Herrenhuter readings for Thursday, the 18th December 2014

DSC_0367It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep. (Psalm 127, 2) and cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5,7)

Our good Lord, the triune God, cares for us like a good shepherd for his sheep and far better even than that. He grants food to the birds under the sky and the fish in the oceans, but even more he watches over us human beings that not even one hair falls from our head unwarranted nor does he overlook one tear drop either. He keeps us close, safe and well taken care of in good and bad times. All of this he does without any worthiness or merit on our side, but only out of pure fatherly goodness and divine mercy. Not just once off, but continuously from when we are conceived until the day that we die and are put to rest in his sowing field – the cemetery – to rise again on the Last Day to face his final judgement then.

We however with our early rising, can’t change much in our destiny or life’s success. Obviously we can get work done and most times we just have to do just that. There are letters to be written, monies to be paid, plans to be made and issues to be thought through thoroughly and appropriately. We just have to get that off our table. Yet – and that is the point here – success as in good results, victory and glory are not in our hands. We’re just doing our thing and our thing is to be faithful, to take care of those things that have been entrusted to us by our various callings, but flourishing, thriving, prosperity and wellbeing are not in our hand. We’re not the masters of our destiny never mind the universe. Its what our Lord means, when he says, why do you boast about this or that as if you have earned and merited it – its a gift from your creator and sustainer God. Therefore boast that you know the Lord and are under his protection and care, carried by his grace and goodness. He hands out gifts and presents as he wills and we are but at the receiving end having to answer him, how faithfully and diligently we have dealt with our lot – one, two or ten bags full. Those who have received much, will have much to answer for and those with little, will have to beware that they don’t hide and bury theirs, because they in their ingratitude and envy thought it wasn’t worthwhile in the first place.

Getting up early helps to miss most peak traffic. That’s true. However it doesn’t mean that you’ll actually arrive on time or get your work done just right either. You can have a blow-out on the way or land up in a traffic jam. The lights can be out at your workplace and you can launch your word processor. We’re not in control of these things. Yet that does not mean that you should just sleep in and forget about your task to be done. That’s not the intention of this admonition. Rather we should know that God is the one, who grants willingness, ability and success according to his boundless mercy and goodness. We with our worries, cares and anxieties don’t change things for the better. We can’t even add one single day to our life. It’s all God’s free gift and unmerited grace from his side +

Sometimes we also have to sit up and get our work done that is still undone. We are under compulsion and we just have to do it. Yet it is not our sorrows and worries and anxieties, which get things changed. That’s God’s prerogative and privilege. Therefore leave it to him. Commit everything to him in prayer and do your work faithfully – as Luther says with regards to the old Benedictine order: Ora et labora – Pray as if work doesn’t work and work as if all praying isn’t heard.

Old Arthur Engelbrecht said so at our wedding – you can buy a wonderful and comfortable bed, but you can’t overcome your insomnia. You can cook the most delicious menu, but you can’t prevent indigestion or other diseases. You can build a great and impressive house, but you can’t keep illness, unhappiness and even death out of it. You can achieve lots in life – do your job, pass all exams, score high points in this and that – but you can’t create happiness, joy and gratitude. It’s a gift + and the Lord lets it rain over good and bad. God sometimes let’s you thrive and sometimes he lets you fade – but all is to serve you best and your final salvation in blessed eternity too. Life’s too short to pack everything in it – even if so many, who have given up on eternity, feel they can still manage their bucket lists without burnout or heart attack. Yet that’s not the point of life. That’s just vain pursuits of hedonists and faithless worriers – anxious that they might just miss out on this or that. Well, our Lord says, take care that you don’t miss your eternal destination, because of your worldly anxieties. Remember the rich man? Jesus asked him something like: You fool – who is going to inherit your riches, when you pass away tonight, when they come to fetch your soul?

It’s no use sitting up for long nights on end trying to find a solution to these God given and divinely imposed handicaps, boundaries and limitations to our life. We’re not gods. We’re but human – and we ought to accept that gratefully. Even that we are going to die – perhaps even today, surely not too far off, because time is fleeting and we are rushing ahead as if flying even diving towards our final destination in the graveyard. I really do prefer the german “Friedhof“or more still “Gottes Acker” – God’s acre/Seedbed/Seminarium!

This admonition does not only hold true for our own given lives, but also for that of others, our families and friends, the live of our people and nations – even the christian congregation and Church. It’s God’s and we’re called by his grace and mercy to live in these structures and institutions according to his good will and merciful care – God fearing, faithful and true with lots of love and mercy for our neighbour, who’s in the very same boat as us – traversing this life’s hazards as best as possible and hopeful to attain the other end in God’s favour, grace and peace.

So let’s recognise our position in life and try to fill it as best as we can, living according to God’s commandments and rules in the calling (Beruf!) we’re in – thankful to him and praising him for all his goodness and undeserved mercy daily. He takes care of us better than any father for he is God and does everything very well! Forgiving our sins, many failings and shortcomings, healing all ills and hurts and granting us peace and eternal salvation by his grace and goodness. Amen.

Let us sing and pray with Salomo Franck’s “O God, Forsake Me Not”:

O God, forsake me not!
Your gracious presence lend me;
Oh, lead your helpless child;
Your Holy Spirit send me
That I my course may run.
Be you my light, my lot,
My staff, my rock, my shield.
O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not!
Take not your Spirit from me;
Do not allow the night
Of sin to overcome me.
Increase my feeble faith,
Which you yourself have wrought.
Be you my strength and power.
O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not!
Lord, hear my supplication!
In every evil hour
Help me resist temptation;
And when the prince of hell
My conscience seeks to blot,
Be then not far from me.
O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not!
My heart your grace addressing,
O Father, God of love,
Grant me your heavenly blessing
To do when duty calls
Whatever you allot,
To do what pleased you.
O God, forsake me not!

O God, forsake me not!
Lord, I am your forever.
The true faith grant to me;
Grant that I leave you never.
Grant me a blessed end
When my good fight is fought;
Help me in life and death.
O God, forsake me not!

Notes:
Hymn # 372 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Ahasverus Fritsch
Tune: Was Frag Ich Nach Der Welt
1st Published in: 1724

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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