Herrenhuter readings for Thursday, the 23rd April 2015

“The days of thy mourning shall be ended.” (Isa 60:20 KJV) and “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jud 1:21 KJV)

That really is good news and its trustworthy too. Not just a pie in the sky or some utopian speculation, because that’s God’s promise to his people: “The days of thy mourning shall be ended.” (Isa 60:20 KJV)

Now if God did not say that, if that was just a pious dream of some looney guru out in the wilds with the motto: “Die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt!” – well, then St. Paul would have been quite right in his evaluation: We would be the most miserable and pitiable of all people. (cf 1.Cor.15:19) Instead the nihilists would be correct in their evaluation that it’s all meaningless, absurd and vain. We could then just follow the ancient ideology of the sophists and just eat and drink, party and be merry for tomorrow we’ll be dead anyway and all will be past and forgotten. Try to tick off your bucket list as fast as you can for time is fleeting and you better make the best of this short life – hurried along and haunted even on the most starry nights by the ever nearing grim reaper.

Now – perhaps you’ve not gone all the way as consequential nihilism – but perhaps you’re very much like those, who lost their loved wife, sister and daughter yesterday and when a friend wanted to pray with them, they refused saying: “Why should be pray? Don’t you know, what happened to her?” Just as the rich man is easily coaxed into forgetting the living God and the coming Judgement, so too poverty, suffering, grief and pain tempts some to give up on God and the faith, that he’s in control and will finally end all mourning, evil and hurt – even if its only in the life to come! – and they despair in disbelief and doubt. Both are evil and we pray the living God would keep us in the true faith and not let us fall into such terrible affliction and desperation of unbelief, doubt and other great shame and vice. “Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory” (Luther’s explanation of the 6th petition of the “Our Father”)

That is why affliction, persecution and wars are so detrimental and terrible. They make it very difficult – yes downright impossible to believe in the goodness of the Lord and our God. As a matter of fact, we even believe that in the best of days “we cannot believe!” In really serious calamity, people can’t just fabricate a sense of meaning and find a way of salvation – otherwise the calamity wouldn’t be so serious. Rather it’s only by God’s goodness and mercy that he calls us and brings us to trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord all the days of our life and even in the deepest misery and hardship. Still this miracle and wonder of our conversion from disbelief, doubt and other great shame and vice to the living and only saving faith in Christ’s salvation from sin, death and devil happens – and we praise God, the only source and fount of hope and trust, for it. He himself through his most holy gospel lets us know, who Jesus Christ came to save sinners, disbelievers and godless people – and bring them back home and to the Father. He does this even today and across the whole world. Even there, where we have given up hope, he plants and grants hope, trust, faith, love and peace.

He has had mercy on us and has indeed loved us so much, that he has actually gone out to find us in the most unlikely places – like he found that castrated African treasurer on the deserted road to Gaza – reading the most holy Word of God in the book of the great prophet Isaiah and had him taught and baptized by the evangelist Philip – so that in the end he went his way joyful and glad: “God’s own child, I gladly say it…” (LSB 594)  Yet it’s not only in the desert, but also in trouble and persecution, where he’s there and keeps the flame of faith burning in his people. Just think of Daniel in exile in Mesopotamia (Iraq/Iran) being flung into the lion’s den. God kept his faith going right there in that most desperate of places. Or think of Joseph being sold as slave and being held captive and as a prisoner in Egypt’s dungeons. Or Jeremiah in the pit being helped by that Africa Ebed Melech. But even in our days the examples are countless – by the very grace, love and mercy of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a miracle and wonder that the triune God keeps his congregation and church of poor, miserable sinners in the true faith despite and in the midst of all trouble, suffering, poverty, hardship, death and dying + It’s a great miracle and it’s a great wonder! Faith is and remains a gift from the living God. It’s impossible for us to create, work or even hold on to it. Yet God does this very wonder day in day out through his gospel and most precious sacraments. He promises forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for Christ’s sake and people like you and me believe him. We trust that he’s true and faithful and that he will surely do it. That is why we don’t despair, but hold on to him and his promises, cling to them like a briar stuck in the sheeps fleece: “He will surely do it!” – and finally let us see, what he has for so long promised and preached to us through apostles and prophets of old and finally even through his only begotten Son our beloved Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. He will end the miserable days of our mourning and he will give and grant us eternal life and blessed salvation in his grace and mercy. Amen.

Rejoice, My Heart, Be Glad by Paul Gerhardt

Rejoice, my heart, by glad and sing,
A cheerful trust maintain;
For God, the source of everything,
Your portion shall remain.

He is your treasure, he your joy,
Your life and light and Lord,
Your counselor when doubts annoy,
Your shield and great reward.

Why spend the day in blank despair,
In restless thought the night?
And did he not in threatening hour
Turn dreaded ills away?

He only will with patience chide,
His rod falls gently down,
And all your sins he casts aside;
In ocean depth they drown.

His wisdom never plans in vain
Nor falters nor mistakes
All that his counsels may ordain
A happy ending makes.

Upon your lips, then, lay your hand
And trust his guiding love;
Then like a rock your peace shall stand
Here and in heaven above.

Hymn # 424  Lutheran Worship Author: Johann B. Konig
Tune: Ich Singe Dir1st Published in: 1653

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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