Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
6“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. 8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9 (ESV)
(Thanks to Rev. Richard Jordan)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When we are young it seems that we spend a lot of time thinking about growing up. Later on it changes and we spend a great deal of time trying to stay young. Part of growing up is a little ritual that happens, and it seems to happen to almost everyone. When we are very young, our parents carry us. These days there’s appears to be a comeback in the infant carrying slings that people wear. But, it isn’t long until we can walk on our own. Now usually walking on our own comes with an agreement between us and our parents. “You can walk, but you must hold my hand.” It’s a good agreement. We were too old to be carried like babies, our parents were allowing us to grow up and walk on our own, but they would provide direction and guidance. They gave us their hand to show us the way and so that we wouldn’t get lost. But soon we begin to think that we don’t need to hold their hand anymore, so we push it away and take off on our own. We think we are too old to hold our parents hand, we want to find our own way and we are sure we won’t get lost.
Now we could say that all this is just a part of growing up. Really it is SIN showing up in our young lives. We are rebelling against authority. We don’t want to obey our parents, and for the first time act like God, making our own way, trying to do our own thing. That’s really what the first sin is all about, too. Adam and Eve pushed God’s hand away. They wanted to find their own way and make their own decisions. Most of the time, we think about sin as the things we do wrong or about how we don’t measure up to God’s standards. But, another way of looking at it is to see sin in terms of rebellion.
Rebellion is the rejection of authority. We’ve all been there. At some point in time we violated the agreement between us and our parents. We slipped our hand out of theirs. You wanted to go it on your own. You may have even had somewhere you wanted to go but you knew that the hand holding yours wouldn’t allow. So, with some effort you disconnect yourself and off you went on our own. After a time of freedom, after a brief dash out of sight, you found yourself alone. At first it was ok, but soon you begin to realize the position you are in, alone and you looked again for the hand to hold. Panic set in and soon tears may have even flowed, because you were lost.
When we are lost our parents go out to look for us, even though we have pushed ourselves from them. It is their love that compels them to find us. They will go to great lengths to come to where we are and take hold of our hand and guide us again.
Every day of our lives we go through the very same thing with God. Just like we didn’t want to hold on to our parent’s hand, every day we struggle with God not wanting him to direct us. We are positive we are “grown up” enough to walk on our own. We know that we are “mature enough” to handle life however it comes to us. We don’t want God to carry us, and we certainly don’t want God to hold our hand, keeping us from things we want to do.
It sounds wrong to us. We have a strong tendency to think that God really wants us to grow up to be mature enough to live life on our own. My little daughter has been eating a lot lately; it seems she’s headed for a growth spurt. I asked her if she wanted to grow up. “No!” she said. I agreed, for a moment, and then I realized that she needed to grow up and become independent. But that’s not how it is with our relationship with God. We can never really be independent from him. Independence from God means to be separated from him and his will for our lives. Independence from God is to live life on completely human terms. When we want to do things on our own, we push God out of our lives. Independence from God is a place called hell. When we push God away from our lives, when we reject his guidance for our lives, we reject all that he has for us. When we live on our own terms we live in terms of our sinful nature. St. Paul says it like this:
5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Romans 8:5-7 (ESV)
The response of God to rejection is punishment and death. Well deserved punishment and death. Those who push themselves away from God should be lost forever.
And this is where our text speaks to us. We know God and still we continually push him out of our lives. God’s response to our slipping our hand out of his is to say to us (as Isaiah says), “let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. (Isa. 55:7)” That’s God calling out to us to repent and return to him. And just like the child who is lost from his parents, we don’t find our way back to God, we can’t find our way back. He comes to us and finds us.
God comes to the place where we are lost and finds us. He asks us to repent and turn toward him, but first he makes it possible by finding us. “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near;” He comes near to us, right to the place we are lost. God came into a dark and sinful world, a world full of his human creatures who had pushed themselves away from him. Jesus Christ found human beings right in the middle of their lives. He found us by becoming one of us. He was flesh and blood. He could be touched and seen and heard; God, able to be found; God, near enough to call on. Look at the picture on the front side of the worship folder. Just think, God himself, became a human person, with arms able to hold a child just like that picture. We can find Jesus because he wraps his loving arms around us. The only thing the picture is missing is nail marks in his hands. God so much wants us to be found that he did what was necessary to make it possible. He has compassion on us, even when we push him away; he abundantly pardons our sin of rebellion. And it’s not arbitrary. God doesn’t look the other way and ignore our rebellion. He takes care of the punishment we deserve. He does by taking it upon himself, our deserved punishment and death is placed on Jesus, and he took it and right there in our midst, right there in the middle of our world he paid that punishment in full, with is “holy and precious blood, and innocent suffering and death.” He was beaten and crucified to restore us to God. He received the eternal punishment for our rebellion. He suffered the punishment of hell for us. And that is where we find God. That is where he is to be found, hanging on our cross, suffering and dying for us.
Where is God to be found today? The very same God, Jesus Christ is found right here in our worship. He promises to be present with us to forgive our sins. He is found here in his word and sacraments. His hand reaches out to us with the water of baptism that says, “This is my child, I have found him.” He is found in his supper. The very same body and blood that hung on the cross is given to you in the bread and wine. You can find God right there in a very specific place. And where you find him you find forgiveness. You find his compassion. You find his pardon for your rebellion. God makes it possible for us. He puts himself right here to be found. He comes near to us. Reaches out his and takes our hand, when we are lost. So we can walk with him, and he can direct our lives again. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.