Thursday, February 18, 2016
Upsets happen…sometimes more than we devout sports fans and political poll armchair pundits like to admit. What’s an upset, really? It’s when one team heavily favored by another gets beat. The Giants stopped the Patriots dreams for an undefeated season in 2008. Some of us loved it; many of us grumbled. Our certainty was shattered by that last second catch. Or, turn it in reverse. When New England stopped the Seattle Seahawks on the one yard-line in 2014, everyone in the stadium or watching on TV were certain that Lynch would get the ball and plow his way to a touchdown….just like he’d done dozens of times before. Now, sports is one thing. What happens when our confidence really gets shaken, when our certainty really takes a nose dive? We think we’re sitting pretty, planning a vacation for the family when bank reports reveal we’re a hundred thousand dollars in debt. We’ve shopped for over two hundred dollars in groceries, hoping they’ll last two or three weeks…and because the freezer conks out suddenly, we lose over half of what we bought. So, it’s understandable that you and I grow hesitant when Holy Scripture says “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ.” Nothing?—you and I ask ourselves. We can’t predict the future. With the rise of antichristian persecutions worldwide, we cringe when thinking of our reaction if a gun gets put to our head. As the economy keeps shifting…the job market waxes and wanes, we wonder how a prolonged stint of unemployment would effect us spiritually. We couldn’t tithe like we want. Shame might grip us if the gas dripped from the car and we couldn’t drive to church for a while. Or, what if a fellow Christian relative or friend suddenly drops dead with no prior warning? No one is immune from being shaken to the spiritual core. Hag. 2 and Heb. 12 remind us that “everything that can be shaken will be shaken.” I’ve suffered losses just as you have. It’s not just that I lost grandparents on both sides of my family to death by stroke, heart disease and diabetes. It’s the circumstances that surrounded their deaths that drove me into a prolonged depression. So, suffering is an all-too-familiar circumstance that pommels us all. No one is immune. No amount of self-esteem or positive thinking pick-me-ups can wipe away suffering. No amount of avoidance mechanisms or graceful exits will help us escape. And, our certainty will buckle when adverse circumstances strangle our ebbing breath. That’s why Holy Scripture never gives a cure-all for suffering or affliction in this life. Instead, its words everywhere remind us, “Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” Elsewhere, our Lord through the Psalmist, “ Be still (that means, hunker down, take cover) and know I am God.” And, Jesus also says, “I have overcome the world.” Jesus went through suffering, too, on His way to the cross. He faced the ridicule and rejection by the Pharisees. He endured Satan’s temptations and, for us, resisted them all. The Lamb of God, He was led to the slaughter of a criminal’s cross to be numbered with the transgressors and take away our sin. On the third day, He rose, triumphant over death, suffering, hell and Satan. Nothing can upset His victory. His victory is complete. Nothing can take Him off His eternal throne as He lives and rules to all eternity. He who is love incarnate goes with us through our agony, our times of hunger, our sicknesses, shame, fear and uncertainty. “God so loved the world…” that He sent Love into the midst of our lives. Though Jesus has ascended visibly from our sight, He engages us everyday. Every time, He draws us to read or hear His Word, He’s there. Every time, we receive public absolution in the Divine Service, He speaks anew the forgiveness that He purchased for us on Calvary. Every tine, He brings us to confess to our pastor or a friend privately something we’ve said, thought or done, that forgiveness is as valid as if Christ Himself stood visibly in front of us. He’s cleansed us of our sins and placed His cross on us. He gathers us to hear our pastor preach and then distributes His crucified and risen body and blood to us. All this confirms and upholds Jesus’ promises. Come what may in our lives, He’s with us always till He returns. What then of upsets? Nothing can upset or overthrow His love for us. What a joy and privilege it is for us to pray that our Lord will hold our confidence firm. That’s His will and He does it every day.