Looking forward to the 4th Sunday before Lent. It comes with a very promising invitation: “Come and witness God’s exploits! His acts on behalf of people are awesome.” (Psalm 66,5)
The Introit from Psalm 107 lifts our eyes to look at those in peril on the high seas, who cry to the Lord and are saved by His gracious favor:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
and His loyal love endures.
Let those delivered by the Lord speak out,
those whom He delivered from the power of the enemy…
Some traveled on the sea in ships,Psalm 107:1f.23-32
and carried cargo over the vast waters.
They witnessed the acts of the Lord,
His amazing feats on the deep water.
He gave the order for a windstorm,
and it stirred up the waves of the sea.
They reached up to the sky,
then dropped into the depths.
The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great.
They swayed and staggered like drunks,
and all their skill proved ineffective.
They cried out to the Lord in their distress;
He delivered them from their troubles.
He calmed the storm,
and the waves grew silent.
The sailors rejoiced because the waves grew quiet,
and He led them to the harbor they desired.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loyal love,
and for the amazing things He has done for people.
Let them exalt Him in the assembly of the people.
Let them praise Him in the place where the leaders preside.
The Old Testament lesson from the prophet Isaiah reminds us, that we should not forget the good Lord – creator and savior of all! – but rather, put all our hope and trust in Him, who has created all and everything – even us – and continues to preserve us out of fatherly goodness and mercy all days of our life. Therefore, we should not despair, but cry to Him in every need and expect life and salvation from Him, the giver and keeper of all good.
Wake up! Wake up!
Clothe Yourself with strength, O arm of the Lord!
Wake up as in former times, as in antiquity.
Did You not smash the Proud One?
Did You not wound the sea monster?
Did You not dry up the sea, the waters of the great deep?
Did You not make a path through the depths of the sea,
so those delivered from bondage could cross over?
Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return;
they will enter Zion with a happy shout.
Unending joy will crown them,
happiness and joy will overwhelm them;
grief and suffering will disappear.
“I, I am the one who consoles you.
Why are you afraid of mortal men,
of mere human beings who are as short-lived as grass?
Why do you forget the Lord, who made you,
who stretched out the sky
and founded the earth?
Why do you constantly tremble all day long
at the anger of the oppressor,
when he makes plans to destroy?
Where is the anger of the oppressor?
The one who suffers will soon be released;
he will not die in prison,
he will not go hungry.
I am the Lord your God,
who churns up the sea so that its waves surge.
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is His name!
“I commission you as my spokesman;Isaiah 51,9-16
I cover you with the palm of my hand,
to establish the sky and to found the earth,
to say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
This brings up the story of the prophet Jonah, which is not listed among Sunday´s lessons, but points us dramatically to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ too. We hear two accounts of our Lord calming the storms – one as recorded by the evangelist St. Matthew, which is allocated as sermon text and the other from St. Mark, as the regular Gospel. In the first, we hear of St. Peter going out to meet our Lord on the water and how the good Lord saves him from drowning, when he starts fearing the surrounding perils. Here is the text as recorded by St. Mark:
On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” So, after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. Buthe was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” So, he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?” They were overwhelmed by fear and said to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey him!”Mark 4,35-41
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dispersed the crowds. And after he sent the crowds away, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already far from land, was taking a beating from the waves because the wind was against it. As the night was ending, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified and said, “It’s a ghost!” and cried out with fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them: “Have courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.” Peter said to him, “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you on the water.” So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind, he became afraid. And starting to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they went up into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”Matthew 14,22-33
It is St. Paul, who relates this holy Gospel masterfully in his life and points out, how we too should not trust in ourselves, but in God, who raises the dead. He is the one, who delivers us from so great a risk of death, and He will deliver us – for sure. Amen. Amen. He writes:
For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, regarding the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living. Indeed we felt as if the sentence of death had been passed against us, so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He delivered us from so great a risk of death, and he will deliver us. We have set our hope on him that he will deliver us yet again, as you also join in helping us by prayer, so that many people may give thanks to Godon our behalf for the gracious gift given to us through the help of many.2. Corinthians 1,8-11
Isn´t that encouraging and so awesome to hear? Oh yes, it is. God´s acts on our behalf are just so awesome. Hallelujah!
That is why we join in singing the old Lutheran favorite:
1. Seek where ye may to find a way
That leads to your salvation;
My heart is stilled, On Christ I build,
He is the one Foundation.
His Word is sure, His works endure;
He doth o’erthrow My every foe;
Through Him I more than conquer.
2. Seek whom ye may To be your stay;
None can redeem his brother.
All helpers failed, This Man prevailed,
The God-man, and none other.
Our Servant-Lord Did help afford;
We’re justified, For He hath died,
The Guiltless for the guilty.
3. Seek Him alone, Who did atone,
Who did your souls deliver;
Yea, seek Him first, All ye who thirst
For grace that faileth never.
In every need Seek Him indeed;
To every heart He will impart
His blessings without measure.
4. My heart’s Delight, My Crown most bright,
Thou, Jesus, art forever.
Nor wealth nor pride Nor aught beside
Our bond of love shall sever.
Thou art my Lord; Thy precious Word
Shall be my guide, Whate’er betide.
Oh, teach me, Lord, to trust Thee!
5. Hide not from me, I ask of Thee,Georg Weissel 1590-1635 translated by Arthur P. Voss 1899-1955
Thy gracious face and favor.
Though floods of woe Should o’er me flow,
My faith shall never waver.
From pain and grief Grant sweet relief;
For tears I weep, Lord, let me reap
Thy heavenly joy and glory.