Redeemer Ev. Lutheran Church, Iola, WI

Sermons, Devotions, and News from Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iola, WI

Tag Archives: thirst

Feasting with God #33 – Thirsting for God

Feasting with God #33

Thirsting for God

Text: Psalm 42:1-3

1As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

In a world which seems hell-bent on destroying anything to do with our Christian faith, the imagery of this psalm is particularly relatable.  The despair we feel at the seeming victory of the godless, of this world’s prince, even of sin over our own bodies can make us fall into this deep, physical thirsting.  As a deer, who runs in the chase away from its predators, wants only to stop and take a drink from a stream, we in our lives just want to rest, just want to have sanctuary before our God and to be nourished by him.

But instead, why does it so often seem that the only thing we’re able to drink is our own tears?  Our own predators chase us mercilessly.  They never grow tired.  They never stop.  We hide from them behind locked doors, only to find that they’ve already gotten inside.  We run back outside, trying to find protection among friends, only to find that our predators are hidden even among those friends.  Exactly how these predators attack us is said by this psalm: “They say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?’”

These predators don’t attack our bodies.  They attack our faith.  They try to create doubt in our hearts.  They mock us before others so that when we can’t answer their tough questions, we become fools in the eyes of others, and suddenly it seems that it’s our fault that the faith of others starts to fail.  Then we start to ask, “Where is God at these times?”  We’re dying of thirst, because the nourishment of God seems absent.

But this psalm goes on:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God….
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me. (Ps. 42:5, 7)

Hope is what this psalm encourages.  St. Paul has this to say about hope: “Now hope that is seen is not hope.  For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25).  No, we don’t see God’s salvation at these moments.  We don’t see God standing on our side.  But we hope for him.  This psalm talks about remembrance, how the speaker remembers how God came through for him in the past: if God helped him before, he will certainly do so again.

And with hope, even before the deliverance is seen, our thirst is quenched: even beyond what we could have imagined: the psalm speaks of God’s “waterfalls” and “breakers” and “waves.”  We are not given any mere stream of water, but even simply by the hope of what God will give us, we have roaring waterfalls which echo so loudly that “deep calls to deep.”

Jesus told his followers, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:31-33).  This is the essence of hope.  When we seek for God’s kingdom and righteousness, we have a sure hope that he will give them to us.  This hope is sure because these things were won for us, and are freely given to us, by Jesus Christ himself who died on the cross for our unrighteousness, and rose from the dead to share with us his righteousness, and to open the gates of God’s kingdom for us.  We can look back, remember that historic event, remember how God gave up his own Son for our salvation, and have that as foundation for our hope in what God will give us further on: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).

So yes, we do thirst for God, but not in despair: we thirst for him in hope.

Heavenly Father, who was gracious enough to give up your Son for our salvation, we hope, we thirst, we yearn desperately for all your blessings.  Deliver us from evil in this world, as you have promised.  Forgive us all our sins, as you have promised.  Refresh us continually with your Word, as you have promised.  Bring us to our heavenly home and eternal refreshment, as you have promised.  We ask it for the sake of your Son, who sacrificed all so that these things might be ours.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #23 – Overcome Evil with Good

Feasting with God #23

Overcome Evil with Good

Romans 12:14-21

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If we are Christians, then we ought to live as Christians. Because we are unable to escape our sinfulness while we live on this earth, it’s not always an easy task to live in a Christian way, and Paul gives us some advice in this passage to help us live like Christians.

When someone persecutes us, it’s easy—it’s human nature—to curse them, to wish evil upon them, or to defame them to others. It’s especially easy for Christians, because we know we’re not supposed to react violently. So we’ll react with our words. But Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you.” He lays a great deal of responsibility at our feet, in fact: “Live in harmony with one another…. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls Christians “peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). Paul expects us here to be able to keep the peace. “He started it!” we might say. And we might be right. But the advice of my parents comes back to me whenever I think that: “It takes two to fight.”

So, for our responsibility, we won’t fight. Let our enemies persecute us all they like, we won’t fight back. That’s what Paul asks us to do. It’s not easy. And even harder is what he further asks us to do: “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.’” Not only are we to not fight, but we are to react with kindness, even feeding our enemy. I can think of very few things I would find less pleasant than hosting someone who was my enemy, someone I despised, someone who hated me. I would hate to have to feed them dinner, give them room and board even for a night. But this, Paul says, is what we are to do: “for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Of course, there are times when Christians cannot sit idly by while injustices are done. Especially we can see this in the example of Christ, when he drove out the money-changers from the temple, even using a whip and overturning their tables, accusing them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matt. 21:13). This is a righteous anger, and in the right context, it is the appropriate response.

It may not always be clear to Christians when we should respond with love, “feeding our enemies,” and when we should respond with anger, in wrath and vengeance. Luther writes, “To understand this, you must distinguish between God and man, between persons and issues. Where God an issues are involved, there is neither patience nor blessing but only zeal, wrath, vengeance, and cursing” (LW 14:258). This is the appropriate distinction. When God’s holy things are being defamed and destroyed, the Christian in faith responds with zeal. But when one’s own person is persecuted and broken, then we react in love, trusting God’s promise, when he says, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.”

“Do not be haughty,” Paul says; and, “Never be wise in your own sight.” If we go about thinking that we can do no wrong, thinking that we are wise and holier than others, then it is natural that we would react with righteous anger rather than love. But we are not to consider ourselves this way. Rather we should humble ourselves. If we are persecuted or wronged, we can forgive, as Jesus did on the cross when the sins were against his own body. We overcome evil with good.

But it’s not easy. We are still sinful on this earth, and we want to take revenge, we want to respond in wrath. But thankfully we can turn to Jesus who accomplished this very thing. By living this way perfectly, forgiving and blessing his enemies, and then by dying as though he were a murderer, Jesus took our place, paid for our sins, including the ones of vengeance and hatred. And now, in faith, the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts and enables us to react with blessing and love, feeding our enemies when they are hungry, and giving them drink when they are thirsty. We don’t have to have the strength of character to accomplish it. It’s accomplished by God already. We only need faith.

Dear Lord, thank you for paying the price for all our sins, even though we ourselves were your enemies. Help us to forgive and bless our enemies, even as you forgave and blessed us. Lead us to do these works of service to you, strengthening us in doing good, so that we may overcome evil. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Feasting with God #21 – I Am the Bread of Life

Feasting with God #21

I Am the Bread of Life

Text: John 6:35-40

35Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  36But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  37All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  38For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  40For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

We have seen Jesus rise.  No, our physical eyes weren’t there 2,000 years ago, but with our eyes of faith we look on the Son who was killed for our trespasses and who was raised again for our justification, and in that belief, we have eternal life.

It’s sometimes hard to think about all the people in the world who are starving.  We think of the third-world countries in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, some even here in the United States.  We picture so easily the sad children of those places, who never know where their next meal will come from, or even if they’ll have a next meal.  Our hearts can’t help but go out to them, and often we wish there was more we could do.

As Christians, we ought to do what we can to help those in need.  Sometimes that does mean donating money to charity, or even providing literal bread to someone in need.  Truly noble acts, but how much do we think about the long run?  A loaf of bread may feed several children for a week, but they need more than that.  They need the means to have food for the rest of their lives.  But they need even more than that.  They need access to food that will keep them from ever going hungry.

In the text today, Jesus provides the access to that very food.  “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger,” he says.  He’s not speaking about a loaf of baked bread.  He’s speaking about eternal, spiritual food.  Any earthly bread will keep our earthly bodies alive, but what about our souls?  Our spiritual bodies will need nourishing as well, and this we get by faith in Christ.  This Jesus states clearly: “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”  By faith we take part in the nourishing bread that is Christ.  By believing in him, we have access to the true feast of God, that nourishment that will give us life eternal.  Because of that holy bread, we will never die—not really.

Jesus came from heaven with that mission, to share eternal life with us.  That way, whoever dies in faith can be described as only sleeping, because on the last day their bodies will wake up to new life, to full life, to eternal life.  Jesus’ resurrection on Easter gives us a picture of what that will be like for the rest of us.  Our bodies are frail and breakable and living only in shadow now.  But when we are glorified in him, our bodies will be pure, whole, and really living.

So we look to Jesus to have that pure food, to have that eternal life.  And this is a food that is easy to share with others.  We direct their eyes to the same Jesus.  We tell them his Word.  We declare that it is free, that we don’t need to do anything to get this heavenly bread, but it is given to us by God’s grace.  God loves a cheerful giver.  We can give earthly bread, earthly money to support those in need—and those things are important.  But don’t forget the most important thing: the bread that feeds our souls for eternal life, Jesus Christ.

Direct our eyes of faith, O heavenly Father, to your Son, and the great gift you have given us through him.  We often feel so harshly the temporary nature of this earthly life.  Yet as you give us our daily bread to nourish this life, do not leave us without the bread we need for eternal life.  Strengthen our faith which looks constantly to Jesus Christ as our Savior, and through him, grant us forgiveness, life, and salvation, all that we need to never go hungry.  Amen.

Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.