“Brace for Grace”
July 19, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Remove, O Lord, any tension or anxiety, any stress or worry, anything, which may keep us from fulfilling Your wishes of who we could be. Fill us with the grace of the Father, the strength of the Son, and the hope of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Stunned with anxiety. Overwhelmed with wonder and worry. Paralyzed with panic. Maybe it was a paper or a presentation (or a sermon) that was due the next day; maybe it was waiting for test results; or for a treatment plan after the results came back; maybe it was in regards to joblessness, or some financial investment.
I remember when I was 19-years old my Dad told me something about being a drama-queen over what I thought was a big decision – and then he came back and apologized because (his actual words were that “the world was not going to come to an end”), in reality, the world I knew was coming to an end. Everything was about to change. What is world-ending for one person might be very different from what is world-ending for another. But his first comment left me feeling alone, abandoned in my time of need.
Has anyone here ever felt that sense of fear, followed by that feeling of “there’s-no-one-to-help”?
When we first moved to Spokane we looked and looked for the right home, in the right kind of neighborhood, at the right price, etc.; and it seemed to take forever. We actually made several trips to Spokane, from Tacoma, for the sole purpose of house-shopping – and Loreen kindly let this family of five (including two who were still in diapers) stay in her basement while we went house-hunting. When we finally moved to Spokane, with no home to move into yet (and a home in Tacoma not yet sold!), we rented a house near where the Winningham’s live now. We took a cut in pay, to move and pay rent on top of still paying a ballooning mortgage. Stunned, overwhelmed, and just a little bit panicky.
I read a true-story this week about a medical missionary who was accidentally wounded and exposed to the AIDS virus so his team treated him with some meds, but they needed to fly him home to the States as quickly as possible. His grown daughter was with him. His temperature rose to over 104`, and his heart started beating irregularly, and his breathing became erratic. She prayed that there might be another doctor on the plane that could help her take care of him – she was stunned, overwhelmed, and paralyzed.
We have been investing this Summer in an extended sermon series on God’s amazing Grace – how it is so far more than we deserve, and so far greater what we imagine. Listen with me to God’s Word, from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, chapter 30. This chapter is in a section where God speaks thru the prophet against His own people who have ignored His Word and gone their own way. But even with their obstinacy, and now their desperation, their stunned, overwhelming paralysis, listen to God’s Word with them. Isaiah 30:18-29 …. —-
18 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!
19 People of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you.20 Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them.21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” 22 Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, “Away with you!”
23 He will also send you rain for the seed you sow in the ground, and the food that comes from the land will be rich and plentiful. In that day your cattle will graze in broad meadows. 24 The oxen and donkeys that work the soil will eat fodder and mash, spread out with fork and shovel. 25 In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill. 26 The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.
27 See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar, with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;
his lips are full of wrath, and his tongue is a consuming fire.
28 His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck.
He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction; he places in the jaws of the peoples a bit that leads them astray.
29 And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice
as when people playing pipes go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.
May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails.
How many of you have ever been to the beach, maybe along the coast of the Pacific Ocean? Who can remember the first time you stepped into the cold salty water, with the cold waves splashing against your ankles? And then you remember wading deeper into the water, where the waves are a bit bigger and you’re wondering, “should I jump over it, or dive under it?” And, that one-second delay, in your deer-in-the-headlights moment, the wave hits and you have no ability to stand against its force. Your feet are swept out from underneath you, and your head is knocked into the hard surface; and before you can get your bearings – the next wave comes – and then the next.
Anyone remember that day?
Now replace the cold, salt-water, waves of death with an even more overwhelming force of God’s comforting and totally surprising Grace – and that’s what Isaiah is describing.
This is a word addressed to the people of Jerusalem, about 700 years before Christ, at a time when they were so caught up in living their lives apart from God – that they could do nothing more than scream and cry. Do we not live in just such a time?
And because the God who is addressing them is the same God who addresses us, we can hear His promise to them as a promise to us as well.
The Lord longs to be gracious to us – what might be the obstacle to His Grace reaching us?
Blessed are all who wait for Him – maybe our lack of patient trust in Him is the main obstacle? Can we trust Him enough to wait for His timing and circumstances? Can we trust God enough to endure the hardships while we wait?
How gracious He will be when we cry for help! As soon as He hears, He will answer us – what help are we crying for? Is it some chronic, even terminal, medical diagnosis? Does it deal with addictions? Is there a broken relationship that haunts us? Are we afraid of our financial future? Do we face some legal warrants we don’t deserve? How gracious He will be when we cry for help!
Our ears will hear a voice behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – what is God telling us today? What is He telling you right now?
Remember that medical missionary I mentioned? His daughter rushed him to an airplane headed back to the States, with a fever of 104`, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, and she prayed that there might be another physician on board. When she finally turned to the passengers and asked, do you know what she found? This plane was filled with, more than 100, physicians returning to the States from their own overseas missionary ministries! Wave after wave of Grace.
They all prayed together, and they all knew what to do if more complications arose – and over time this very sick man recovered with no signs of the AIDS virus.
Remember the trouble Jennifer and I had in finding the house we believed the Lord might be leading us to? Our realtor finally took us to a house that was not yet on the market – it was a house he had once lived in 20 years earlier; it was a house our realtor had bought from Loreen’s son who was the first owner and resident of this house (Loreen, the PNC member’s basement we lived in all those weekends ago) and while we had a lease on the house we were renting, and still owned the house we had in Tacoma – in less than a week our Tacoma house sold (for exactly the same price this house cost us) and our lease was bought out at a reduced price; and, we learned a few months later, our new house had neighbors on either side of us, who were directly related to the pastor who baptized me as an infant in Arvada, CO, 34 years earlier!
Our ears had heard a voice behind us, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Wave after wave of Grace.
Isaiah 30 adds with these words: His breath is like a rushing torrent, rising up to the neck….
And you will sing as on the night you celebrate a holy festival; your hearts will rejoice as when people playing pipes go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel.
Like wave after wave, God’s Grace pummels us with love. John’s Gospel says that (John 1) 14 the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.15 (John [the Baptist] bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace [grace in place of grace, grace after grace, wave after wave of grace]. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
St. Paul confides in us his own anxiety and frustration (II Corinthians 12) when he says, “There was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, ‘My Grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness.’”
Look back at your own anxieties, wonderings, worries and panics. Can you see any forms of God’s Grace sustaining you through your turmoil? We fear His Grace will run out, be insufficient; but God’s supply of Grace is never exhausted! His bank of Grace always has sufficient funds. God’s offer of Grace never runs dry.
Wave after wave of Grace. Are you in need of a little extra Grace this morning? If you believe God loves you, get ready for a torrent of Grace. Brace yourself, for God’s Grace upon Grace to conquer your fear and overwhelm your wonder and pummel your panic.
Why would any of us allow anyone in our circles of influence to fall short of the grace of God? Hebrews 12:15 reminds us to “Let NO ONE fall short of the grace of God.” Let’s pass God’s invitation on to our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our co-workers, our classmates; let’s invite them to experience the inundating GRACE of God – today! Amen.
“Dear God, by Your transforming grace, help Your church point beyond itself through word and work to the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord. Fill this room again, with Holy Spirit power take hold of each person that is open to Your spiritual gifts and anoint us in ways everyone will know is from You. Fill this place, ignite our faith, fan the flame, and burn brightly through Your people into our neighborhoods, by Your Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Lucado, Max; Grace: More than We Deserve, Greater than We Imagine; Thomas Nelson; Nashville, TN; 2012; Pp. 93-101.