Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
 For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
 for he does not willingly afflict
or grieve the children of men. Lament. 3:31-33 (ESV)
I suppose it is one of the hardest questions to answer, “why the pain?” Why the suffering? It is universal in this world. Good and bad, poor and rich, we all suffer in this world. At the bottom of all suffering is sin death. Sin and death are the causes of pain and suffering in this world. It isn’t God, but it is sin and death. And if we were to live forever in this sinful world, then we would live forever in the misery of it. For the Christian death is a portal to a better life. But for those who don’t put their trust in God? Well, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in all the pain and misery that this world brings only to wake up to an eternity of more intense pain. Thank God, He has come up with a plan to save us from that misery. Thank God He has sent His Son to die for us, to live in the misery of this world, and to die in our place that we would not be cast off forever.
It has long been the suspicion of Lutherans that the reformed (that is most “protestants” most especially those who follow Calvin theologically.) worship an evil god of their own making, because they blame God for everything that happens in this world. Phillip Nicolai, the great hymnist who gave us the tune “Wie Schön Leuchtet” or “O Morning Star How Fair and Bright,” went so far as to say that they worshiped the devil. He was not going to blame the loss of his beloved parishioners to the bubonic plague on the will of God. He knew from scripture that the will of God was nothing more than a loving desire for all to be saved.
“But, though He cause grief, He will have compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love; for He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” He does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.
It is not God’s will that we suffer. Man has a hard time with that. God is all powerful. He created the world. What then is beyond His control? If we suffer it must be according to His will, even if He says it is not. And these are hard things to reconcile. Perhaps as hard as it was for me to figure out how it hurt my dad more than me when he bent me over his knee. To be honest I still think that was a cliché he used without much thought. Bare bottomed spankings hurt.
I suppose though there may be an analogy here for us. It isn’t God that brought death into this world. God had created this world perfectly. It was good. We see a shadow of that goodness even today, a shadow of it that will become reality once again in heaven. I don’t think you can look at the gorgeous mountains around us, and not see a shadow of that goodness. Just the sheer magnificence of creation. I don’t think you can share the love of a spouse or child, mother and or father without experiencing a remnant of that goodness, the perfection with which God created this world. Perhaps, it is a day spent fishing with a boy on a lake, sharing a beer with a friend, a game of darts in the evening, a church picnic, an afternoon spent with your husband or wife, or the joy of a first date, and there you experience the wonder of God’s creation. The relationships He has given us to enjoy. Yes, there, right there. And God created them for us to enjoy. Or perhaps it is the silent solitude of a morning spent in the garden, and the satisfaction of watching flowers bloom, our own little creations taking shape as we reconfigure the landscape. God created us in His image. He is the creator. Bearing His image we were created to create. This last week they found a flute made out of a bird bone, supposedly 35,000 years old. (I’m a skeptic when it comes to dating things, but no doubt this is an old flute.) I look at that and see the image of our maker, a shadow of it peeking through even in the most ancient of men. Yet even there in this magnificent creation, a flute made of hollow bird bone, we see the destruction of God’s good creation. There we see the death of a bird that gave up its bone. Not to far from that flute they found an ancient pornographic statuette. And even our natural impulse to create, is corrupted. I doubt that statuette reflected a desire to mimic, and capture the perfection of which God created the human body. I mean I’m not one to declare Michelangelo’s statue of David pornographic. There is a sense in which man cannot help but have high admiration for the human body, and the in artist can’t help the desire to express that admiration. But the exaggerated detail of this little statuette makes me think pornography, the abuse of God’s creation, and the people he has put in our lives, whom we are to love, has been a long standing problem with man.
When Adam and Eve sinned this world lost its shine, its glory. Ever been fishing, and thought what if life could just be this? Well, heaven is going to be something like that. I don’t know about death in the garden. Seems people didn’t eat but fruits and vegetables. I don’t know if they were to eat meat or not. Seems we will in heaven, which Isaiah describes as a banquet with the best of wine, and aged meat. That is what God wants for us. Life without the hassle. Life without death. Life to enjoy family, friends, and communion with Him. This life? Who wants it?
God blocked entry to the garden of Eden so man would not eat of the tree of life and live forever in their sin. Sin is unbearable.
Oh, I’m sure Sanford enjoyed his stay in Argentina, but it sure has caused a lot of pain in its wake. That is one hangover I would not want to wake up too. And yet we do? A hangover is a good analogy I suppose. Sin, it looks enticing. It can even be enjoyable for a time, but it leads to pain and suffering. If not in you, then in those around you. God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. But we do. Do we not? Sometimes we lash out in pain seeking revenge. At other times we get so caught up on self we have no care, and don’t think for a second of what are actions will do to others. And we willingly afflict and grieve the children of men, even our own children. And then death comes in and robs life of all meaning and purpose. Seriously, “The Purpose Driven Life”? Read Ecclesiastes, it is all vanity; vanity of vanities! Empty, meaningless. And we wouldn’t care if there was no sin, and death. But there is and then there is pain, and we are left with the question why? Why, because we hate it. Why? We are left to almost hate life itself in the face of death, as if it would have been better never to have lived at all. Never to have known the thrill of a first date or honey moon. Never to have known the joys of a back yard BBQ. Never to have seen the sun come up casting a pink halo over a snow clad Deseret peak, while you enjoy a good cup of coffee. And Solomon for all his wisdom, could give us nothing more than that. It’s meaningless, go and enjoy it. When it is all said and done there won’t be anything more to this life than the experience on a lake shore with a couple fishing poles between a boy and a dad, a Saturday morning waking up next to your wife, a Friday night shared with friends, or a Sunday morning with God spent in a sanctuary filled with more friends and family. Nothing better in life than to enjoy your work. That is one aspect of my life and work I enjoy the most, Sunday Mornings with you. I don’t know if you know this, but I look forward to seeing all of you on Sunday morning. I wait for it. Sundays, are possibly the days I look forward to most in my week, as I anticipate forgiveness, and the expectation of seeing and being with friends, worshiping God. It makes life enjoyable. It is what God wants for us, life together in His name and His forgiveness. Because He does not willingly afflict, but would have compassion according to His steadfast love. His steadfast love that never ceases, the mercies that never come to an end, and are new every morning
Every morning, they are new. Because His faithfulness is great. “The Lord is my portion, Therefore I will hope in him.”
Hope in Him. We hope in Him, and in Him we find life. Hope in Him is not disappointed. For it was He who answered our pain, our suffering and conquered sin and death. He was the one who took the yoke upon Him in His youth, and bore it in the form of a cross, to sit in silence, dead for three days when it was laid upon him, the yoke of death. Oh then His mouth ate the dust, where the serpent swarms, gave His cheek to the insults of the world, that there would be hope, that there would be hope for those who hope in Him. Because the Lord will not cast off forever. The Lord will not cast off forever. His love is too great. So it was His hope that manifested itself, His love in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who took the yoke of death, and buried it in the dust of His grave, and after three days rose from the dead, that we might live in Him. It was the hope of God to see us live, to give us life. Because His will is not to grieve, not to afflict, but to have compassion, and shower us with mercies in accordance with His steadfast love. For the sake of His son who died in our place that we might live.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord Amen.