World On FireSeries: Turbulence
WORLD ON FIRE
Sermon By Terry Siverd / June 7, 2020 / Cortland Church of Christ
Good morning to all of you. We hope that you will plan to worship with us on our re-start date on June 21st -- now just 2 weeks away. As you can see from today's Scripture reading, we have company. Betina, Albert and George are now visiting with us, having flown in from Arizona, this past Wednesday. They'll be with us through August 4th and we're delighted to have them.
Over a span of seven weeks during the last few months (Sunday evenings from 9-10), our household watched a one-hour weekly dramatic presentation on PBS titled, World On Fire The series offered a birds-eye view of the personal struggles of several key characters during WWII. It was a well-done piece that was both riveting to watch and emotionally exhausting. One might ask, “why would you put yourself through that during this taxing time of turbulence?” Although painful to watch, it has provided a much-needed perspective for our troubling times. Perspective is that marvelous blessing that allows us to look back on consequential struggles of the past, and come away with renewed strength, confident that God will guide the future as He has the past. I find it comforting to dwell on THE BIGNESS OF GOD. It is God's bigness coupled with His pervasive lovingkindness that sustains us, it is. If Jehovah God was omnipotent but lacking in TLC for His creatures, our circumstances would overwhelm us. We could find neither hope nor rest in an all-powerful God who is unmoved by our human condition. But the God of Scripture is a combination of both - - He is ever strong and extremely loving. One of the hard sayings of Paul is found in Rom.8:28 - - We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. One could argue that this is just theoretical theology - - not based in real life experience. However, the source of this quotation is the apostle Paul, who knew whereof he spoke.
During these last few months of turbulence, I have become somewhat entranced by the psalms. One good psalm leads to another and another and another. They address the ups and downs of life. This ancient Hebrew song book is a good place to take up residence when our world is on fire. We are struggling through troubles in triplicate: a global pandemic … an economic downturn … and now, added to the mix – a proliferation of protests. Protests in and of themselves can be both legitimate and needful. When a life is wrongfully snuffed out, it is right to voice dissent. Sadly however, many of these protest rallies of the past two weeks have been co-opted by some who appear to be bent on stirring up lawless mayhem, resulting in rioting, looting, destruction and death. What happened to George Floyd was profoundly tragic. Police brutality is never excusable. No one, regardless of his or her skin color, can fairly watch the video of George Floyd's death and not come away angered and sickened. Nine minutes of a knee on the neck of a man cuffed and flat on his face is simply inexcusable. Unrest is understandable and justified in light of this event, but demonstrations that morph into disorderly conduct which spawns arson, thievery, demolition and further killings is likewise unacceptable. A number of George Floyd's own family have openly condemned this kind of riotous response. Watching the news over the last two weeks has seemed like an extension of the series, World On Fire.
Open your Bibles to the Old Testament book of Psalms. One phrase from the psalms that has stilled my soul of late is: the shadow of His wings. We find this colorful image in several of the psalms - - most of them attributed to David.
Ps.17:8 / Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me I the shadow of Your wings.
Ps.36:7 / How precious is Thy lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
Ps.57:1 / Be gracious to me, O God...for my soul takes refuge in Thee; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, until destruction passes by.
Ps.61:4 / Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings.
Ps.63:7 / For You have been my help, And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
Ps.91:1 & 4 / He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty...He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
I read a blog this past week written by a woman who was startled by a loud racket emanating from her backyard. It was the sound of a mother Gadwall (duck) trying to retrieve her ducklings from the woman's fenced-in swimming pool covered by a mesh canopy. Somehow four duckling wandered into the pool and became trapped. The bloggist noted that the honking sounded like that of an 18-wheeler attempting to avoid a head-on collision. The mother duck was intent on saving her babies. Finally, after the lady opened the fenced gate, the mom was able, after an hour's worth of squawking directives and vault maneuvers, to recover her brood and fly away.
These psalms remind us of the words of Jesus in Mt.23:37 - - O Jerusalem...how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chick under her wings, and you were unwilling.
Read again from Ps.57:1-4 - - Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge in Thee; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, until the destruction is past. I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplished all things for me, He will send from heaven and save me; He reproaches him who tramples upon me. Selah. God will send forth His lovingkindness and His truth. My soul is among lions; I must lie among those who breathe forth fire, even the sons of men whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword.
Read again from Ps.91:1-4 - - He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!' For it is He who delivers your from the snare of the trapper and from deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, And under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.
These sacred writings from ancient days gone by remind us of two things. First, the lives of humans are beclouded - - full of turmoil, as Job noted so long ago (Job 14:1). Or, as David declared in another of his psalms, sorrow is continually before me (Ps.38:17). Secondly, we are reminded, once again by David, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit (Ps.34:18). In still another of his psalms, David encourages us, noting God's constant care: You have recorded my troubles. You have kept a list of my tears (Ps.56:8 / NCV).
So, let us take heart in knowing that even when our world is on fire, God loves abides with us.
Let us close with a prayerful reading of Ps.90:1-2 - - Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world. Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. To You, the Almighty One, our dear Father, we cast our anxieties upon You in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.