Der Vasken’s Sermon on December 13, 2020

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  When you walk through the fires of life, you will not be burned up for I am the Lord, your God.”  [Isaiah 43:2-3]

In that passage I hope you heard the Good News offered in the Bible.  I think a lot of us these days are craving for some Good News.  In speaking with many of our parishioners over these COVID weeks and months, many of them opened up and shared from their heart that they are feeling lost and uncomfortable and a bit afraid with so much going on and things moving from bad to worse.  So I felt that these powerful words from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah would benefit us all.

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  And so on this middle Sunday leading up to Christmas, let me ask you a question and I ask you to think about it carefully.  Have you ever thought that your life should be more perfect or easier or less challenging because of your faith in God?  If you did, I bet you also realized pretty quickly that there are all kinds of trials and challenges in this world that we would give in to if we didn’t have our faith including relational, financial, physical and even moral challenges.

Some people expect life to be “heaven on earth” because of their faith but we all know that this is not heaven.  We even pray for God’s Will to be done on earth as it is in heaven because then life would be more perfect and easier and less challenging and the world would be so much better.  But on earth, God’s Will is seldom done.

In the Church language vernacular, it is worded that everything on this earth is broken in some way, or let me put it this way, everything is less than it would be or could be in heaven.  Everything is less than perfect.  Everything is less than the way God created it to be.  Let me share a few examples:

  • How people treat each other is an example.
  • The weather extremes that cause droughts or famine are examples.
  • Our bodies wearing down and becoming ill is a shared example.
  • Our relationships that don’t always turn out as we hoped they would is another example.
And we can be sure that because of this broken world, because of the wrongdoings that go on and because of selfishness and corruption and hatred and so many other negative things, bad things will happen.  But we can also trust God’s Promise to support us through all the trouble we will face on this earth.  “When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you, and when you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown!  For I am the Lord your God…”, He says.  [Isaiah 43:2-3]

But let’s be clear.  When we go through the deep waters of life and the rivers of difficulty in life, God doesn’t promise that we won’t get wet. We are going to go through some problems that have pain.  We are going to get wet, but God does promise that we are not going to sink if we put our trust in Him.  When we go through the fire, it is going to get hot.  But His promise says we are not going to burn up.  We are going to make it through.

So what do we do when life shakes us, when our health fails, when we or our child loses a job, when our dream fails, we we make that one bad decision?  What do we do when something that has defined us for most of our life is gone? What do we do when our perfect family is torn apart, when our finances dry up or when our talents and looks fade?  What do we do?  In times like these, it is easy to question ourselves and ask:  “Who are we and what is happening to us?”

For example, if my health fails, am I the person who suffers ill health or the person who enjoyed a healthy life for many, many years? If I retire from a job that I have enjoyed for many decades, am I a person who no longer has a job or the person who now has years of wisdom to share with others?  Our identity is important.  Do we see ourselves the way God sees us?  That’s the important question.  The Bible says we are to identify ourselves first and foremost by the way God sees us–as “a child of God.”

Who we are is grounded in our faith–in a God Who loves us, in a God Who gives us purpose, in a God Who sees the inner person that we are and in a God Who accepts us as we are.  I said this earlier, today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent.  Advent is a time of Light.  It is a time to look beyond the glitter of the season and see the true light in our soul–the Light that is God.  Light helps us see what really is.  So Advent is the time to return to God and trust Him and to welcome His Light so we see ourselves as “a child of God.”  “…When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you.  When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! For I am the Lord our God….”

May we use the remaining days of Advent to see ourselves the way God sees us.

Amen.

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