The Psalmist prays to God: „Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.“ (Psalm 71,20-21 KJV)
The evangelist St. Matthews writes: „But when Peter saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.“ (Matthew 14:30 KJV)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you +
Dear friends of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ + That’s what our Lord Jesus Christ does: He saves! He delivers! He brings us up from the depths! He increases and comforts us on every side! In this is his like his heavenly Father and like the Holy Spirit too. As one God he goes about this most liberating, uplifting, edifying and so comforting business of his. Saving Adam and Eve from the sure consequence of death, banishment and exposure to the elements. Saving Noah and his family and all those animals from that devouring deluge. Saving Lot and his loved ones from the fiery destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Pulling Moses from the reeds in that great river Nile and preparing him to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt and lead them through the desert and barren stretches to the promised lands otherside of the Jordan. The whole Bible is full of stories of salvation and rescue, help and deliverance. That’s what the living and triune God does. Then, today and as long as this world stands.
Not even the depths of the oceans can swallow God’s people. Even there his hands are holding them, so that they can never fall deeper than into his caring hands. Just think of Jonah, who was thrown out of that vessel by his opportunistic and rather desperate fellow travellers. Good riddance they might have thought and it could just save our skin. So they toss him out and don’t care too much that he’s helplessly exposed to those stormy waves and will drown in now time: Rather him, than us! They are quite willing to give him up, sacrifice him and thus prove themselves as the surviving fittest and the truth of the old saying: Homo homini lupus! (Man is a wolf for men) Yet the merciful God does not let Jonah slip from his care. He’s still got plans with Jonah and not just in eternity and heaven, but right here in that godless capital Nineveh, full of people and animals, whom God still wanted to save (!) rescue and deliver from their idolatrous existence. His missionary Jonah was to bring them the saving message of God’s gospel. So Jonah was not lost although he was now obviously prime fish food. Still because of God’s providence and merciful election that big monster had to regurgitate his prey, spit him out, leave him shell-shocked on the safe shore – something like a drenched poodle and rather sad sight. God had kept and preserved him in the most desperate of situations. He had not drowned. He was not lost – even though he experienced the darkest of darks in the very depths of the sea and in that fish. Those sure were also like the „great and sore troubles“ of which the Psalmist can sing a song too. Still God draws him from those depths, he is pulled from the very inside of the hungry fish and quickened again. He comes to life, he catches his breath and opens his eyes to God’s great work of salvation and deliverance. No doubt he was comforted no end and on every side. He must have then been super encouraged thus most awesomely revitalized so that he strode with great leaps and bounds towards his goal to fulfil his calling and mission promptly and without any further delay and thoughts of escape and fleeing.
This is very encouraging for us also. For we too are going to land in the depths of the earth, when they carry us to our last resting place. Meters down in the ground they will pile the sods of dark soil over us: „Dust to dust, ashes to ashes. From dust you were made and to dust you will return!“ No escape. Claustrophobic dangers galore. Still, we will sleep like a baby. Yes, it will be even more restful than our first months in our mother’s womb and that narrow escape during birth when we first saw daylight and caught our first breath too. A great deliverance and rescue by the Lord’s grace and mercy. Then in the grave it will be very similar. No disturbance. Peace for sure, because there too God’s hand will hold us and keep us from evil. Nothing in life and death can after all pull us from his loving hands, which tenderly hold and keep us safe and sound until he calls and wakes us to face the last judgement, witness the fulfilment of all his promises and see the heavenly Jerusalem and him as he is very God of very God, light of light and all in all. Now that will be a sight to see and we be quite amazed at that sight we will see then, with the lamb on the throne and all his angels around him and all the saints too from all nations, tribes and people of the world. We will never tire of this sight of God either, because he is who he is: God and the highest good, most lovely to behold and vitalizing to be near, joyful without limits, fulfilling and ultimate bliss. We together with all saints then and now will rejoice beyond measure even as we recall the words of the Psalmist praising God forever and saying: „Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles, hast quickened me again, and have brought me up again from the depths of the earth. Thou hast increased my greatness, and comforted me on every side and without limits.“ (Psalm 71,20-21 KJV)
Our holy baptism and its daily relevance and effect is actually a full-dress rehersal of just this going down into the depths of death and rising to the new life and creation of righteousness and holiness by the very power and mercy of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ, who also was put into great and sore troubles for us and our salvation. It had to be so. God’s plan and wisdom had ordained it so. Still the grave could not hold him and he was brought to greatness – Lord of lords and King of kings – and as a great comfort for us all, who trust in him as our very God and Redeemer.
That good end is surely to come even if now, we often are much more in the dire situation of the holy apostle St. Peter as he was out there on the waves and losing focus on his Lord and master, was distracted by the boisterous wind, the billowing clouds, the crashing waves and threatening dark depths beneath him. Although he knew his Lord and God Jesus Christ was master of the waves and all winds and had all authority in heaven and on earth, still he was full of doubt and just plain afraid. He did however call out to his Lord still from the depths of his fear and he rescued him from those great and sore troubles, quickened him and brought him into the safety of the boat. Yes, he comforted St. Peter, whose loss of faith and great fear had put him on the spot yet once again. Still the Lord saved him and put him on a sure footing. He held him by his right hand and made sure that he would not fall into despair, but rise again to praise God now and always. Amen. The peace of the Lord be with you always +
“From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee” by Martin Luther, 1483-1546
- From depths of woe I cry to Thee,
Lord, hear me, I implore Thee.
Bend down Thy gracious ear to me,
My prayer let come before Thee.
If Thou rememberest each misdeed,
If each should have its rightful meed,
Who may abide Thy presence?
- Thy love and grace alone avail
To blot out my transgression;
The best and holiest deeds must fail
To break sin’s dread oppression.
Before Thee none can boasting stand,
But all must fear Thy strict demand
And live alone by mercy.
- Therefore my hope is in the Lord
And not in mine own merit;
It rests upon His faithful Word
To them of contrite spirit
That He is merciful and just;
This is my comfort and my trust.
His help I wait with patience.
- And though it tarry till the night
And till the morning waken,
My heart shall never doubt His might
Nor count itself forsaken.
Do thus, O ye of Israel’s seed,
Ye of the Spirit born indeed;
Wait for your God’s appearing.
- Though great our sins and sore our woes,
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our utmost need it soundeth.
Our shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free
From all their sin and sorrow.
Hymn 329 from The Lutheran Hymnal Text: Ps. 130 author: Martin Luther
Translated by: Catherine Winkworth, 1863 titled: “Aus tiefer Not schrei’ ich zu dir”
Tune: “Aus tiefer Not” 1st published in: Johann Walther’s Gesangbüchlein: Wittenberg, 1524