replied, “How boring! Monkey tricks for 20 years? I don’t think so. I’ll give you back 10.”
And God agreed again.

Third, God created the dog. God said, “Sit by the door of your house all day, and bark at anyone who walks past. I will give you a life span of 20 years.”  The dog said, “That’s too long to be barking. The monkey gave you back 10 years, so that’s what I’ll do too.”
So God agreed.

Finally, God created man. God said, “Eat, sleep, play. Do nothing, just have fun. I’ll give you 20 years.” Man said, “What, only 20 years? No way! Tell you what, I’ll take my 20, and the 40 the cow gave back, the 10 the monkey gave back and the 10 the dog gave back. That makes 80 years, okay?”
“Okay,” said God. “You’ve got a deal.”

Thus you have the life of a human:
For the first 20 years, we eat, sleep, play, do nothing and have fun.
For the next 40 years, we slave in the sun to support our family.
For the next 10 years, we do monkey tricks to entertain our grandchildren.
For the last 10 years, we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody who walks by.

The secret story of creation.  Obviously untrue, yet it illustrates an important point: the perception of youth in our world is that they are essentially useless, existing only to do nothing and have fun.  You are here tonight because your teachers see something different in you.  You are here tonight because your teachers see in you young men and women who embody more than the old Epicurean lie “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”  You are here tonight because you have demonstrated the potential to lead, because of the quality of your character, because you have earned the opportunity to be honored through induction to this National Honor Society.

Here’s the reality that you have to come to grips with tonight: people look up to you.  People around you think highly of you.  Maybe you don’t want to be considered a role model.  Too bad.  You already are one.  Maybe you don’t think you deserve to have people think so highly of you.  Oh, well.  That’s not yours to decide.  You are, in fact, a role model or you wouldn’t be here tonight.  It’s something that you will have to deal with for the rest of your time in this school, maybe even for the rest of your life.

And so, recognizing that people are looking up to you, recognizing that people are looking at you as a young leaders, I put before you tonight’s critical question: what will you do with the gift of trust that has been placed in you?  How will you respond to this honor?  Abraham Lincoln is credited with having said, “Any man can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”  You have been entrusted with a small amount of power by being honored in this way.  What will your character be as you leave this room tonight no longer just students, but members of the National Honor Society, students who are held up as models of academic commitment, leadership, character, and service?  Will you rise to the occasion?  Or will you crumble under the weight of expectations?  Will your example be one worth emulating, or will you lead others astray?

It’s a heavy burden that is being placed upon you, and so I invite you to wrestle with those questions in light of the school’s theme verse for the year from Psalm 25, which reads in context: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.  Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation.”

Lead me in your truth and teach me.  This is a prayer for God’s guidance.  David pleads that the Lord would show him his paths and his ways.  The Hebrew word “derek,” which is translated as “ways,” refers to a pattern of behavior.  The psalmist is asking is that the Lord would call to mind the pattern of his behavior, the ways he has historically acted.  What exactly is that?  It’s Law and Gospel.  As David says other places in Psalm 25, the Lord’s ways are cursing sinfulness and being merciful to the repentant.  It’s humbling the proud and exalting the lowly.  It is dying to sin and rising to new life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  It is being no longer conformed to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by the renewal of your minds.  It is the knowledge that our Lord’s way is the way of the cross.  It is the way of death.  It is the way of resurrection.

I challenge you, as leaders in this school and community, to model these attributes.  As life continues to throw more challenging situations your direction, as your character is tested by adversity and opportunity, I challenge you to live a life of faith, remembering that the continued strength of your character will be found not in the hollow philosophies and empty wisdom of the world, but in the ways of our Lord, in his Law, and in his Gospel.

Because of our sin, the Law of God gets a bit of a bad rap.  We are by nature sinful and unclean, and so God’s Law is always accusing us in our sin, holding our sin before our eyes.  But the Law is not primarily about punishment.  God did not give the Ten Commandments just so that he’d have something to punish us for when we break them.  The Law, especially in the Ten Commandments, is a reflection of who he is.  They are not primarily things you shouldn’t do; they are God’s gift to you as a description of the life he wants you to have.  They are a reflection of who he has created us to be, of how he has created us to live in community.  It was not good for Adam to be alone, so God made Eve.  Man was not intended to live in isolation, but in community, in relationships with God and with other people.  You have in God’s Law the blueprint for lasting healthy relationships with him and with each other.  I challenge you tonight to strive to embody these relationship characteristics and model them in front of your peers.

I challenge you to embrace a healthy relationship with God by having no other gods before him.  Do not make your studies or your reputation or your popularity or your career or your boyfriend or girlfriend more important to you than our Lord is.  Look to him alone as the source of all that is good, as the one who will richly and daily provide all that you need to support this body and life. Fear, love, and trust in him above all things.

I urge you to call upon his name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.  Do not assume that your struggles are a burden to God or that he does not want to hear from you about your problems.  Do not assume that you can solve your life’s problems by yourself.  Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Do not ignore or shrug off his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.  For through that Word, through regular prayer, your relationship with God will be strengthened.  And when your relationship with God is right, you will start to see it in your relationship with others.

In your relationship with others, I challenge you to respect those who are in authority over you, and not abuse any authority that you have been given.  Respect your teachers, your parents, your coaches, even if you disagree with them.  When you are given authority over another person – and you will be given authority as team captains and club presidents – when you find yourself in a position of authority, don’t use it in an abusive manner, but fulfill your vocation finding joy in service.

Look upon others with love, not hate, and do them no bodily harm.  They are not obstacles on your road to success, they are people created and redeemed by our Lord, people for whom Jesus shed his precious blood.  Treat them as such.

Do not treat others as objects to be used for the fulfillment of your own lustful desires, but love sacrificially.  Do not buy into the lie of our culture that sexual pleasure is the highest form of pleasure.  Rather, find the pleasure that can only be experienced by using the gift of your sexuality according to our Lord’s design.

Be generous with what you have and do not take what is not yours, for all things ultimately come from the hand of God, we are but stewards of his gifts.

Speak kindly of other people.  Avoid gossip and slander at all costs, for few things will hurt as deeply or divide as quickly as wicked words.

Be joyful for the gifts God has given you rather than obsessing over what other people have, for as the Apostle Paul says, the secret to enduring poverty or wealth, freedom or captivity, is Christ.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  This is the way of the Lord.  This is who he has created you to be, and when you live in this way, your relationships will be blessed.  I challenge you to set this example for your peers.

It will not be easy.  For when you live in this way, you are swimming upstream.  In striving to set this example for your peers, you will be walking directly into the sand storm.  You face will be pelted with grains of sand as the world continues to move in the opposite direction.  People will mock you for your integrity.  Peers will make fun of you for doing the right thing.  More than that, Satan will tempt you and attack you at every turn.  There will be days where you are disrespectful to your teachers.  There will be days where you abuse the authority God has entrusted to you.  There will be days where you hate, where you lust, where you covet and steal.  In those times, do not fall into the trap of self-justification.  Do not dive into the abyss of excuses, for there is no end to that plummet.  You will simply find yourself flailing and grasping for a rope that is not there.

No, when you fail to live up to the expectations of our Lord, when you fail to serve as a righteous example to those around you, take your stand confidently on the rock of our Salvation.  Let the Lord teach you his way of repentance.  Set for your peers an example of repentance.  The world laughs at repentance and says it is for the weak.  Well, you are weak.  We are all of us weak.  Worse than that, we are dead in our sin, unable to free ourselves.  Embrace that weakness, humble yourself before the Lord and he will raise you up to a life of service in his kingdom.  Then turn right around and begin loving those around you once again.  Jump back into the loving relationship with God and with your neighbors.

There is my challenge to you as the newest members of the National Honor Society, as young men and women who are being held up as examples for those around you.  I challenge you to see past the smoke screens of this present darkness and recognize that true character, true scholarship, true leadership, true service is found in being who our Lord has created you to be, living in faith toward him and in love toward one another.  He has given you the gift of renewed and healthy relationships through his gifts of Law and Gospel.  Let the world see relationships the way they were designed to be. Let others see such relationships in you.



Heavenly Father, it is indeed humbling that you would use us sinful people to proclaim the good news of salvation through word and deed.  We pray that you would help us to do this faithfully each day of our lives.  Tonight, Lord, we pray for these young men and women.  We praise you for the gifts, talents, and abilities with which you have blessed them, and we pray that you would graciously send your Spirit upon them to guide them as they continue to grow as leaders and examples in your Church.  Let all who see these young men and women recognize in them a fervent faith in you and a sacrificial love for their neighbor, that the world may see a glimpse of life as you intended it to be.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit one God now and forever.



The Masks We Wear (Sermon – October 13/14, 2013)

Lord, Have Mercy

Luke 17:11-19

21st Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 23C)

October 13th/14th, 2013

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

            I’m sure you have all noticed that fall seems to have arrived.  Sure, the days have continued to be pleasantly warm, probably warmer than one would expect for this time of year, and yet it is unmistakable: fall is in the air.  The evenings are cooler.  The sun is coming up later and going down earlier. If you park outside like I do, then there has probably been a fairly thick layer of dew on your windshield every morning for a week or two, dew that will be frost soon enough.  Yes, fall has arrived, and nowhere is that clearer than in the Halloween decorations that are popping up on lawns across the area.  Halloween is fast becoming the official holiday of the fall.  Spring has Valentines’ Day, Summer has the 4th of July, and fall has Halloween.  In a few short weeks, boys and girls and teenagers and adults will dress up in costumes to celebrate a holiday of which few ever take the time to consider its origin and purpose.

             But it’s not the origin of Halloween that I’m thinking of today; it’s the masks.  Goblins and presidents and werewolves and maybe even a celebrity or two.  Halloween is a time where people revel in hiding behind masks for fun.  But it is not the only time people wear masks.  Criminals wear masks.  Some superheroes wear masks, and they do so to hide their true identity.  Even more common than the physical ski masks worn by bandits or the hero’s mask is the metaphorical mask that each of us puts on from time to time, a false appearance that we display before strangers or people we wish to impress.  The mask of professionalism we wear when our boss or supervisor is watching.  The mask of innocence that children wear when parents or teachers are in the room.  The masks we wear when we are trying to make a good first impression, trying to look smart, trying to look funny, trying to look like we have it all together.  The thing about these metaphorical masks is that they will not stand the test of time.  Any lasting relationship, like that with a spouse, will reach a point where this mask is ripped off and our true identity is revealed.  A teacher may be fooled by a student’s mask of innocence for a few weeks, but by the end of the year the teacher knows.  All it takes is time.

Which is why it is so interesting that we consistently wear such masks before God, as if he doesn’t know who we are underneath, as if he can’t see our true identity.  He is from everlasting to everlasting.  He is the almighty, the one who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs.  He is the one who knows exactly how many hairs there are on each of our heads.  He searches us and knows our inmost desires.  Yet we put on a mask before him.  Satan tempts us to put on these masks before him in an attempt to hide our sin from our God as if he can’t see right through our silly façade.  We are tempted to don some incarnation of the mask of self-justification: Yes Lord, I know that you have said that hatred in the heart is as bad as murder, but my brother-in-law just gets under my skin like no one else can.  What I feel for him isn’t hatred, Lord, it’s righteous anger.  Yes Lord, I know that greed is a sin, but my obsession with money is not greed, I just want a little bit bigger house for my family and a little bit nice car and a little bit nice clothing and a little bit longer vacation.  Once I have those things, Lord, then I’ll give you my tithe, then I’ll contribute to the work of your kingdom.  It’s not lust, Lord, I’m just admiring her beauty.  It’s not pride, Lord, I’m just better at my job than my incompetent co-workers and I get tired and frustrated putting up with their mistakes all day.

You know your life better than I do.  You fill in the blank.  Where does Satan tempt you to self-justification?  Where does Satan tempt you to pull a mask over you face when you address our Lord?  Why are we children of God so eager to hide our sin from him?  So eager to excuse our actions?  Self-justification is a bottomless pit.  It is a vicious, never-ending cycle.  Satan loves to tempt us to self-justification because our explanations for and particular sin doesn’t remove that sin.  It excuses it, leaving it to fester in your conscience and weigh you down with guilt, spreading like a disease in your conscience.  Ignoring a disease will not cure it.  This is no common cold; you cannot wait it out.  If you let it run its course, that course will end in death.

The disease must be cured.  The mask must be removed.  We must not come to our Lord saying, “It’s just that,” or “Yeah but.”  Like the lepers in today’s Gospel reading, our cry can only be “Lord, have mercy on us!”  These lepers did not cry out to Jesus in self-justification, for they knew all too well the seriousness of their disease.  They felt it in their flesh as the leprosy ate away their skin, causing fingers and toes to fall off.  Along with the physical pain, they felt the emotional pain of separation from their family and friends.  Leprosy is a contagious disease, and in order to keep it from spreading, those who were infected were quarantined into colonies outside the cities and villages.  They were not allowed to see their families for fear of the disease spreading.  They were not allowed to visit the Temple to perform sacrifices, for the Temple was in the heart of the city.  There were no holiday dinners with loved ones.  No Sunday afternoon visitors.  For all intents and purposes, they were dead to their family.  Dead to the life they knew before leprosy.

And so they called out to Jesus.  They did not do so in anger.  Their cry was not that of Martha who, after the death of her brother Lazarus, looked at Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”  These lepers did not look at Jesus and ask him why they were sick.  Neither did the offer a string of reasons why Jesus should heal them.  None offered a story about a wife and three kids who were left at home struggling to make ends meet.  None spoke of the family farm that was going untended in his absence.  Their cry was simple.  It was honest.  No mask.  “Lord, have mercy on us.”

Such is the cry of faith, for faith does not look to itself.  It looks only to the gifts of the Savior.  Such is our cry as we kneel in confession before our Lord and admit that we are by nature sinful and unclean.  No hiding.  We have sinned against our Lord in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.  No excuses.  We have not loved him with our whole hearts.  We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.  No masks.  Just repentance.  Just pleading that for the sake of the innocent, bitter suffering and death of his beloved Son Jesus Christ, our Lord would be merciful to us poor sinful beings.  Lord, have mercy on us.

And merciful he is.  As Jesus himself spoke healing to the lepers, so also he speaks healing to us.  He does not offer us a list of justifications for why our actions weren’t actually sinful.  He doesn’t offer rationalizations and tell us it will be ok.  Our sin is never ok.  But it is paid for.  We are redeemed.  The price of our sin has been paid by the blood of Jesus, so he sends pastors who stand in his place.  In the stead and by the command of Jesus himself, these pastors forgive our sins as if Jesus himself were standing among us speaking those words himself.  Faith believes this.  The faith of the lepers believed that even though their disease was not immediately healed, Jesus would be true to his word.  They believed that Jesus would heal them even though they still had leprosy when they left his presence.  And as they went they were cleansed.  So also us.  The gift of faith we have been given in the water of baptism believes our Lord’s word, and even though we may not always feel any different after the words of forgiveness have been spoken, we believe we have been cleansed.

Then, having our sins forgiven by the voice of the pastor as from the mouth of God himself, we again pray his mercy.  In peace, let us pray to the Lord.  Lord, have mercy.  For this holy house and all in it, Lord, have mercy.  For the whole church, Lord, have mercy.  The new creation is always crying out for God’s mercy because the new creation knows that it is only through the mercy of God that we receive any blessing of body or soul.  The new creation believes that God has created me and all beings, that he has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and he does all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.  We would be lost without God’s mercy, so for his mercy we continue to cry.

Satan tempts us to wear masks before God.  He wants us to try to hide our sin from God.  He wants us to try to excuse our sin before God as if it’s not truly sin.  But God knows who we are under the mask.  There is no use hiding from him.  And what’s worse, like all masks, these masks make it hard to see.  When we don’t see our sin, we won’t see how merciful our Lord is to us in forgiving our sin.  And when we don’t see our Lord’s mercy, we are robbed of the blessing of thankfulness.  Luke doesn’t tell us why only one leper returned to give thanks to Jesus.  We don’t know what the other nine did.  But thankfulness is the natural response to our Lord’s mercy.  It is the only response, for when we see how much we have been given, especially compared with how little we deserve, we can’t help but be thankful.

And that thankfulness will shine forth in our lives.  After receiving thanks from the leper, Jesus sends him back to his family and friends, back to his work, back to his life.  “Rise, and go your way,” Jesus says.  Take your thankful heart back into your vocations.  Let the world around you see the joy in your life, a joy that can only be found in my love.  It’s joy in the mercy of our Lord that drives Christians to form groups like the St. John Ladies’ Society, a group of different women who, for the past 100 years, have given of their own time in an effort to help the work of the kingdom.  It’s joy in the mercy of our Lord that inspires faithful parents to bring their children to the water of holy baptism so that even the youngest may experience the gift of cleansing.  It’s joy in the mercy of our Lord that inspires us to celebrate the gifts he has given to this congregation for the last century and a half.

So leave the masks for Halloween.  Leave the masks for the superheroes.  We don’t need them; we are the baptized.  We need not wear a mask before our Lord, for he has seen our sin already.  He has paid for it in full.  And the joy of redemption is ours.  Don’t let a mask impede your vision, but put on the eyes of faith to see the many blessings and acts of mercy that are new to us each morning.  Let us cry out in honesty with the lepers, “Lord, have mercy on us!”  And like the lepers, let us rise and go our way.  Our faith has made us well.  Our Savior has washed us clean.

Sermon – October 6, 2013

Live by Faith

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4

20th Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 22C)

October 6, 2013

St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

 O Lord, how long shall we cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you violence, and you will not save.  How long, O Lord?  Why do you look at us and do nothing?  Why do you make us sit here while destruction and violence are before us?  Destruction of life surrounds us, O Lord.  How long will you sit by and watch the unborn be sacrificed upon the altar of so-called choice?  How long will you sit by and watch the elderly be sacrificed on the altar of comfort?  How long, O Lord?  Violence has permeated our world, O Lord.  How long will you sit by and watch as death and bloodshed are used for entertainment?  How long will you sit by and watch gang wars and drive-by shootings that leave children dead in the crossfire?  How long, O Lord?  Will you ever act?

The Prophet Habakkuk had some serious questions for God.  He had some real concerns that he laid at the feet of the almighty, and he expected God to answer.  All around him were injustice and iniquity, violence and oppression.  He saw in the world around him countless behaviors that were an insult to God and his Word, a myriad of ways that sinful man was blatantly and boldly living in violation of God’s design for this creation.  He saw evil.  He saw oppression.  He saw suffering.  He saw bloodshed.  He saw injustice.  He saw sin, and he wanted to know what God was going to do about it.  How could God sit by and let the world continue down the path it was on.

It is a complaint and question that you and I can identify with.  I can’t imagine that anyone who has spent a significant amount of time on this earth trying to live as our Lord would have us live has not at one point or another felt the frustration that the prophet voices.  Lord, how can you just sit by and watch as people get rich selling drugs that they know will wreck another person’s life.  Lord, how can you sit by and watch people get rich by making and staring in movies that glorify violence, greed, and sexual impurity?  How can they have millions of dollars to produce music that glorifies open and brazen debauchery, while we struggle to make our annual budget as a congregation.

How long, O Lord, will you sit by and do nothing?  When will you act?

The questions are real.  But as Habakkuk shows us, we better be careful what we ask for. God’s answer is not always the one we want.  God’s answer is not always one we like.  God’s answer to Habakkuk was shocking.  Habakkuk complained at the violence and injustice in Judah and asked when God would put an end to such violence.  God’s answer?  “Don’t worry, Habakkuk, for I am sending the Babylonians, who are far more violent and wicked than the people you are upset about.  The Babylonians will punish the violence of my people.  The Babylonians will wipe away the injustice.”

Habakkuk must have been confused.  In fact, we know he was because he questions God again.  He questioned how God could use such a violent and wicked people to bring justice.  He could not understand how God could use such sinful people in his plan for salvation.  Habakkuk wants to know how a righteous and pure God could not only tolerate, but even use the evils of the Babylonians.  And so he again questions God: Was it not true, he asked, that God was being dishonored by the people he had chosen to use?  Would God continue to use wickedness to punish wickedness?  Would this vicious cycle ever stop?  Was justice gone forever?

Also good questions.  Fair questions.  Questions that we might want to ask too.  But while the questions are certainly appropriate, even more appropriate is what the prophet does after asking them.  Hear again the words of Habakkuk:

I will take my stand at my watchpost
and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
and what I will answer concerning my complaint.

The Prophet waits.  He believes that God will answer him.  He believes that his complaint will not be ignored, so he takes a position of waiting.  He waits in faith.  And he is not disappointed, for the Lord responds by telling the prophet to write what he sees on tablets so that others may read them.  He tells the prophet that he will indeed judge the Babylonians too, even though that judgment will seem like it takes a long time to arrive.  The arrogant will puff up his own within his chest and assume that God will not act, but the righteous shall live by faith.

The righteous shall live by faith.

That’s ultimately God’s answer to us too.  How long, we ask, will God continue to sit by and watch as people callously take the life of the unborn?  How long will we have to gather together and form life chains to protest such an assault on those who are too weak?  How long will this last?  Behold, the day is coming, declares the Lord.  Trust me, he says.  Live by faith, waiting for that day.  How long, we ask, will we have to endure the unbelief in this world?  How long will we have to form missionary leagues to spread the words of the gospel to an unbelieving world?  Behold, the day is coming, declares the Lord.  Trust me, he says.  Live by faith, waiting for that day.

But sometimes, you might even say often times, we are not very good at living by faith.  We live by sight.  We live by what we can see and measure and understand in the world around us.  We see death and ask our Lord, where is your hand in this?  But the righteous live by faith in God’s word, like the faith of Job.  Job who cried out in the face of violence but was not answered.  Job, who felt like the Lord had built a wall across his life to keep him from anything good.  In the face of such hardship Job cried out:

“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.[b]
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in[c] my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another. [Job 19:23-27]

It is the hope of the resurrection that gives Job perspective on his suffering.  It is the hope of thte resurrection that comforts Job when the things of the world don’t make sense.  The hope of the resurrection is the ultimate hope that any of us have.  If we have hope in this life only, Paul says, then we are of all people the most pitiful.  For we cannot know or understand the ways God works in this life.  Why would God use the Babylonians to purge the promised land?  That’s not for us to know?  Why would God allow something as terrible as the Holocaust or 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina to happen?  That’s not for us to know?  Why doesn’t God step in and stop all the injustice and oppression and bloodshed in our world today?  What is taking so long? “Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” [2 Peter3:8-10] No one knows when that day will come.  And because it hasn’t come yet, the righteous continue to live by faith.

There are a lot of things about this world that we will never understand.  There are a lot of events that might cause us to question the motives of God, to question whether he is as merciful as he claims to be, whether he truly is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  We can feel like we are encumbered by branches of doubt, ensnared by the mess in our lives.  But don’t miss the forest for the trees.  There may be a million things we don’t know about God, but there is one very important thing we do know: what he did when he became one of us, what he did not redeem us, what he did to save us.

It can be a dangerous thing to dive head first into the hidden mysteries of God, to attempt to ascend to heaven to discover the unknown.  Thanks be to God that we don’t have to ascend to heaven, for our Lord Jesus brought heaven to us.  His life, death, and resurrection in our place give us the faith to look at the world around us and confess that whatever God is doing, he is doing it for our eternal good.  For we know that in all things God works for the salvation of those whom he has claimed through the waters of baptism.

So come to the altar.  Taste the certainty of your salvation.  Feast on the gifts of the Savior.  For through these gifts he strengthens you in the true faith unto life everlasting.

Life in this world does not make sense.  But that’s the nature of sin.  It confuses.  It corrupts.  It terrifies.  Instead of focusing on what remains unknown, hidden behind the scenes of history, accessible only to the mind of God himself, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God.  We too shall be seated in the heavenly places.  Maybe not today.  Maybe not tomorrow.  We may have many days yet ahead of us in on this earth.  But we will spend those days trusting in the deliverance we have been given in Jesus.  For we are righteous by his blood, and the righteous shall live by faith.