Sunday, August 29, 2021
Pastor Deb Kielsmeier
Psalm 46:1-3; 27:1; 121:1-8 NRSV; John 16:33 NLT
These last two Sundays of the summer, we are making a shift from this past year’s theme – the ripple effects of faith – And taking look at Augustana’s new theme for the next year. “And Yet.” “And Yet.” You are probably wondering… “And Yet?” “And Yet” is our theme? What does that even mean?
“And Yet” is a conjunction – do you remember that from English class? It means ‘but’ or ‘nevertheless’ – and we use it to show a contrast. For example…There are so many questions and yet so few answers. So many books and yet so little time. As a conjunction “And Yet” is used to highlight a contrast between two things. For example, the baseball game is delayed and yet we really need this rain. Getting to the gym is a struggle and yet I love how I feel after I exercise.
As our theme for this upcoming year, the conjunction “and yet” reminds us that regardless of what is happening in our world or in our lives, there is more. Things may be going well, or life may be a struggle. You may be filled with hope or filled with anxiety about the future. And yet, no matter what life brings, God walks with us through it. The ground may seem to shake beneath our feet, and yet, God is our rock – a sure foundation.
Some people assume that if a person is truly following Jesus and obeying God, they should have picture perfect lives. Well-behaved children, a strong marriage, a successful career, good health – even material wealth, according to the Prosperity Gospel preachers. Where do we get that idea from? Reading through the Bible we find God’s faithful people encountering disaster, betrayal, suffering, persecution, and loss over and over again. Jesus experienced all these things here on earth. Why do we expect that our lives should be different?
A times, life in this world can be painful and confusing and just plain hard. Jesus told us this when he said, “In this world you will have trouble.” In Greek, the word translated as trouble is θλῖψιν (thlipsin) which can also be translated as affliction, suffering, or tribulation. Yes, Jesus came to bring us abundant life (John 10:10), but he never promised life would be easy or without pain.
I know. I sound like Eeyore. Debbie Downer. But there is good news. As a believer, you do not have to pretend that your life is all together, and the sun is always shining. Life may indeed be going well, but you also may be anxious and overwhelmed – exhausted by the ever-changing COVID situation and the constant fighting and division in our world. You may be celebrating a new relationship or a new career. Or you might be grieving a deep loss of a loved one, a job, or a dream. At Augustana this year, we in a time of transition as we seek a new pastor – and that can provoke some anxiety.
And yet. And yet. And yet…God holds our future. God knows us, loves us, cares for us, and walks with us every step of the way. God is faithful. No matter what.
Right now – take a moment and ask yourself, “What is my greatest fear?’ It may be something you are facing in your own life, or a concern for a loved one. It could be physical: disease, addiction, or a natural disaster. It may be economic: losing job, paying down debt, even eviction. Or it may be spiritual or emotional or relational: depression, doubt, or a broken relationship. Whatever it is, it can keep you up at night. Take a moment to name that fear in your heart.
Psalm 121, from our text for today, begins by asking a question which is as relevant to our lives today as it was thousands of years ago. I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? Where does my help come from?
It may be stating the obvious to say that your eyes need to be open to lift them up to the hills. But sometimes I find myself sleep walking through my life and must remind myself to look up – to be attentive to God’s presence and what the Spirit is up to. So, with wide eyes open and with your greatest fear named… Ask yourself, where does my help come from?
We look for answers and for help in many places and in many ways. And those resources are not necessarily bad – but ultimately, where does our help come from?
The psalmist answers his own question with a confession of faith… “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (v. 2). Our help comes from the Lord of all creation. The Hebrew verb for ‘comes’ here is written in the imperfect tense. That means God’s help comes, and comes, and continues to come. It doesn’t come and go. No, God’s help is ever present in both the big and the small situations of our lives. We can depend upon it.
The question is, where are we looking for answers? Where are YOU looking for answers?
Here is where our faith meets life. This year we will look straight into the face of our realities and yet, claim God’s promise of help and hope and presence. We can depend on the One who remains with us in both the good and the difficult times of life. And we can trust the promises God makes to us. We may fear what the future may bring, AND YET, God – our helper – holds that future and is there waiting for us.
You know that fear, threat, or concern that I asked you to name? I invite you right to look straight into the face of that fear, that threat or that situation and say, “And yet – my help comes from the Lord – who made heaven and earth.”
Ready? Okay. Stare down that fear and repeat after me.
And yet. My help comes from the Lord. Who made heaven and earth!