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Sunday Sermons

“How Long?”

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Pr. David Fleener

September 20, 2020: Pentecost 16

Genesis 15:1-6

About the time Advent rolls around, a lot of pastors roll out their yearly sermon about waiting. When Advent arrives, we wait not only for Christmas Day, but also for the return of Jesus Christ in glory. We wait, wait, and wait, and God seems to take forever, but we remember that God’s promises are certain and sure.

Except in the age of COVID, most of us have waiting fatigue. We are tired of waiting for the world to return to normal, for life to resume without the fear of catching a deadly virus, for the election to finally be over. We have endured this slow-motion disaster for six months now. Some pundits are saying it may be 2022 before society gets back to some semblance of normality, even with a vaccine. It’s one thing to be told to wait around Christmastime. It’s quite another to be told to wait when thousands of people die every day and millions wonder how they’ll pay rent or buy food this month. Waiting seems unendurable.

Today’s text talks about another man who had to endure an unendurable wait: Abraham.

In Genesis 12, Abram is living in Haran, in modern-day Turkey, where he has come from his birthplace in Ur, in modern-day Iraq. He is seventy-five years old. Ten years past Social Security. And God tells him, abruptly, to pick up stakes. Move to Canaan. The promise is this: God will make Abram a great nation and all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him.

By Genesis 15, a lot has happened. There’s been a sojourn to Egypt. A battle to rescue Abram’s nephew Lot. And here, God restates the promise.

But Abram needs to know more. How is it possible for him to be the father of nations if he doesn’t have a child? Presumably it’s been a few years since Abram first heard the promise. How much longer will he and Sarai need to wait? 

God has brought Abram far from his original homeland. Then, at retirement age, God tells Abram to move again to Canaan, with the promise of not only descendants, but of being the means of blessing to the entire world. At this point, there’s nothing. No child. No heritage. No future. No hope.

As Psalm 13 says, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”

In response, God shows Abram the night sky. “Look toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.”

If you’ve ever seen the night sky in a place far from any light pollution, you’ll know how amazing that sight must have been. Thousands and thousands of stars, as far as the eye can see.

In that moment when trust in God seems impossible, God provides the roots of deep faith. A faith that we know is fulfilled when Isaac is born.

It certainly takes a long time for God to bring the promise to Abraham and Sarah to fruition. Twenty-five years to be precise. And one might wonder why it takes so long. Why do they have to wait twenty-five years to finally receive the son they have been promised? And why does God make us wait so long? Why can’t COVID just go away? Why can’t an illness, a family situation, economic difficulties just go away?

How we wait says a lot about who we are and who God is making us to be.

Throughout the Bible, God’s timeline is clearly different from his people. Rebekah and Rachel, like Sarah, are unable to have children at first. Joseph endures great suffering in Egypt before being freed from prison to be Pharaoh’s right-hand man. The people of Israel endure 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They endure 40 years in the desert before entering Canaan. David has to spend years on the run from Saul before he can be king. The people have to endure 50 years of exile before they can return to Judah. Several hundred years pass from Isaiah and Jeremiah to the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem. And we are in a long period of waiting now, waiting for Christ to bring in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom. While God acts in time, God is not bound by time.

God’s people have had to wait before. God’s people have had to endure before. And every time, God has shown himself to be trustworthy and true. God gives Abraham and Sarah a son, Isaac. God gave Rebekah and Rachel children. The people of Israel were freed from slavery and eventually entered Canaan. Christ was born. He rose again from death. And God has brought light out of darkness in every contemporary situation we’ve been in. Wars, famines, pandemics, civil unrest and disorder—God may make us wait. We may have to endure suffering. But thank God, God does not leave us there. God’s light and love in Christ always overcome the world’s bleakness and hatred.

God is forming us into his people through our waiting. Patience is building our character in Christ (who likewise had to wait in the desert for 40 days). The apostle Paul had a lot to say about waiting in suffering, like many of us are doing today. From his letter to the Romans: “We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (5:3-5).

Hope in God does not disappoint us. Because no matter what happens, no matter what occurs, no matter what we go through, know this: God is faithful. God is trustworthy. God is true. God showed great faithfulness to Abraham, so much so that John the Baptist told the crowds that descendants from Abraham could be raised up from the rocks around them! God showed great faithfulness to all creation in becoming human in the man Jesus, living, healing, proclaiming, suffering, dying, and rising again. And God continues to be faithful to us in the Holy Spirit, present here for you today in Word and Sacrament to enliven and strengthen your faith.

Let us pray,

Lord God, give us patience in suffering. Help us to wait well, trusting in your goodness. Show us your light in this bleak world, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“Shamed”

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Pr. David Fleener

September 13, 2020: Pentecost 15

Genesis 2:4b-7, 15-17, 3:1-8

One of the key distinctions pastors, therapists, and chaplains have to make sometimes is between guilt and shame. Is the person across from them feeling sadness, judgment, or regret over something they have done? Or is the person feeling those same emotions because of who they perceive themselves to be? Do they think what they’ve done is bad? Or do they think they themselves are bad? Making the distinction can make the difference between a helpful pastoral or therapeutic encounter and an unhelpful one.

Guilt, on one hand, can be a helpful emotion. After all, eliciting guilt is one of the purposes of God’s law in the first place—to show us our sinfulness and our desperate need for God’s grace. Guilt can lead to repentance and amendment of life. However, shame, while sometimes masking under guilt, can be incredibly destructive. Shame—the conviction that I am completely bad—can turn self-hatred into an obsession. Shame can kill.

And Genesis is concerned with the origins of shame. Where does such a self-destructive emotion come from? Why do we feel shamed? Why would we ever feel that we, part of God’s good creation, are completely bad?

It’s an especially pertinent issue now as shame is everywhere. Attempts at shaming are rampant on social media or television. It seems like half of our country (take your pick as to which) perpetually tries to convince the other half that they are inherently bad. Dialogue has broken down. People are at each other’s throats. The attitude seems to be “You’re either with us or against us.” These attempts at shaming not only destroy relationships, they deny that any connection exists among us at all.

That’s exactly what happened to our first parents in the Garden.

Remember why the man and woman were created in the first place. They were created with a purpose. They were made to care for God’s creation—to till the earth and keep it—and care for each other.

But after their disobedience, those twin purposes are buried under a mountain of shame.

Before they ate the fruit, Genesis tells us that they “were naked and unashamed”. They didn’t feel afraid or bad about who God made them to be. Immediately after they ate the fruit, however, that all changed. Their eyes are opened, indeed, but they aren’t filled with all knowledge and wisdom. To the contrary. They are filled with shame. They feel shame about being the way that God made them to be. They feel bad about who they are. They feel like they are not adequate the way they are, and that they need something else to be presentable to God.

Barriers start to form between God and people, and between people themselves. Fear enters the picture. Out of fear and shame, the man and woman hide themselves from God.

And out of this fear and shame comes blame, which undermines every relationship. In the verses following our reading, we learn that the man blames both his wife and God. “This woman whom you gave to be with me, gave me the fruit and I ate.” The woman blames the serpent. “The serpent tricked me and I ate.” Humanity’s connection to each other, the rest of God’s creation, and even God is impaired from this point on. Human beings become stuck in a morass of shame and blame, alternating between hatred of self and hatred of others.

But this is not the end of the story. As bleak as it gets throughout human history, and as bleak as it seems now, God doesn’t give up on humanity.

Throughout the Old Testament, God is determined to redeem humanity from its shame. To do this, God chooses one incredibly flawed family, the family of Abraham, to be the conduit of blessing. Over the next few weeks, we’ll learn a bit about the promise to Abraham, the story of Joseph, and the continuing saga of sin and forgiveness with the people of Israel. And all these stories in the Old Testament point to the culmination of Abraham’s line in the person of Jesus. In Jesus, humanity’s shame is taken away. In Jesus, our connection to God, God’s creation, and each other is restored.

The Gospel reading is only a part of the Lord’s Prayer, but it contains the essence of this restoration. “Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.” When we recognize each other as human, liable to sin, easily caught up in shame and blame, we can be more gracious to each other. We can step away from the outrage machine that our culture has become. In refusing to shame and blame others, we also stop shaming and blaming ourselves, confident that Jesus has restored us to God and each other. As we stop condemning others, we find that we ourselves are no longer condemned. The words of Jesus to the unnamed woman in the Gospel of John are the same words to us: “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.”

God continue to help us remember that we are infinitely valued and loved as part of God’s creation, just as every other human is. And God help us stop shaming and blaming each other and ourselves, secure in our identity as God’s children.

Let us pray.

Lord God, you have given us a purpose for our existence: to care for your creation and each other. Renew that purpose within us, and give us the strength of will to stop participating in the culture’s constant outrage. Help us to be the people you made us to be in your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“The Trial within the Trial”

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Pr. David Fleener

August 30, 2020: Pentecost 13

Petitions 6, 7, & Conclusion of the Lord’s Prayer; Matthew 15:21-28

Here’s a fun fact: the so-called “contemporary” version of the Lord’s Prayer we use here at Shalom (at least most of the time) is nearly as old as the Chicago Folk Service. In 1975, an ecumenical group, the International Consultation on English Texts, published Prayers We Have in Common. Nearly all of their recommended changes were adopted by mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches—except for the Lord’s Prayer.

Why? I don’t know, but I can hazard a guess. Unlike the Creed and Ten Commandments, nearly all of us know the Lord’s Prayer by heart. When we learned the version we learned, it got stuck in our bones. That’s good in and of itself, but it also means that we tend not to brook changes well. One big change occurred in the sixth petition, from “lead us not into temptation” to “save us from the time of trial”.

Either translation is fine, but as the letter of James points out, “No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one” (1:13). God doesn’t entice us into sin.

However, times of trial and temptation do come to every one of us, as they came to Jesus. It’s not that God is setting a trap. It’s that these times simply come naturally. Times like the one we’re in now—how are we going to live in the midst of a global pandemic? How are we going to cast our votes in November? How are we going to be good neighbors and friends when we need to keep our physical distance? Or for you confirmands, now that you are on the cusp of affirming your baptismal faith, what does that mean for you now?

The time of trial itself, when we are tested by life’s circumstances, is one thing. The other thing is the internal trial within us, when we decide how we’re going to respond. Are we going to respond as people of faith, confident in the promises of God? Or do we respond out of fear, perceived victimhood, and scarcity?

Even Jesus has to make this decision based on his encounter with the Canaanite woman.

Picture the scene. Jesus is in Gentile territory. No particular reason is given, but he is away from his home. However, he is not unknown in this foreign land. A woman who is not one of the chosen people begins following him, begging him to heal his daughter. Of course, the disciples get annoyed. “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”

And at first, it appears that Jesus does a very un-Jesus like thing! He seems to oblige the disciples’ request. He tells the woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jesus’ mission was not universal at first. Until this point in Matthew, Jesus has a clear sense of where he’s supposed to minister—among his own people. There is an exception, of course. He heals the demon-possessed men of the Gadarenes. However, for the most part, he ministers to his own people. And it’s not like Jesus is making this up. Throughout the Old Testament, there’s  a clear boundary between the peoples. There are God’s people, the Jewish people, of whom Jesus and his disciples are a part. Then there’s everyone else, collectively referred to in Scripture as “the nations”. The fact that this woman is labeled a Canaanite is a reference to the “peoples of the land” that the Israelites displaced when they entered the Promised Land. So, this woman is clearly not one of God’s people and therefore not under the scope of Jesus’ mission.

Until she challenges Jesus to see her as just as worthy as his own people.

She brings a time of trial to Jesus. Not just the external trial of her presence, begging for healing for her daughter, but the internal trial as well—the trial within the trial. How will Jesus respond to her? Jesus first says he isn’t sent to her, and then after she doesn’t take the hint, responds, “It isn’t fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Ouch, right. But she calls him on it. She takes Jesus’ words and turns them inside out. “I may be a dog,” she seems to say, “but even a dog gets the leftover crumbs.”

At this moment, Jesus’ mission takes on a more universal scope. The time of trial that this woman brings to him sharpens his mission and makes him realize that his Father has sent him not just to Jews, but to everyone, even the people that were most despised by his own people.

When we pray, “Save us from the time of trial,” we are not necessarily praying for a quick end to the trial (although that can be part of it). We are praying for the wisdom and strength to meet the trial well. We are praying that we will learn the right lessons from the trial and apply them to the rest of our lives. We are praying for the internal fortitude we need to meet the trial of our own internal reactions to the external trial of the event itself. So we can meet the trial within the trial with the grace, power, and wisdom of God.

And of course, we mess up. We often don’t deal with adversity well. Even when we deal with it, it can drain us, like the COVID mess we are in now. We get anxious. We get exhausted. We get angry. And we don’t react well.

Fortunately, that isn’t the end of the story.

In Jesus, we are all included under God’s mission. We are all baptized in the Holy Spirit, made a new person, strengthened in faith through Word and Sacrament, and sent out into the world as bearers of good news. Good news that there is a way out of our captive human instincts. That there is another way to live than in anxiety and fear. That in Jesus Christ, salvation to eternal life is assured, so we can live in a different way—a way that meets all the trials we face.

I pray that as we continue in to live in this time of great uncertainty and great trial, that we’ll have the wisdom and grace to meet it well. And when we don’t, that God will pick us up again, forgive us, and send us on our way to try again. That, by the way, confirmands, is at the heart of the Christian life. Strive to emulate Christ, fail, resume. Walk, fall, get up again. Walk, fall, get up again. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“The ‘F’ Word”

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Pr. David Fleener

August 23, 2020: Pentecost 12

Lord’s Prayer, Petitions 4 & 5; Luke 6:20-36

On September 6, 2018, off-duty Dallas Police officer Amber Guyger, a White woman, entered an apartment that wasn’t her own and murdered 26-year old Botham Jean, a Black man, while he was sitting on his couch. Guyger apparently believed it was her apartment and that Jean was an intruder. At her sentencing hearing on October 2, 2019, Brandt Jean, brother of Botham Jean, told Guyger:

If you truly are sorry, I know I can speak for myself, I forgive you. And I know if you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you. And I don’t think anyone can say it — again I’m speaking for myself and not on behalf of my family — but I love you just like anyone else. And I’m not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did, but I personally want the best for you. And I wasn’t going to ever say this in front of my family or anyone, but I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want you to do. And the best would be: give your life to Christ. I’m not going to say anything else. I think giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do. Again, I love you as a person. And I don’t wish anything bad on you. I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please? Please?

The judge gave Jean permission, and they shared an embrace in the courtroom.

Now, it would be nice if this was a clear-cut, uncomplicated story of forgiveness. However, it is not. Stereotypes abound of the hyper-spiritualized, wise Black person, always willing to grant forgiveness and grace to White folks. Black people in American society have often been expected, expected! to forgive White people for their crimes.

Such ersatz forgiveness has meant no accountability for those who have perpetrated such crimes and no justice for those who have suffered them.

However, it would be wrong and just as racist to caricature Jean’s statement. Real forgiveness was shown in that courtroom that day.

So we get to the rub. Forgiveness is complicated. It can be confusing. Dynamics of power, race, and gender are often in play. And forgiveness can be offensive—incredibly offensive. So offensive that forgiveness becomes another “f” word!

Jesus certainly knew of our aversity to forgiveness. He knew how offensive it was to us. That’s why he ramps it up in the Sermon on the Plain and commands us to love our enemies as well! It’s such a Jesus thing to do. Is there something in God’s instruction that is offensive to us? Make it even more offensive!

You want forgiveness from God? In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus makes our forgiveness conditional on our forgiveness of others.

That sounds like too much, so let’s talk about what forgiveness actually is.

The word “forgiveness” in Greek is aphiemi, which has a wide range of meaning depending on context, but at its root, means, “let go”. To forgive, then, literally means to “let it go”. (I can hear you humming the song already!)

So, when we forgive, we let go of our right to retribution for the wrong done to us. This doesn’t mean that the wrong never happened, or that the wrongdoer shouldn’t be held accountable. It also doesn’t mean that the one wronged should pretend like their relationship with the wrongdoer is unaffected. (I think of an abused person being told to ignore his or her spouse’s abuse.) Acknowledgement of the wrong done is necessary for forgiveness. Without that acknowledgment, by you or the wrongdoer (preferably both), forgiveness is impossible. What happens in that case is mere whitewashing. Forgetting without forgiving.

Forgiveness is letting go of our desire for revenge. It also means letting go of the hold the wrongdoer can have on our hearts.

As my first marriage ended in 2008, I was filled with vitriol for my ex-wife. It seemed like she was so casually ending the marriage. Like I was being thrown away like a used tissue. I wanted her to suffer like I had suffered. It was only much later that I realized that indeed she had suffered greatly and had initiated the divorce as a favor to us both. (Coincidentally, the Greek verb aphiemi also means “to divorce”—to let go.)

By letting go of a dead marriage, we were able to let go of the anger and resentment that had consumed us both.

When we let go of our desire to punish, we also let go of our desire to be judge, jury, and executioner. We let go of our ancient hubris—the desire to be God. We are freed from an office we were never meant to hold and for living lives as the people God made us to be.

When we forgive others—when we let them go—we find that we are let go from our own sins for Jesus’ sake. And this is precisely where the law of God becomes pure gospel. It turns out that forgiving someone is the key to our own forgiveness, freedom, and wholeness. Letting go of the wrongs done to us turns out to be the key to becoming whole ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we control our own forgiveness—it is granted by God through Christ after all. It does mean that we discover true forgiveness when we forgive.

The whole Christian life is a journey toward wholeness. When we hold onto the wrongs done to us, we can’t be whole. It is like drinking poison and hoping the other person dies. When we let go of them, the Holy Spirit can do her work.

Despite the messiness, despite the complex racial and social histories intertwined in that courtroom, the Holy Spirit was there, providing a glimpse of the wholeness we are living for. And despite the messiness and confusion that swirls around forgiveness in our lives, we can trust that the Holy Spirit is likewise there, urging us toward greater health and peace. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“God’s Good and Gracious Will”

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Pr. David Fleener

August 16, 2020: Pentecost 11

Petitions 1-3 of the Lord’s Prayer; Mark 14:32-36

There we were, on-site at the Habitat build, about to begin work. As the vicar at Luther Memorial Church in Chicago, I accompanied a group of our members on that day. The project leader asked for someone to open with prayer. And slowly, I felt every eye come to rest on me!

Nothing in my ministry creates as much anxiety and guilt than prayer. While I’ve known a few people who enjoy leading public prayer, many are terrified of it, afraid of sounding stupid. Anxiety and guilt don’t just stop at public prayer, though. Many find private prayer difficult. Maybe you feel silly praying, like you’re talking to the wall. Or perhaps you feel hurt, like a former parishioner of mine, who lost two husbands and a son despite constant prayer. Or maybe you reason that God knows everything you need anyway, so why bother praying? God’s will will be done with or without my prayers, so what’s the point?

The point is that despite God’s knowledge of all our needs and desires, God wants us to pray. In fact, God commands us to pray several places in the Bible, beginning with the Second Commandment, “You shall not misuse God’s name”. As Luther writes in his Large Catechism, this Commandment reminds us that “we are required to praise the holy name and to pray or call upon it in every need. For calling upon it is nothing else than praying.”[1] Also, in Psalm 50:15, God commands, “Call on me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you.” Even in Matthew 7:7-8, which could also have been a good gospel reading today, records Jesus saying, “Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” Whether to pray or not to pray is not a choice that God leaves to us. The command is clear and simple. Pray, whether you feel like it or not. Pray when everything seems right with the world and you don’t think you need anything else from God. Pray when everything has fallen apart. Pray when you are wondering whether God listens or cares. Pray when you are hurting. Pray when you are angry. Pray when you are sad. Pray when you are in despair. Pray when you feel like you’re in a never-ending series of gray days that meld one into another, like a boring version of Groundhog Day. Pray when you doubt God’s will is truly good or gracious. Whatever situation of life we find ourselves in, God commands us to pray. To keep talking and listening to God.

But God doesn’t just issue commands. There are promises, too. Often the promise is attached to the command, as in the Psalm and in Matthew’s Gospel. “I will deliver you.” “It shall be given to you, you shall find, the door shall be opened to you.” God wants us to want to pray, as a child asks her parent for everything she needs.

As a new dad, Luther’s words in the Small Catechism here strike me in a way they didn’t before. Luther writes, “With these words God wants to entice us, so that we come to believe he is truly our Father and we are truly his children, in order that we may ask him boldly and with complete confidence, just as loving children ask their loving father.”[2] Now, of course, it doesn’t have to be just the father here. In our household, Abigail’s way to ask for what she needs is to cry, “Ma-ma-ma-ma!” But it strikes a point home for me. A child’s first impression of God usually comes through her parents. How I act will influence my child’s relationship with God, for good and for ill. For some of us, the parenting metaphor is difficult if your relationship with your parents was difficult. A better model for you in that case might be the first trustworthy adult that you knew as a child. In any case, God is both like and unlike our earthly parents. Parents may be wise and good and generous, but they are also imperfect and limited. God, by contrast, is infinitely wise and infinitely good, which also means that God’s good and gracious will goes far beyond what human beings can grasp.

So here in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus invites us to stand in his place, as daughters and sons of God. Jesus invites us to see that despite the limitations of our earthly parents, God is our infinitely loving, infinitely wise divine Parent. We are given the privilege of addressing the God of all creation on intimate, familial terms, just as Jesus addressed the Father. Jesus’ word for “father”, of course, is abba. It’s not quite as informal as the English term “daddy”, but it is an intimate address for one’s father.

So today, as we begin our series on the Lord’s Prayer, we remember a couple things. In response to all our anxieties, our guilt, and our doubts about prayer, Jesus gives us the gift of a short, simple way to pray. This short prayer is not only a model for our own prayers, it also serves as a model for our relationship to God. In addition to this, we remember that Jesus gives us God’s word that God listens to us as our divine Parent and will meet not just our basic needs, but the deepest needs of our souls.

And we are in such a time that we need the assurance of this prayer more than ever.

We need assurance that God is active in the world, to establish God’s kingdom and to bring God’s will to completion.

We need assurance that God does indeed care for us and listens to us, as a loving parent listens to her child.

We need assurance that God has not abandoned us in this ongoing COVID crisis. We need assurance that the words of Isaiah 49:15 are true for us today: “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.”

We need assurance that in Jesus Christ, God has given us full and complete access to God’s own self.

And in this prayer, we receive that assurance. God comes to us first and commands us to pray. God attaches promises to those commands. And God continually works in, through, behind, around, with—how many more prepositions do I need—our prayers to bring about God’s good and gracious will in our lives and in the world.

Even with Jesus, the Father’s will was so difficult for him at Gethsemane. However, Jesus knew that it was the way to bring enlightenment and healing for the whole creation. Even though his human will recoiled at the cross (who wouldn’t?), his divine will was perfectly in tune with that of the Father’s.

And we can trust that though our human will sometimes would rather not pray, due to feeling guilty or silly or maybe fearful, God’s will is truly gracious and good. Therefore, as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.


[1] Robert Kolb, Timothy J. Wengert, and Charles P. Arand, The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2000), 441.

[2] Ibid., 356.

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Sunday Sermons

“Holiness Is Not Superiority”

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Pr. David Fleener

August 9, 2020: Pentecost 10

Article III of the Apostles’ Creed; John 20:19-23

Here’s a true story I heard from a Methodist colleague in Indiana. Once upon a time, an ambitious and charismatic pastor got fed up with the lax spirituality he saw in his denomination. Deciding that it was high time for a spiritual revival, he formed a new church body with like-minded congregations—congregations on fire with the Holy Spirit. The new church was called, “The Church of God in Holiness”.

Several years passed. The new church grew. More congregations joined its ranks. Then the church had an election for its next president. The founding minister lost the election. Embittered, he left the church, took the congregations that supported him, and founded, “The Church of God in True Holiness”. As opposed to the fraudulent holiness in the church body he founded!

If I asked you what holiness is, many of you might respond “closeness to God” or “being a good person” or “loving in a sacrificial way”. Holiness encompasses all of that and much more. Unfortunately, human beings have added a shadow side to holiness. When Christians have emphasized the need to become holy, the need to be set apart for Christ (which is all well and good), they have also tended to become exclusionary. “Us” and “them” mindsets become entrenched: where “we” are God’s people and “they” are, if not hell-bound, destined to get a severe talking-to by God.

And while Lutherans don’t talk about holiness much, we have our own substitute—orthodoxy, or right belief. For instance: what side were you on when the ELCA’s social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust passed the churchwide assembly by a single vote in 2009? There are, in fact, four sides, or “positions of bound conscience”, according to the document! Two sides in particular represented dueling orthodoxies, or systems of “right” belief. And whatever side you were on, you probably heard it all. “They” just don’t get it. “They” are twisting the Scriptures. “They” are willfully holding up the progress of the church. Compare that to “us”. “We” get it. “We” understand the historic faith of the church. “We” interpret the Scriptures faithfully. Whether establishing our orthodoxy or personal holiness, the result is the same: the entrenchment of a superiority complex. “We” are orthodox. “We” are holy. “They” are not.

Such a mindset has been devastating to the church, fracturing our unity in the One who prayed that we would all be one.

You see, holiness is not the exclusive domain of any particular group of Christians. Holiness, rather, is the destiny of all who belong to Christ.

Holiness, simply stated, means being set apart for Christ. To be made holy means being made in the image of Christ, of dying to ourselves and rising to Christ. Being set apart for and made in Christ’s image is a work that continues our whole lives.

And holiness is utterly impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit calls us all to the Christian life through hearing the gospel—the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose again for the life of the world. Through hearing the gospel, the Holy Spirit gifts us the faith that saves us from sin, death, and the devil. When we get to this Third Article of the Creed, we realize that saving faith is not up to us. We can’t will ourselves to have faith in Christ or to trust Christ to save us. So faith is not a dry, boring intellectual assent to doctrines that may or may not have any bearing on our lives. Faith is, quite literally, life from the dead. Faith is ongoing conversion; the ongoing process of being made holy. Nor is saving faith dependent on what we feel. If faith were dependent on something as fickle as feelings, none of us could have any hope of being saved. The gift of faith, or better, trust in Christ as one’s Lord, is so much more than intellect or feelings. It is the gift that makes us complete, whole, shalom people.

When Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on a group of frightened disciples in that locked room, it was but the beginning of their lives of faith. Jesus’ resurrection appearances would not last very long. They would have to learn to trust without his physical presence with them. They would have to live lives of faith in the Spirit’s power.

And as John shows later on, the disciples needed to be refreshed in that Spirit, over and over again. They needed to experience ongoing conversion, ongoing growth in the Christ who died and rose for them. After all, the very next week, the disciples are still behind those same locked doors, with Thomas present that time.

It was a process with them. Easter wasn’t just a one-day event; Easter was and is an ongoing event in the life of the church.

Easter is an ongoing event now, even when the world seems stuck in a never-ending Good Friday.

The Spirit is still working within us to make us holy; to set us apart for Christ, to make us new people in his image.

And Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, overcomes all sinful desires to divide. To separate into “us” and “them”. To judge people out of a misguided standard of what constitutes holiness or orthodoxy. The Holy Spirit only has one standard of both: for us to be continually formed in Christ’s image, to be the people we were meant to be.

At the end of our series on the Creed, let’s look back for just a moment. Through each article, we have explored how each person of the Trinity is God for us and with us. God the Father gives us every good gift necessary for this life. God the Son gives himself up for us and makes us innocent out of nothing but love for us. And God the Holy Spirit makes saving faith not only possible, but also thriving. Regenerating. A faith that truly makes us holy.

Let us pray,

Holy Spirit, you make our faith thrive. Increase our trust in Christ. Make our love like his love. Grow his image in us until we become the people we were made to be. With the Father and the Son you live and reign, now and forever. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“Debt-Free”

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Pr. David Fleener

August 2, 2020: Pentecost 9

Article II of the Apostles’ Creed; John 1:1-18

I know what you’re thinking. Is Pastor going to preach a sermon or give a financial planning seminar? Well, I’m not qualified to give financial advice. I didn’t even learn to budget well until a couple years ago. So don’t worry. I’m not going to talk about debt in the financial sense.

I’m going to talk about debt in the sin sense.

A caveat first. Talking about sin as debt has been out of favor for 90 years, since Swedish bishop Gustav Aulén wrote Christus Victor, attacking the very metaphor. And it’s easy to understand why. It’s easy to slip into thinking that God is Santa Claus, tallying up your “nice” credits and your “naughty” debits. (And if your debits outweigh your credits, better invest in some asbestos underwear!) Or that God is a kind of cosmic loan shark, totaling up the number of your sins with interest. Neither of those caricatures has anything to do with the gospel. But the idea of debt, in and of itself, can be helpful for us to explore how Jesus reconciles us to God.

After all, is there anything more fundamental to human existence than trade? Trade is one of the bedrocks of civilization. I need meat and you need milk, so I trade you a cow for ten chickens. Or my city needs grain and yours needs metal, so we work out a trade. As civilizations grew, the need grew for a medium of exchange beyond the barter system. Money developed from this need. We all buy into the necessary fiction that this (hold out paper bill) is valuable as a means of exchange for everything, from labor to auto parts to tuition to food. When we don’t have enough of these pieces of paper to purchase something, like a house, for instance, we have to take out a loan and go into debt. We become indebted to the bank.

So, let’s think about debt as a metaphor for our relationship with God. First, we already owe God everything to begin with! We are all God’s creatures, part of God’s amazing, terrifying, and beautiful creation. Everything we have and everything we are is God’s. Remember those gifts we talked about last week in Article I of the Creed? Body, soul, mental faculties, all the needs for this earthly life? All those things have their ultimate origin in God. We are given the responsibility to use those gifts well, to love God with everything we are and our neighbors as ourselves.

Of course, we fail to do that. We become “captive to sin and cannot free ourselves”. Worse than that, we become willing collaborators with sin. All of us have vices that we secretly enjoy. Don’t pretend that you don’t. It could be enjoying someone get “put in their place” online, for instance. Or an old grudge that you keep nursing because being the victim gives you a delicious feeling of wounded righteousness. Or maybe there’s someone in your family who’s always sick or in trouble and you all avoid having to talk about yourselves by talking about “what’s wrong with Jane”. (By the way, I chose these three examples from my life, so if you feel personally attacked—don’t.) More than being captive to sin, we become collaborators with sin. We become indebted to God not just for who we are to begin with, but for who we could have been. But we have nothing to pay.

This is where we get to the Catechism. German has a wonderfully versatile word for “guilt”, “debt”, “fault”, and “blame”. All four. This word is Schuld. It’s used in the German translation of the Lord’s Prayer where we say “sins”. It’s used in economic theory when talking about monetary debts. It’s used in everyday speech when you want to know who just broke the new expensive coffee machine. And it is used here in the Catechism with its converse meaning: Unschüldigen, meaning “not guilty”, “not at fault”, “not to blame”, “innocent”, and yes, “debt-free”. Luther uses this word to talk about what Christ does for us.

The Christ, co-eternal and co-equal with the Father and the Spirit, enters human existence in the man Jesus. Why? To take away our guilt, our shame, our debt. Our Schuld. To buy us back from the more-or-less apathetic non-existence that we would have preferred on our own. To take on everything that we are, including our sin and debt, so that we can take on everything he is: complete humanity and union with God. To be truly free people, free from everything that hinders our love of God and neighbor. To be truly debt-free.

It’s hard to overemphasize this article of the Creed because it is central to the Gospel. This is where the work of God becomes personal. It becomes truly “for us” because it comes from the fully human, fully divine Christ. God has skin on in this article of the Creed. The first article of the Creed tells us that God has given us everything. The second tells us that God became human to redeem us, to pay the debt that we could not pay. To make us new people, who be God’s people, serving God, as Luther says, “in eternal righteousness, innocence (Unschüldigen), and blessedness”.

So, God is no loan shark. Nor is God Santa Claus. In fact, we might say that in taking care of our debt, God gets out of the sin-accounting business altogether. There is no ledger of accounts with God anymore. God has thrown the account book away.

And being debt-free, we can live new lives. A fresh start, granted every day (more on this next week!). That may be the greatest gift that God gives us.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus, thank you for freeing us from the debt of our sins. Thank you for being our Lord. Save us from being willing collaborators with the powers of darkness, and help us to remain free of them, as your faithful people. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“Gratitude”

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Pr. David Fleener

July 26, 2020: Pentecost 8

Apostles Creed, Article I; Matthew 6:30-34

It’s hard to imagine now, but long before COVID, many businesses had a candy dish for patrons, filled with mints or lollipops. And tagging along with Mom and Dad on errands was fun because there was a good chance of getting a treat. After receiving a piece of candy from the clerk, Mom and Dad would ask of the fundamental parenting questions: “Now what do you say?” If you wanted to keep that lollipop or circus peanut or whatever, you dutifully responded, “THANK YOU!”

It seemed kind of silly at the time, but Mom and Dad were really trying to prepare us to live lives of gratitude. Saying thanks for a ten-cent lollipop can have positive consequences on one’s life down the road. It can help us take note of the many unexpected kindnesses that we receive, without our earning or deserving.

There’s more to gratitude, however, than being thankful for unexpected gifts. It’s a good start, to be sure. But how often are we grateful for the everyday blessings we receive from God?

In his explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed, Luther names many of these everyday, mundane blessings; blessings that we take for granted because they’re consistently present. Blessings that we easily overlook because of our desire for more. Because of our scarcity mindset.

There’s an apocryphal story about Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. Rockefeller, who had a net worth of about $1.4 billion at the time of his death (about $26 billion today) was asked, “How much money is enough money?” Rockefeller is said to have responded, “Just a little bit more.”

You don’t have to be a billionaire to fall into this way of thinking. “Just a little bit more.” Just a little bit more for home improvements. Just a little bit more for a vacation home. Just a little bit more for your child or grandchild’s education. Just a little bit more for a new car or boat. Just a little bit more to get out of debt. Just a little bit more will be enough, we tell ourselves. And it never is.

Instead of succumbing to the “just a little bit more” mindset, Luther would have us look at what our heavenly Father already gives us, without our asking or deserving.

First, there’s our very existence. “God has created me,” Luther says, “along with all creatures”. We are part of God’s patchwork quilt of creation, an integral part of the whole. We are created out of nothing but sheer love.

But we don’t just exist. Along with our existence, God gives us our physical and mental abilities. Imagine life without being able to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom. Imagine life without the ability to speak or think. Not exactly pleasant, is it? These very basic abilities enhance the quality of our lives. And to these internal gifts, God gives us everything we need for our earthly existence. I love this list. It’s extensive, specific, and inclusive. “…God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property—along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life.” Now, even though most of us don’t have fields and livestock anymore, this list is on point. God gives us everything we need, and much of what we want. God’s gifts overflow.

It’s important to note that this is not a systematic statement on how or why God gives. Luther is not interested here in going down the rabbit hole of why God seems to give more to some than others. That’s an important question, to be sure, and it the answer to that question probably points at our sinful tendency to want “just a little bit more”. But that’s beyond the scope of what Luther’s doing here. This statement in the Catechism encourages you and me to be aware of what God has done for us, personally. Without comparison or contrast to anyone else.

What would be on your list? What has God done for you? What has God given you? What blessings do you receive every day, often without your notice? Here is a non-exhaustive list of mine: God has given me all my physical and mental abilities, a vocation, an education, parents and siblings; a beautiful and capable wife, an amazing daughter, a house, a good call, a good community, citizenship in this nation on this planet. In addition to these, I’ve been given musical talents, abilities to teach, preach, and write, a highly competent staff, and a well-functioning council. And over and above all of these, I’ve been given the gift of new life in Jesus Christ. Every day is a new chance to live my life in his service and to his glory.

When we are grateful for God’s ongoing gifts, our hearts are in the right place to pursue what matters: God’s Kingdom and God’s righteousness, as Jesus says in our Gospel reading today. When Jesus talks about God’s righteousness, he’s using the word in a much more expansive sense than we’re used to hearing in English. When we hear the word “righteous”, it’s often paired with anger. One has “righteous indignation” or “righteous anger”. To be sure, righteous anger is all over the Bible. Jesus, after all, has righteous anger when he cleanses the Temple. But in an age of constant, exhausting outrage, it’s good to remember that “righteousness” is about much more than moral indignation. Righteousness refers to God’s very goodness. God’s very love for you and me and for all that exists. Jesus’ call is for us to pursue that nature, trusting that the Father is eager to give it to us, along with every other good gift.

Why is God so generous to us, then? The simple answer is that God loves us. But there’s a further point to all this generosity. We might even call it an agenda, despite the negative connotations of that term, too. God’s agenda in being so generous, especially God’s generosity in Christ, is to make us into what we were meant to be. More fully human. More fully in accord with our Creator’s will and ways. More generous ourselves. To realize that what God has given us is truly enough, more than enough. We’re freed from the “just a little bit more” mindset and for our neighbor. Like the cup in Psalm 23, all of God’s gifts to us overflow to make us grateful and generous people in the image of Christ. People with new life in Christ, which is the greatest gift of all.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father, everything we are and everything we have come from your hand alone. Help us be aware of every blessing, so that we can be generous and grateful people, who always know they have more than enough. Remind us, too, that the end of all these gifts is salvation, eternal life and joy in your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.

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Sunday Sermons

“Keeping Faith”

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Pr. David Fleener

July 19, 2020: Pentecost 7

Psalm 146

When I was in fifth and sixth grades, I rode the bus to the middle school. Most of the time, the ride was fine, but occasionally I would get into it with another kid. Sometimes it was with a kid I thought was my friend. I didn’t fight back with fists—I didn’t want to get detention, after all—but I did fight back with words. After one of these altercations, in which I felt beaten down and bullied, I remember saying to myself, “I’m never going to trust anybody ever again!”

That’s been a tough habit to break. (Obligatory “just ask my wife”.) I have to be intentional about getting to know people, to like them, and to trust them. I’ve gotten better at it as I’ve grown older, but I sometimes still get stuck on my old hurts and grievances, which impairs my ability to trust.

Maybe you’ve felt that way, too. Maybe you’ve been hurt so many times you don’t know who to trust anymore. Maybe you’ve been lied to so much you don’t know what to believe anymore. It’s hard to know who or how to trust when there’s a lie at every turn.

These final five psalms in the book that bears their name ring out peal after peal of praise to the only One worthy of our ultimate trust, God.

When I say ultimate trust, I’m talking about much more than regular trust needed for stable families and healthy relationships. There’s regular trust, on which healthy relationships and families depend, and then there’s ultimate trust—the One to whom we entrust our souls. On whom do you depend for your eternal well-being?

The psalmist knows that such well-being is not found in any human being (well, except one, but we’ll get to that). Certainly not in any noble, prince, or ruler. This passage and others in the Old Testament, by the way, are wonderful correctives to our desire to find a messianic figure in our political leaders. All leaders are fallible and liable to the depredations that power brings. It doesn’t matter how wonderful you think any of them are. All of them are captive to the power of sin and cannot free themselves, just as we cannot free ourselves.

No, the psalmist reminds us that there is one path to happiness: to put all our faith, trust, and hope in the LORD our God.

So we have come full circle from Psalm 1.

As you recall, Psalm 1 reminded us that happy, blessed people are those who take the right road, walking according to God’s instruction. Psalm 113 told us that God has a special regard for those who are beaten down by the world. Psalm 69 reminded us of God’s presence when all signs of God disappear from our lives. Psalm 27 exhorted us to be like the psalmist and not fear what comes our way. And Psalm 40 put the new song of God into our hearts; a new song of restored trust. Finally, in Psalm 146, we hear a reprise of Psalm 1: those who are happy are those who trust God always, no matter the circumstance.

Easy to say, right? You bet. Very easy to preach. Much harder to do.

Good thing we don’t have to “do” anything.

If you notice, the psalmist doesn’t say anything about what humans have to do. God does everything in this psalm! God made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them. God keeps faith forever. God executes justice for the oppressed. God gives food to the hungry. God sets the prisoners free. God opens the eyes of the blind. God lifts up those who are bowed down, loves the righteous, watches over the strangers (or better, “immigrant travelers”), upholds the orphan and widow, brings the way of the wicked to ruin.

God takes care of God’s people, no matter what the circumstances and chances of life throw at them.

When the Holy Spirit gives us this understanding deep in our being, then we naturally trust God in every walk of life.

Luther’s explanation to the First Article of the Apostles’ Creed brings this home. In response to who God the Father is, Luther responds:

I believe that God has created me together with all creatures. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties. In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property—along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. God does all this out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this I owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.[1]

Consider this a preview of where we’re going next week: God provides us with everything we need. When we have grateful hearts, we trust.

God in Christ through the Spirit is the One we depend upon for our eternal well-being. God not only provides for our physical needs, God also provides for our eternal needs. Christ is the one exception to this psalm’s exhortation to not put our trust in any human being: he is the One, true God and true human, that we can trust.

Whatever happens in the days, weeks, and months ahead with COVID, let’s put our trust in God, who already provides everything for us.

Whatever happens in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead with our country and world, let’s put our trust in God, who will deliver us from every evil.

Whatever happens, let’s praise God, singing our whole lives long. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.


[1] Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, Lutheran Handbook: A Field Guide to Church Stuff, Everyday Stuff, and the Bible, Augsburg Fortress. Kindle Edition.

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Sunday Sermons

“A New Song”

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Pr. David Fleener

July 12, 2020: Pentecost 6     

Psalm 40

Last night, I dreamt that I was waiting in line for hours for my morning coffee. When I got to the coffee shop this morning, the line stretched around the block! I guess I was experiencing “deja queue”.

Bad joke aside, I don’t know anyone who likes waiting. Waiting in line at the DVS or in traffic can be infuriating. Waiting at a grocery or department store can make you realize how easily you could break the Fifth Commandment! Waiting for the end of this COVID crisis, on the other hand, feels laden with fear and foreboding. And waiting for God…well, waiting for God is fraught with all kinds of emotion. Impatience, anger, sadness, disappointment, perhaps even hope. When we’ve been praying and praying, on our knees for hours, desperate for relief from the bad situation we’re in, we can find ourselves wondering, “Will God answer?” “Will God heal me?” “When will God remember me?” Behind these questions is a more fundamental question, one full of pathos. “Is God really good?”

We’ve run through the gamut of human experience with these psalms, from serene wisdom in Psalm 1, to utter devastation in Psalm 69, to a renewed trust in Psalm 27. We see that same trust here in Psalm 40, but the psalmist has a particular crisis and a particular rescue in mind.

We don’t know what the crisis was, but we do know what the rescue was like. “God drew me up from the noisy pit, out of the muddiest mud, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.” Whatever the crisis was, the psalmist felt like she had no solid ground on which to stand. Every movement would have caused her to sink deeper into the chaos that enveloped her life. We’ve heard language like this before in Psalm 69. Here it is again.

So many crises can feel like sinking into the mud. A health crisis, the loss of a loved one, the pain of divorce. Even this COVID crisis, as it drags on, feels this way to me. It can be difficult to see the way ahead, let alone comprehend what a new normal will look like. Michael Joncas’ hymn, “O Shelter Me,” captures this. “O shelter me, o shelter me, the way ahead is dark and difficult to see.”

Yet, the heaviness of the situation, powerlessness, and fears we have never get the last word. There wouldn’t have been a psalter without the experience of God’s goodness, however hidden it might seem.

Something extraordinary happens. God rescues the psalmist and sets her on solid ground. The waiting comes to a triumphant end. And something else happens. God gives the psalmist a new song to sing.

Most of us like the old, familiar songs, whether traditional or contemporary. They’re like Grandma’s tater-tot hotdish: tasty, filling, and comforting. (Of course, my favorite kind of “hotdish”, so to speak, comes from 16th-century Germany. Yours might come from Dakota Road or Chris Tomlin.) But the old, familiar song is not the right song to sing in the psalmist’s situation. The right song is the new song of gratitude and trust in response to God’s saving work. It’s a song of both relief and joy: the incessant waiting has come to an end, and God has responded in a way beyond the psalmist’s wildest imaginings.

Such a song is not just for the psalmist’s own benefit, though. It’s for everyone, whether inside or outside of the community of faith. “Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” Seeing God’s saving work brings about in us this odd combination of fear and trust. We often wouldn’t think fear would lead to trust; just the opposite. But the sense of fear here is of awe-filled respect, which leads to trust. God rescued the psalmist; God will certainly rescue us.

Can you imagine what our new song will be like after we emerge from COVID? Or real steps toward justice for all are taken in our society? Or when we experience real healing, real restoration, real shalom? It will be glorious. The closest thing I can think of is (again from the sixteenth century) is Thomas Tallis’ 40-part motet “Spem in alium”, the English translation of which reads: “I have never put my hope in any other but in Thee, God of Israel.” (Listen to it sometime online. I’ll put a link to it on Facebook.)

The heart behind the new song is what makes it so powerful. Such a song is given by God, to increase faith, hope, and love in God’s people. For the man afflicted by leprosy in the Gospel today, such a song comes out of the existence-changing event of recognizing his healing by Jesus. Such a song delays even obedience to Jesus’ order to “show oneself to the priest” to pause and give thanks.

Such a song will express that indeed, the wait was long and exhausting. Indeed, the crisis was grave. But time and time again, God shows us God’s grace, mercy, and love in Jesus Christ, the grace that forgives us, heals us, and restores us. That gives us shalom when the world is anything but. That reminds us of God’s care and of our call to embody that God-given shalom in our various life contexts.

The band U2 closed many of their concerts with a song based on this psalm titled “40”. At the end of the song, the audience picks up the lyric, “How long to sing this song,” singing it as the band exits the stage one by one. (There are videos of this online as well, I’ll be sure to post links.) The implication is clear. The song of God’s people, the new song God puts in our hearts, continues to inspire hope and trust, long after the music fades, when we’re in whatever crisis we find ourselves in.

God keep that new song going in your hearts. Amen.

© 2020, David M. Fleener. Permission granted to copy and adapt original material herein for non-commercial purposes with appropriate credit given.