PROCLAIM WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE
As we share scripture and celebrate God’s deliverance, we will be looking at the wonder of God at work, at the great things God has done.
Throughout God’s history with his people there have been many times when the people have thought they had been forgotten. On Thursday we remembered God’s deliverance as we shared a Seder meal and recounted the plagues of Egypt and God’s deliverance. Through the time of the Judges, on many occasions their enemies overwhelmed them and God would raise up a judge who would lead them to victory. Through the age of the Kings, and through the time of exile there were many times when the people thought God had forgotten them. But through the prophet Jeremiah, God promised the people that despite the difficulties they were experiencing, and the exile made many of them refugees, God was present and God’s love remained unchanged. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
In the days of Jesus, once again the people were oppressed and persecuted. Their sense of hope was collapsing, their faith was growing faint. But the words of Jeremiah continued to be sounded. God was reaching out and as the new church was beginning to grow and expand, Peter, Jesus’ disciple, declared, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” The good news is that all are accepted! All are welcome! All are important! All are included!
This is the good news! The Psalmist said:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
The Lord’s right hand is lifted high;
the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
I will not die but live,
and will proclaim what the Lord has done.”
And now, I want to invite you to proclaim what God has done for you!
TIME OF TESTIMONY
His Mercy is Everlasting!
When the Nation of Israel gathered for worship, they declared the everlasting mercy of God! The Hebrew word is the CHESED, it is the word for love that knows no limit. It is mercy and it is grace. Throughout Psalm 136, as well as other Psalms, God’s CHESED is proclaimed in response to God’s actions.
And the CHESED of God is on display with absolute clarity on the morning of the resurrection. While the details of the resurrection are remembered differently by each of the gospel writers, one of the common features in all 4 gospels is the fact that it was the women who first witnessed the resurrection.
We have become well acquainted with this fact, and pointing it out is not a big deal for us. However, in Jesus’ day, women held the same place in society that a black man held in the Jim Crow South. Generally she could not own property, she was not given a voice in decisions that were made in the community, and she was not permitted to testify in court. Women were disenfranchised in every way imaginable. And yet, when God raised Jesus from death, the witnesses, the ones who reported the resurrection to the disciples were the women! The most unlikely of all the disciples of Jesus, the women, were made the first ambassadors of good news. They were the ones who brought the message of Life to the rest of the world.
Even today, God chooses the least likely to declare that his Mercy is everlasting! One of my favorite authors, Mike Yaconelli told a story that reminded me of God’s continual love for us. He wrote:
“I travel a lot, and I came to San Francisco one night and missed my connection back home. I was angry and upset, and I called my son on the phone. I wanted him to encourage me. I said, “Man, I’m stuck in the airport; it’s been a horrible day. I’ve been traveling too much.”
“My son said, “You know, Dad, if you didn’t travel so much, you wouldn’t have things like this happen.” Well, I didn’t appreciate that. I was ticked off. I said, ‘let me talk to your son [my two-year-old grandson].’
Well, I forgot that when you’re two you can’t talk, and when you’re 60 you can’t hear. This is not a good combination. He’s mumbling on the phone. I’m hoping that this is going to make me feel better. It’s making me feel worse. Finally, I’ve had it. I hear the phone drop onto the floor. Now, I hear the kids playing. I’m stuck in the airport. I have this miserable experience. I’m furious and angry, when all of a sudden I hear crystal clear over the phone, “I love you, Grampa.”
You know what? All my anxiety, everything went out the window.
There are people who are so busy they’re at their wits’ end. If they’d only stop for a minute, they could hear the God of the universe whisper to them, “I love you.”
And that is what God is saying through the people who are disenfranchised, through lesbian and gay women and men who have discovered the embrace of a God who does not show favoritism, through the children who sing 1,2,3 He is Alive, and through the Psalms that remind us that the CHESED of God is forever! Let’s join together and sing “Forever!”
Not Abandoned – Not Forsaken
My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me? Have there ever been more heart wrenching words spoken? They are words of abandonment. In these words rest the core of what it means to be forsaken.
And yet, in these very words we can find the seed of hope. You see, these words from the cross, are words from the Psalms, they are words of prayer that begins with abandonment, but as the Psalmist and I believe Jesus prays, it is changed and we learn of their faith:
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!
They are not forsaken. And that is the message of Paul in Colossians 3, no matter what you have experienced, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” You are not forsaken, you are not forgotten!
In fact, the very woman who came to the tomb because her hope was exhausted, Mary Magdalene, the woman who could only believe that someone had stolen the body of Jesus, discovered that she had not been forsaken.
As she cried in the place of the dead, the most forsaken place in the world, Jesus spoke to her. It is her story that is told in the hymn “In the Garden.” “I come to the garden alone, . . . and the voice I hear fall on my ear, the Son of God discloses.”
Perhaps you find yourself with Mary in the garden. Your hopes have been dashed. Your children have become estranged. Your best friend has betrayed your trust. Your wife has been diagnosed with cancer. You listen to the news and do not see any hope. You stand in the cemetery by a fresh grave that was opened far too soon. And you feel forsaken.
At that moment, I invite you to hear the words of the Psalm:
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,
because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Open your heart and hear the words of the two year old who is speaking God’s words, “I love you, Grandpa.” And receive those words today because your Redeemer lives.