Good morning, Friends!
This has been a very difficult week. We’ve had days of bad news from Washington. And we had the most deaths from COVID in a single day.
I wish that I had an answer for everything this week. I don’t.
I’m not going to talk politics. That’s not in my job description. People come here to worship. We come as a refuge from that kind of thing.
Last week, here at Springfield, we talked about hope. It’s a new year. Time for a fresh start. People felt so much relief that the old year was done.
I reminded you all that there were many blessings we had in 2020. There were many good things that we did.
People reached out in wonderful ways last year to each other. We fought against loneliness. We fought against fear. We found new ways to worship together. We took a terrible year, and we worked together to make it into as good a year as possible.
So, last week, we talked about hope. And I’m not going to take back one word of what I said. I am still filled with hope.
But part of Christian hope is always remembering who we put our hope in. Our deepest hope always needs to be in God, who made us. Our hope needs to be in Jesus, who saves us, and in the Holy Spirit, which speaks in our hearts and guides us.
Last week I read to you from Psalm 27, with its great words, “I believe that I shall see the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord!”
As I said, I’m not going to take any of that back. Today, I want to read to you from another Psalm of faith and hope, this time from Psalm 103.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me, bless God’s holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not His benefits:
who forgives whatever you have done wrong,
who heals your diseases,
who redeems your life,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
who satisfies you with good as long as you live,
so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord doesn’t accuse us;
The Lord doesn’t harbor anger against us;
The Lord doesn’t treat us as we deserve,
or repay us according to what we’ve done.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is God’s love for those who respect him,
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does God remove our failures from us.
As parents have compassion for their children,
so the Lord has compassion on us.
For the Lord knows how we are made;
He remembers that we are dust.
Our days are like grass, which grows up like a flower in the field;
We flourish, then the wind passes over us,
and we’re gone, and remembered no more.
But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting,
his righteousness is with their children’s children,
to all who keep God’s promises and remember God’s teaching.
The Lord’s throne is in the heavens;
his kingdom is over all.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.Psalm 103
The problems we are facing this week didn’t just happen overnight. They were a long time coming. And they will take a long time to heal.
It will take time for the vaccines to be distributed and administered. It will take a long time for things to get back to normal. It’ll take a while for people to calm down from the events of last week.
We need time to heal. We all need faith to get us through. We need hope, so that we don’t just look down at our feet. We need to look up, and believe that God will help us.
All the big things that are going on are important. But there are little things going on, too, every day. There are places where we can make a difference.
This week I watched as they loaded up all the food we collected this past month, and as they took it over to COAT. That’s a little thing. But every gift counts.
People who were hungry, who were afraid they weren’t going to have enough to eat, gave thanks this week, because of gifts you gave.
That’s a small thing. But sometimes God likes small things.
Today’s Scripture reading says for us not to forget God. To remember all the good things God has done for us.
God forgives us. God heals us. God redeems us, which means that God pays the price and gives us our lives back.
There’s a special word or phrase where it talks about God’s steadfast love. The Bible uses those words over and over. God’s love is rock solid, like the mountains that stand forever. God loves us before we’re born, and God’s love for us continues, even after we die.
God isn’t angry at us. This epidemic isn’t God punishing us. God is here beside us, beside every person and every family that’s suffering and grieving and afraid.
God is inspiring every doctor and every nurse and health care worker, every scientist who’s fighting this thing, everybody who does their best to help in this time. God isn’t angry with us. God is with us.
“As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is God’s love for those who respect him. As far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove our failures from us.”
We can hardly imagine how great and wide God’s love and mercy are for us. Paul said that nothing – height, depth, things in our past, things in our future, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.
So, the events of this week are important. But don’t give up on God. We are still here. We still have a hope and a future. God isn’t done with us yet.
We know how much our parents took care of us. We know how much love we have for our children. Today’s Scripture says, “As parents have compassion for their children, so the Lord has compassion on us.”
God loves us more than the best mother or father we could ever imagine. We know how our parents fed us, clothed us, taught us, raised us up, helped us to learn from our mistakes, bandaged us when we got hurt – all those things that parents do.
God does all that, and more. God loves us with a steadfast love, a love greater than a mountain, a love that never ends.
Today’s Scripture says, “the Lord knows how we are made; He remembers that we are dust.”
I don’t know if you remember the story of creation in Genesis, where it says that God made the first human being from the dust of the ground. That’s us. That’s still us.
We are all made from the same common clay, no matter what shape or color we are.
And God knows how vulnerable we are. God knows how easy it is for us to get blown around by the wind, how short our time here really is. God knows all that, and God loves us just the same.
I’m not saying God doesn’t care about our epidemics and our personal problems and our political crises and all the rest of the things we get upset about. Just the opposite!
I’m saying that even though God has this tremendously bigger perspective than we do, even though God’s time frame is infinity and God’s resources are beyond imagining – God cares about us. God hears every prayer and understands every injustice.
In spite of all our limitations, and all our mistakes, God still thinks that we are the best do-it-yourself project that God ever made. And that’s not just my exaggeration. That’s what the Bible says, over and over again.
We are the apple of God’s eye. We are the beloved children of God. We are the sheep of God’s pasture, precious in God’s sight, the lost ones who God wants search out and rescue.
Last week, I said that this needs to be a year of hope. Today, I want to add that this needs to be a year of healing.
We need healing from this epidemic. We need healing from our division. We need healing from the injustice and hatred that goes back for generations.
It needs to start here. It needs to start in our hearts.
I want this place to be a place where people are eager to come, because they know they’re going to hear God’s word, and where they know they’ll be loved and welcomed.
I want us to know about God’s steadfast love, God’s healing and mercy. We can’t tell other people about something we don’t know ourselves. And we can’t be shy about sharing the love of God. We can’t be shy about praying, or speaking the truth.
If we want peace, then this place needs to be a place of peace. And we need to be people with hearts of peace, who are peaceful in ourselves, and who want nothing but the best for everyone in our entire nation.
How we get to that place, I think we still need to discover. But where we need to begin, I’m absolutely sure about that.
We begin with hope. We begin with knowing that God loves us, and that God loves everyone else.
We begin with a desire for healing, for ourselves and for others.
We begin with prayer – prayer from the bottom of our hearts, not just off the top of our heads.
We begin with a desire for peace, a peace that is grounded in truth and fairness to everyone.
We begin with a determination to do better, in whatever area of life we can, and a willingness to see the best in each other.
We begin with a stated intention that we welcome everyone here to worship, no matter where you come from.
That’s where we need to start. How we get to where we’re going, I don’t know. I don’t have a road map. But we start with prayer, and with a desire for all these things in our heart.