Let us pray:
When peace like a river upholdeth my way; when sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, “It is well, it is well with my soul.”
ALL: It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul.
There is one thing in my faith that is steadfast, that is sure. I have doubts about a lot of things: The Virgin Birth comes to mind; If Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily or spiritual resurrection; If the imperfect, frail and oft times conflicted church is actually the Body of Christ…
But there is one thing that is sure: That God will never let me go. That God will never let any of us go. That God holds on to creation with a mighty grasp, and we will become in the end what God dreams for us. And nations will fall, and the seas will arise, and fires will burn across the vast plains… In twenty years, in a thousand year, in a millennia- things will not be the same. But God will still be holding us.
In the coming months and years, my life is going to change dramatically; I have no idea what that change will look like. Some of it will bring me great grief, and I will feel like my world is ending. Some of it will bring me great joy, which I could have never imagined.
And your lives, and your life here at Emmanuel will change in the next months and years- and you have no idea what that change will look like. An era is ending, and that will cause great anxiety among many of you.
And when we are anxious, and when we fear, we are not our best selves. We struggle for control of what we think will bring the best outcomes. We find fault with those we should be praying for, and tear down those we should be supporting. Anxious times, fearful times, are dangerous times. All we have to do is look around our nation to see the power of fear.
But anxious times, fearful times, do not have to be destructive times. They can be the times when we learn to lean on God, and trust in God’s good grace towards us. They can be the very times when we grow into our mature and loving selves.
One of my favorite poems was written by a medieval Jewish man on his first and only pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Jehudah haLevi was born in Toledo Spain about the year 1086, where he spent his life quietly serving others as a physician. Jehuda was a man kissed by God, who saw the hand of God in every healing, and the mercy of God in every life.
He had one daughter whom he adored, and a little grandson named after him: Jehudah. These two dear ones bound him to Spain with cords of love until he was 50 years old. But at the age of 50- in his Jubilee year, when God asks each of us take a sabbath year of rest and discernment- Jehudah haLevi was drawn to a love which had stirred his soul since his youth. In the year 1141, Jehudah set out upon the perilous seas to seek his heart’s desire: Jerusalem, the City of God. And so he set out across the sea from Spain to Israel.
The sea: its raging waves are a metaphor for the trials of life.
It’s majestic power is a metaphor for the vital power of the Almighty God.
It’s breadth is a metaphor for the distance that lies between us & our heart’s desire.
“I say in the heart of the seas,” writes Jehudah haLevi in the midst of a violent storm while on his way to Jerusalem… would you say it with me?
“I say in the heart of the seas to the quaking heart,
Fearing exceedingly because they lift up their waves:
If thou believest in God who made the sea,
And whose Name doth stand unto all eternity,
The sea shall not affright thee when the waves thereof arise,
For with thee is One who hath set a bound to the sea.”
“On The Sea #14”, Selected Poems Of Jehuda HaLevi
We journey across troubled seas to our heart’s home, and yet we need not fear; for it is God who journeys with us- the One Who has set a bound to the sea. This God who has set a bound to the seas of fear and chaos- this is the same God who holds us from now until eternity, there, in the palm of God’s hand.
It is as Romans 8 tells us- will you join me?
“I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
ALL: It is well with my soul; it is well, it is well with my soul.
The God who will never let us go: even Jesus the Christ. Amen.
SCRIPTURE FOR JAN. 26. 2020 ROMANS 8, selected portions
As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the children of God. For you have not received the spirit of slavery to fall back again into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption.
When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’, it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit, that we are children of God.
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose
And concerning God’s love for you,
I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Friends, listen to what the Spirit would say to us today.