Order of Service Printed in Today’s Bulletin
Listen to Today’s Sermon:
“Shout for joy, O heavens; rejoice, O earth; burst into song, O mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.” But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you.” – Isaiah 49:13-17
Getting a tattoo is a brave thing to do. Some may have many; others argue it’s foolish! Some may think, “What if the girlfriend/boyfriend whose name you etched in your skin breaks up with you? What if your favorite sports team disappoints you? What if the pattern that you thought was cool at age 18 is now embarrassing?” Every time you see it, the tattoo will remind you of whatever or whoever it represents.
Seven hundred years before Jesus, the people of Israel had forsaken their love and worship of the true God. God warned them through Isaiah the prophet that they would be taken away as captives to Babylon (modern Iraq area). While there, the people would say, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me,” as if the LORD had abandoned his people.
Maybe you have felt the same way at different times in your life. You may think, “God, where are you when I need you most?” Do you believe God has forgotten about you?
Just when you might think God has distanced himself from you, he reminds you, “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” People may forget about God, but God doesn’t forget his people! He has them, he has you “tattooed” on his hands! Every time he sees your name on his hand, he thinks of how much he loves you, forgives you and welcomes you as his dear child. He wants you to know he will never forget about you!
This past Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, the Christian church began a 40-day spiritual journey known as Lent. This time of repentance and reflection is an opportunity to “hasten back” to the arms of our Savior, Jesus. If you have drifted from Jesus, know that he hasn’t forgotten you and is ready to welcome you back with his outstretched hands on the cross … etched with your name on them!
“You have heard that is was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic term of contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” – Matthew 5:21-22
Paul could not stand his next door neighbor, and Tom’s attitude toward Paul was no different. For years they maintained a war of words, but now it had degenerated into a bitter silence. What further complicated the situation was that both men felt justified in what they were doing. Neither was going to budge until the other apologized. So the resentment grew and the bitterness burned.
The trap which caught both Paul and Tom is one that also catches me. It is easy for me to get angry. It is just as easy to give into biting accusations and bitter animosity. What makes matters worse is I can quickly justify my actions and feelings.
Although I may try to justify what I do and think, are they really justifiable? When I consider what Jesus taught on the mountainside, my way of justification will never clear me of guilt. Jesus strips away what I think is justifiable, or even respectable, and reveals it for what it really is, sin. He also reveals the consequences of my sin, judgment and hell.
I need to realize my actions that harm, my anger that burns, my accusations that destroy, and my animosity that divides make me guilty before God. According to what Jesus teaches, I am guilty even if I do not harm a person physically. I am still accountable for the thoughts and attitudes of my heart.
It is impossible for me to justify myself, but it is not impossible for God to justify me. This is why Jesus came to be my substitute. Through his life on earth, through his defeat of the devil, through his shame and mockery, and through his agonizing death, Jesus did everything needed for God to justify me. Through his work Jesus accepted the judgment I deserved and willingly bore God’s just sentence on my sin. Through Christ, God has declared me not guilty of every charge.
Because I have been justified through faith in Jesus, my response is to live my life in grateful thanks and faithful praise. It means controlling my feelings and emotions. It means ridding my heart of anger and resentment. It also means confessing my guilt before the Lord and seeking the assurance of his forgiveness. This will lead me away from trying to justify my actions, and lead me to the comfort and peace of being justified by God’s undeserved love in Jesus.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. – I Corinthians 2:1-5
Benjamin Franklin was one of the most persuasive men of his time. Through a combination of carefully chosen words, good humor and common sense, Franklin enjoyed great success when it came to winning people over to his point of view. In fact, it was Franklin’s art of persuasion that helped convince the nation of France to become an ally of the United States during the American Revolution. Had it not been for Benjamin Franklin, the Revolutionary War very likely would have ended in defeat.
There was an episode, however, when Benjamin Franklin set his eloquence aside. His home city of Philadelphia did not have street lamps. Its residents were satisfied with dark streets at night. Franklin could have unleashed the power of his pen and worked to convince his fellow residents of the many benefits of street lamps. Instead, he took a different approach. He simply set up his own street lamp outside of his own house. After sunset, the lamp’s light attracted the curiosity of his neighbors. Gradually, the word spread about how wonderful it was to walk near Mr Franklin’s house at night without fear of stumbling in the dark. Soon the people of Philadelphia were persuaded. Street lamps for the entire city quickly followed.
There are times when you and I, as Christians, have a habit of worrying ourselves into silence when it comes to witnessing to someone else about Jesus. We think we have to have just the perfect line of thought, the perfect choice of words, the perfect timing. Such thinking is nonsense, and we know it. After all, it’s not within our power of persuasion to bring another soul to faith.
Instead, we have something far better. Jesus is the light. In him the darkness of our lives is gone. In him we are forgiven. In him we have peace. In him we never have to be afraid again.
When you and I openly bask in the light that is Jesus, we then don’t have to fret so much about persuading others how wonderful that light is. The light will speak for itself.