October 7, 2018

So Much to Sing About

20th Sunday of Pentecost

First Lesson:  1 John 2:28-3:2

Gospel Lesson:  Mark 10:13-16

Sermon Text:  Habakkuk 2:20

This week's sermon is accompanied by a presentation.  The slides can be viewed here.

“The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.”
Dear Friends,
I’m going to tell you about a godly man who recognized that the people of his nation were in great need of God’s presence and power in their lives. So, he prayed that God would come to them and show His power.
Habakkuk asked God why He seemed to be so indifferent to the appalling spiritual condition of His people. The people of Judah were horrible. They showed no regard for morality or decency. The things they did were clearly the opposite of what God commanded – and more than that they were also caught up in idolatry. Habakkuk asks,
How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? (Hab 1:2,3)
Habakkuk prays that God would do something to stop them and their wicked behavior. God answers, “I will send the Babylonians to utterly overrun the people of Judah.” Then Habakkuk answers back, “Wait. Not that. Can’t you do something else?”
Even though it was obvious that the people around him lived lives filled with injustice and irreverence Habakkuk was reminded that God could change the way things were at any time He chose. Regarding the severity of God’s judgment: Habakkuk recognized that God could also be trusted to deal with the evil Babylonians and their sins. But with equal certainty God assured His prophet that He was going to deal with the sins of Judah, because His own holiness had been insulted by these people who were known by His name. This is when Habakkuk called for silence among the people: No more preaching. No more warnings. God has determined to bring judgment on His people because of their sin.

            The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him. (Hab 2:20)
“Now the Silence.” Why would Habakkuk, why should we, be silent before the LORD when there is obviously so much wrong in our lives and in the world around us? Shouldn’t we protest the wickedness that appears to be rampant in this world and ask God to do something about it? Some have likened this Old Testament lesson, to “the calm before a storm” – a pregnant pause – before God Himself rises from His throne to demonstrate His power and His justice.
The silence is a call for certain trust – the holding of one’s breath - in awesome anticipation of God demonstrating His power and His rule over all creation.
Our silence in the presence of God, each time we gather to worship, is a demonstration of our trust that God is in control. Right now, in the silence before the storm, you and I have the same opportunity to turn our hearts away from our natural infatuation with everything that is earthly and temporal and give to God our complete love and confidence. Right now, even while we are still faced with the distress and calamities of the day, our silence, as we stand before God, displays our calm assurance in His justice and His power.
Let’s look at one more man and his story about coming into the presence of the LORD. King David was a man of God, but his life was not without troubles. At one time his own king, Saul, sought to kill David. He suffered grief; and tragedy started with he the way became king, at the death of his best friend, Jonathan. David’s infant son died. Another son tried to kill David. Yet he writes,

            I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1
David found peace in the house of the LORD. As you enter this church building, there is the expectation that you are entering a place that is peaceful and tranquil. You can leave all the cares and worries of your lives outside the church. You come into this building to find and to enjoy peace for your soul.
Here in God’s house we find peace for those things that trouble our souls. Our souls might be deeply troubled by the enormity of our sin because we realize how our sin offends God and deserves His punishment. When we come to church it is our desire to be rid of this guilt of sin. The only way that the load of sin is lifted is to be assured that God has forgiven the sinner, by His grace and mercy, through Jesus Christ. Such assurance is found here in God’s house. It is found in the gospel which is proclaimed in Word and sacrament.
Expressing our confidence that God is in control of our lives, no matter how chaotic they might be, we also come to praise the name of the LORD. And despite the difficulties and challenges of our lives, each one of us has So Much to Sing About, and so many reasons to praise our LORD.
Ultimately, it is here that you find, “the peace of God which transcends all understanding.”  As our weekly worship comes to an end we await the promise of God: that as His children, forgiven through Jesus Christ, assured that God is watching over every aspect of our lives, we can leave His house, “In peace.” Jaroslav Vajda writes it poetically,
I the Lord will bless and keep you And give you peace;
I the Lord will smile upon you And give you peace;
I the Lord with be your Father, Savior, Comforter and Brother.
Go my children; I will keep you And give you peace.