Saturday, September 20, 2014

Isaiah 55:6-8; The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost; September 21, 2014;


Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston & Mount Ayr, Iowa;

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let 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. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:6–8, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Seek the Lord… It’s a great idea. This is a great text. It’s hard to read this one and think that God is far away, isn’t it? It’s hard to read this text and think that God isn’t ready to be found! It falls right on the heels of another great one. Only a few verses before this one is that great invitation… “Come all who are thirsty, come to the waters; you who have no money, come buy and eat…” What an invitation. To come and get what you need without money. Com to God, he has what you need. “Seek the Lord…” That’s a pretty sweet invitation.

But, wait a second. Is it really that sweet? Do we really want to seek this Lord? … This God? After all, the last thing this text says is that his ways aren’t like ours. It says that he thinks differently than we do.

For example… we like things to be easy. We like things to go smoothly. When the car breaks down, or the house isn’t quite clean enough we get pretty difficult to live with. We are impatient, and crabby, when things get tough, we’re not happy. I don’t think “this God” thinks that way. The way God thinks was made pretty clear to me one day when I visited the nursing home.

“Linda,” is said quietly, really hoping not to disturb the fragile looking woman lying in front of me. “I’m awake,” she said without opening her eyes. It was and odd scene… I was standing beside the bed, which looked freshly made. Her tiny body was hardly even visible… it didn’t even seem to make a lump in the blankets… almost as if she wasn’t there at all. Her eyes were sunken and dark, her skin was pink, paper thin, and her hair practically non-existent. She lay there still and quiet, waiting for me to speak again. “How are you?” I asked timidly. “Tired.” She stated, as I knew she would. “I’m patient,” she added, “I only wish I knew how much longer I will have to wait. But, right now… I have to wait. His way is best.” These were the same words she spoke, every time we met. … the same words of hope and faith.

She opened her eyes, even though they almost seemed clear they were still full of life. No amount of wishing would wish that away. “What shall we pray for today?” I asked, already knowing what she would say. It would be the same as last time, and the time before that. Her strongest desire was that the waiting would be over, that she would finally be “with Jesus.” “I don’t know why I’m still here,” she would say, “I keep telling myself that his ways are better than mine. I just have to wait.”

I’m not sure I could wait as long as Linda did. Her husband died twenty years before. Her friends were gone. Before she was at the home, she sat alone in her house. Her children were far away… old, weak and tired. Hadn’t she lived long enough? Hadn’t she seen enough? What was God waiting for? It wasn’t like she wanted to be rich or healthy or beautiful or anything like that… She just wanted to be with her Lord. Yet that’s the way this God thinks. We want it easy. He allows us to develop patience through hardship. We want things to go smoothly. He gives us strength in trouble. We want it all to go well, right now. He wants us to go his way. Do we want to see a God like this?

Yet, here we are, gathered together, seeking the Lord. Why? Because we know he’ll have problems. We know will not always have it easy. So we seek his strength, his patience, his way, even when we don’t always like his way.

But that’s not the only reason we ‘seek the Lord.’ Remember the text, right there in the middle of it. It says, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts. It says turn to God and he will have mercy. That isn’t the way we think either! We know how we feel when people sin against us. Think about when your children delay, or forget to visit you. Or when a friend stabs you in the back or people deliberately hurt you. You become angry. That’s what we expect from God, too. That he won’t forgive those who disobey him. That he will punish them somehow.

Thank God, he doesn’t think the way we do. Thank God, his ways aren’t our ways. Remember the text, it says, “He will abundantly pardon.” It isn’t that he just forgets about sin. He’s deadly serious about it. It’s just that his way isn’t ours. Thankfully when it comes to sin, he took care of it. That abundant pardon comes to us because of Jesus. He didn’t think like we do either. He went to the cross so we could be pardoned. He was treated as a wicked and unrighteous man deserves, even though he was perfect. He was punished instead of the ones who are wicked and unrighteous… hey! That is us! But that’s why we can turn to God, and like the text says, “He pardons us for Jesus sake, even though we didn’t deserve it. That’s what makes this invitation so great. That’s why we seek him.

You know what? That’s not all that it means to seek the Lord. It says to seek him while he may be found. What’s that all about? When can he be found? Where can he be found? Mary and the other women were asking those same questions when they went to Jesus tomb. Instead of finding him in it, it was empty. An angel told them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” He is alive! Again God’s ways aren’t our ways. We expect dead people to stay dead. That’s what those women expected. We don’t visit the graves of our friend and family expecting to find them empty. God’s way… is that graves are empty. God’s way of raising people begins with raising Jesus. God’s way is a promise that our graves will one day be empty.

When can Jesus be found? … This Jesus who now lives? Where can Jesus be found? Right now! Right here! He has made it easy to find him.

Look He’s here in this house. We are gathered together in His name, brothers and sisters in Christ. Together we speak and sing about what He has done for us. We have been given his name in Holy Baptism. Our lives together reflect the love He has given us. Think about all the things we do for one another from prayer to visits during illness.

Look, he’s here in his Word. His Word is where we find out about who he is, and what he has done. We hear about his life, death and resurrection. We hear about what he said, and learn about who he is. And we learn that he did it all for us, and we respond in faith.

Look he’s here in His Supper. Really, truly present… in, with and under the bread and wine, offering us forgiveness, life and salvation. Here he comes to us to touch us and strengthen our faith. Isn’t it just like our Lord, to know what we need and make it easy to find him? But, that’s just the way he thinks.

So… seek the Lord, while he may be found… right now, right here. Don’t worry that it seems strange, don’t worry that it isn’t what you expect. Remember He doesn’t think the way we do. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

No comments: