A sermon based on Lamentations 3:22-33
Sunday, July 2, 2017 – Pentecost 4B
Okay. It's time for another interactive sermon introduction. You ready? Paying attention? Over my vacation in Wisconsin I played a game with my mom and my boys called "5 Seconds." A category was named and you then had 5 seconds to come up with 3 things in that category. If you couldn't get three, play passed to the next player, but they weren't allowed to use any of the things already said. They had 5 seconds to come up with 3 things on their own.
This morning, I'm going to give you a little more than 5 seconds. I'll let you think for a bit, but I want you to call out things in the category, trying not to repeat something someone else said. Got the concept? Ready? Then here's the category: Things God blesses you with on daily basis. [Repeat:] Things God blesses you with on daily basis. Go!
[Wait for responses.]
That's a pretty good list we came up with in a short amount of time. That wasn't too difficult of a category was it? There are so many things that God blesses us with daily that we so often take them for granted. We could have named things like toenails that keep our toes safe when we drop things, refrigeration that allows us to store food without it spoiling so quickly, nose hairs that filter the air before it reaches our lungs, gravity that keeps us from floating away, road systems than bring our groceries to us, satellites that give us access to information in such a short time, sleep to recharge and refresh… the list could literally go on and on for days, couldn't it?
And yet, we take these things for granted. We even expect that we should get them. We feel entitled to things that we have neither earned nor deserved. And we deserve God's wrath for such ingratitude and entitlement. But some of those gifts we receive from God every day [which you mentioned] is his love, his compassion, his forgiveness, and his grace. So we are not consumed, but are saved. We are so blessed, every single day! Our text for consideration this 4th Sunday of Pentecost is found in Lamentations 3:22-33…
22 Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."
25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust— there may yet be hope. 30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. 32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.
I have a confession to make. I'm not proud of this characteristic I find in me, but it's there. It's this: That I am normally pretty to slow to be thankful for the many blessings I have from God and at the same time I'm pretty quick to gripe when I don't get what I want.
That's maybe why I find listening to "First World Problems" so compelling. They too often describe me…
- One of these super delicious nachos I'm eating just stabbed me in the roof of my mouth. [Angry.]
- One pillow is too low. But two pillows is too high. [Frustrated.]
- The passenger on the plane next to me started the same move I'm watching a minute ahead of me. And he keeps laughing before I'm ready. [Pout.]
- I have too many groceries to carry in in one trip. I'm going to have to back out to the van a second time. [Sigh.]
- I don't have enough dip for my chips. But if I open a new dip, I won't have enough chips for my dip. [Confused.]
- I had something witting to say, but the topic was changed before I could say it. [Angy.]
Seriously, even though I'm a grown man, I still find myself complaining when I don't like dinner (at least inwardly, even if I'm too polite to say it out loud). I find myself whining when my internet speed isn't as fast I think it should be, forgetting what it was like with a dial up modem. I get frustrated when my cell phone is out of range, taking for granted that I have a computer in my pocket that is way faster and has far more features than the first PC I owned in high school.
So here's my confession: I… am a spoiled brat. And that is when things are going well. When I face any kind of problem, I get even worse. And it doesn't take the destruction of my city with most of my friends and family carried off into captivity to a foreign nation like happened to Jeremiah to make me whine. A stubbed toe drives out any gratitude for the delicious meal I just ate. A higher utility bill drives out any gratitude for a personal dividend check. And a misbehaving son drives out any thought of my Savior's love and patience with me. Hi. My name is Rob. And I'm a spoiled brat.
What would you do if your child talked to you that way? I expect that you would quickly put that child in his or her place. I expect you would stop enabling that selfish and spoiled behavior. You would stop giving in to the self-absorbed demands.
And for our self-absorption, for our thankless attitudes, and ungrateful expectation that God continue to bless us with all of those things we listed at the start of the sermon, God ought to stop giving us these daily blessings and worse. God ought to stop giving us daily forgiveness. He ought to give us hell.
But instead, God gives us problems and trial and pain to draw us back to him. He gives us a wake up call, that we risk to lose everything that matters if we keep whining about things that don't.
So what's our response?
What do we do? We burry our faces in the dust. Not like the ostrich, pretending there is no problem. (For, like the ostrich, such head burying fools no one, least of all God.) But bury your face in the dust in repentance, falling on your knees, accepting the yoke of discipline that God gives, heeding the rebuke of his law. "Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace."
But how can we do that? Don't we risk losing God's love if we admit what we've done and how we've been? No. We don't. Because. "The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him… For men are not cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."
He will show compassion. He will offer his unfailing love. And he will do it every single day: "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
And again, just like last week, it's not insignificant that Jeremiah, like Job, used the word "Lord" (all caps), the name connected to the covenant promise to send a Savior from sin. And the Lord did show his love and compassion and faithfulness in the person of Jesus. Jesus never took for granted the blessings he had from the Father, but thanked him for them every day. He never complained, even when the Father laid on him a humbling mission to become a man to rescue us. He never whined when the Father laid on him a mission to have men lay on him a cross. He never grumbled when the Father laid on him the iniquity of us all and asked him to endure hell on that cross to rescue us.
And by the work of the Lord, God's mercies "are new every morning." We are so blessed, every single day. Every morning is a clean slate. Every absolution is a brand new do over. Every gospel proclamation is a declaration that you and I are sinless and holy in every way before God!
So dear brothers, dear sisters, count your blessings, not your woes. Get over your first world problems. And rejoice in your other world blessings. Give thanks to God for them every day—for the greater spiritual blessings he gives, and then for the smaller, but countless other blessings he showers on us daily. The next time you pray it, think about that prayer (that we so quickly rattle off) a little more: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good and his mercy endures forever! Sincerely give thanks to God for the many blessings he gives you each day. And accept any hardships he permits or sends your way as opportunities to grow closer to him.
Can you imagine what it would be like if we all did that? If each day we offered prayers of gratitude and thanks instead of any complaint. Can you imagine if our gratitude overwhelmed our frustrations, consumed our attitudes, and spilled over into our daily lives? What would life look like for you? How would you live differently? What kind of an impact do you think such grateful living would have on those around you?