Praise for God's Love

Psalms of Lament  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  13:37
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Let us pray…Gracious and loving God, we come before you today with Joy in our hearts. Joy for being in this space together. Joy for being able to be together. And joy for the day itself which represents the day in which our new lives can begin. We thank you and praise you this day for all these things and more. In this time, though, we ask that you would help us to settle our hearts, minds, and spirits upon your still speaking voice as we meditate on what it truly means to be in your presence this day, Amen.

Joy Above All Else...

As we come into God’s presence this day, we remember and celebrate with great joy that Jesus has arisen from the dead, that he was not in the tomb as the women arrived there nearly two thousand years ago.
It is through this one act that God has assured us forgiveness of sins and guaranteed eternal life for all who believe. But this day is so much more than just the happiness that comes from the presence of those we welcome into our fellowship who have found a home with us, we also celebrate what it means to find that everlasting joy that comes from having faith. Today is a day of celebration around the world and it brings us to the close of one of the most difficult periods in our lives together and one of the most difficult for me in ministry. We have seen so many changes, challenges, and sorrow, but today we can begin anew, it is Easter after all and what a great morning to begin anew!

The New Beginning

Being here together is something special, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I almost feel like it is the first time that I am before you, all over again, trying to find the words that will give you as much hope and love as I feel in this moment. I have butterflies in my stomach and I wonder if there will be something in the words I speak today that will carry each of you through the next week and weeks to come. I mean, that is my hope every week but for some reason, it just seems to hold more importance today, like we are actually standing before the empty tomb ourselves, waiting and watching and hoping that Jesus held his promise to not be in the grave but rather be alive. AND HE REALLY IS!!! That is worth celebrating indeed.
God’s love shone through the act of raising Christ from the dead and God’s love is here and now. So, as we look at the words written several hundred years before Christ’s birth, know that God’s love for us has never changed, despite all that we have been through in the last year, and God’s love has been with us our entire lives. So, to understand this a little better, let’s take a look at how the Psalmist describes God’s love so that we might be able to see God’s love in a new light...
Psalm 118:1 NIV
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Right from the very outset of this Psalm, the writer wants his readers to know that God is good all the time and all the time God is good. Over the entirety of our lives, we might have felt like God had abandoned us or thrown us to the wolves, so to speak. I get, I have been there. One of the things that we need to keep very close to our hearts is the words of the second half of this verse…God’s love endures forever. When we consider what we have been through, how our lives could be different if we had just done this or done that other thing, we are taking God out of the equation. Almost like saying to God, “I got this, you have done enough.” But that’s not what our faith should be teaching us, especially when we consider Christ’s resurrection.
Let’s consider what Christ did in his final hours of his life…he asked for forgiveness for those who harmed him physically, he gave forgiveness to someone who truly deserved to die for the crimes that he committed, he ensured that his mother would be well taken care of in his absence as the eldest son, he prayed for those who would be left behind without him, and finally, he gave his whole being over to God. There were several other statements that he made, but this last one is the most important for us today.

Into Your Hands...

He says, “Into your hands, God, I commit my spirit.” In the end, the final words he spoke teach us the most about what it means to life in this life of trouble, turmoil, pain, and suffering. If you think about what he went through, I think that many of us would agree that even in our darkest moments, none of us were hanging from a cross moments before our last breath and still willing to say that God had the final say in our eternal lives. Yet this is what we are here to celebrate today. Christ’s death, which had to happen in order for the resurrection to occur, promises us eternal life.
I mean think about it…eternal life and guaranteed forgiveness. There is no greater gift than to give up a life for another. To be willing to give everything so that others can live…I hope and pray that none of us ever truly has to do that but that is what Christ did. And honestly it is worth celebrating and carrying in our hearts every day.
If we find it hard to do that though, there are words of comfort in the Psalm...
Psalm 118:13–14 NIV
I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
God helps us even when we don’t think that God is there. God is our strength and our sure defense. I do not know how many times that is related throughout the Psalms but what I can tell you is that I know for certain that if we open ourselves just a little, God will overtake our hearts and give us the kind of comfort and peace that cannot come from the world. Then the Psalmist says this...
Psalm 118:18 NIV
The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
What this says to me is that despite needing to be reprimanded, God only allowed things to happen because I needed a course direction change in my life. Let me say that again…God only allowed things that I have done in my life wrong to happen because I needed a course change. Think about it like this…when you have a child, do you not allow that child to make choices even sometimes when you know that they are making the wrong choice? And when they have made a choice, do we not want to wring their necks but instead punish them for a bad choice?
This is what the Psalmist is saying here…we have the freedom to choose and when we choose incorrectly and get off course, God does not punish us but rather helps us to see the right direction to be going and sometimes those course directions are hard times but ultimately, if we put our complete and utter trust in God, we will see the glory of everlasting life. Again, the rewards that we receive are not necessarily in this physical life but sometimes come after we leave this world behind.
So as we consider what the resurrection means for us today and how the last year has likely been one of those times in which we needed to change course in our lives, take these words with you and celebrate the fact that all of our sins have been forgiven and our eternal lives have been purchased for us…
Psalm 118:21 NIV
I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
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