Sermon / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Sunday May 28th 2017 - / 1 Peter 4 and 5; John 17:1-11 / He cares for you
Text: 1 Peter 4 and 5; John 17:1-11
He cares for you
Intr – “To be faithful in good times is easy. But wait until you loose someone, especially a son or a daughter; or your house. Wait until one undergoes severe problems and see if one remains steadfast in his faith in God.”
I have heard and read this train of thought many times in my life. And as a matter of fact to remain steadfast in faith during extremely rough times can be really challenging. But I invite you to pay attention to the following story, which is real and tells us how God is able to do way more than we can even conceive.
The lady had a fire in her workplace at home on a Christmas eve. Almost everything was lost. After a while, she lost a son and a grandson on a Good Friday. After another while, she lost her husband. Some months later her house now was on a fire. Even her bed was gone. No place to sleep. Not to mention other problems in her life, like living in a poor and dangerous neighborhood and having mobility limitations – she uses a wheelchair.
One day, when talking with her about all these episodes, a friend asked her: “And how do you see Jesus Christ in your life in face of all these things?”
Many people would expect anger. Other people would say she would be frustrated, or even indiferent. Her answer was short, but calm and confident. “He is the living water that kills my thirst and he gives me strength to carry on every new day.”
That’s a powerful witness of trust and confidence in God. But more than that, I bring it because that is a witness of GOD’S CARE over our lives. Or would we think she would be able to express that confidence based on her human strenght?
In the epistle for today St. Peter speaks about suffering. When we reflect upon suffering in our lives (and please, note that this sermon is not designed to respond all questions about suffering, it just can’t) we are talking about expectations as well. And then a relevant question may be asked: what do we expect since we are Christians?
We know quite well that frustration is directly proportional to expectations. The bigger the expectation, the deeper the frustration if things turn out not being what we hoped for. And, when it comes to Christian faith that’s exactly what’s going to happen, if our expectations and goals and dreams are grounded in the wrong ground.
1 – What not to expect
Many disappointments we have in our relationship with God come from our pre-conceived perceptions. Assuming.
-"To embrace faith is to sail the sea of constant happiness";
-Sometimes, we shape God according to our needs, and not the other way around. We say, “Lord, Thy will be done. And I would like it if your will was for me to have success in my goals by the Fall of this year. I want perfect health; money, lots of it. A new car. And if you could squeez it in, also the Grey Cup.”
-Future forecasting – we love to do that. We love to foretell how things are going to be in our life next fall, next year, next decade. Actually, how we think things are going to or should be.
-“Health and wealth Gospel”. The sort of teaching that tries to avoid exactly what Saint Peter tells us is going to happen. In this case, we build up expectations even though we have right before our eyes a 2000 years old text that says this is not going to happen.
That’s why is so good to hear Christ’s words in the Gospel today, and St. Peter’s as well. They tell us what we can expect from our relationship with God. He cares for us.
2 - What to expect - HE CARES FOR YOU
Melei – This is the Greek word for CARE – It appears 3199 times in the Bible. That’s why we can say for sure that care is an important word in the Word of God. The epistle shows one of the main reasons. "At the proper time he may exalt you, casting all you anxieties on him, because He cares for you." Martin Luther, who was a genius in languages and translated the NT into German uses here "Sorge fur." in German. Let me give you some of the possible translations:
to take care of; to look after; to care for; to provide for; to ensure;
We don’t need to go far from here to see what St. Peter means. God knows you. God cares for you. In Christ, He is in you and with you.
So when we look at the Gospel of John, we see this Friend, Savior, this caregiver, Provider, Assurer PRAYING for His disciples - praying for us! --"Holy Father, keep them in your name."
-We have St. Peter telling us with pastoral care: "Do not be surprised at the fiery trialen it come sup[on you to test you." And "If you suffer for Christ ... rejoice in this!".
People who look at our lives sometimes would not understand very well this confidence we have, the way we put our whole life in His hands. But if they really look into our lives, they will really see God's action happening. And that’s one of the ways the Word of God is also shared with our neighbor.
“-Well pastor, so far we could be left with the impression that as Christians suffering is the main part of our life, eh?” Well, not so much. We can expect suffering in our Christian life, for sure. But above all, we can expect this:
_To Continue to know Jesus and having eternal life
_To be kept by our Holy Father
_To Remain in Christ
_To have happiness even in sorrow for we know our Father and we Know the way - Christ
_To rejoice in the Lord always, even in sorrow. Because, sometimes sorrows are opportunites to learn and show God’s love. HE cares for us.
Two of the most fundamental things to face difficult times, but not available in large quantities in our culture, are patience and resilience. Nobody has patience anymore to wait. Patience, anxiety control and faithfullness in our society seem to be something vey abstract.
Another important aspect of it I will illustrate with a short story. Some years ago, our campus ministry music group from ULBRA went to a youth gathering in a city of Santa Catarina State (Brazil). On the way there the road was clear and traffic was light. The return trip was a different story, though. Traffic was heavy as cars and trucks filled the lanes. That being said, however, nothing special happened. We drove on until we arrived safely at our homes.
So what's so special about this? Nothing. But, then again, everything. If there had been an accident and I survived to this day, that would have been reason enough to thank the Lord. right? Isn't the fact we traveled almost 1000 miles with not even a flat tire all the more reason to have hearts of thanksgiving for our Father's care for seven travelers in two cars?
Oddly, it seems we are more ready to give thanks when bad things happen and we are delivered than for all the good God does in our lives. Sometimes -- many times, in fact -- our hectic routines get in the way and we don't even notice His work in our lives. Sometimes we expect God’s action only in the extraordinary, unexpected, impossible. But we often forget his presence and action in what is just ordinary, regular in our lives.
Sometimes we wait for the miracles we asked for. But we forget to be thankful for all those miracles we already received, often even without noticing them.
Our Lord Jesus is loving and patient. His presence and care are the signs on our road keeping us safe. Some signs along the way alert us that repentance is needed ahead, requiring us to stop and think. Other signs motivate and fuel us to greater faith by reminding us that safety, help, forgiveness, and love are ours and given to us freely. He paid the price by going along the straight and narrow path at the Cross, so we can arrive safely in God’s hands. He cares for you.
When we think of that hard and personal story from the beginning of the sermon, we see it comes from someone who knows very well what deep suffering is all about. But also from someone who knows what it means to place faith in Christ as the Caregiver, Provider, Looker after... Our refuge, our rock when we face the pains of being. Far beyond human reason can even grasp. But so simple, close and personal that even a child is included. He cares for you.
Cc – So, what to expect since we are Christians? A rainbow-like life? Now that could be a good ilustration. Because, what do we need in order to have a rainbow show up in the sky? We need rain and Sun.
For all the rain that the problems bring to our lives, Christ, our Sun, is always there. Bringing color and hope to our lives. A rainbow is also a reminder of God’s promise to Noah after the Flood. Regularity even when it comes to Creation and its seasons.
Our strength sometimes eventually wear out. His love does not. He will be there always, every season, every moment. He cares for you. Until that never-ending season of totatl absence of suffering and of eternal happinnes with Him. Forever. For He Cares for you. Amen