“Be Strong and Let Your Heart Take Courage” Psalm 31:24
The 17th Sunday after Pentecost (B) 9/16/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL
As I was preparing this sermon, our nation had just taken time to remember one of the greatest tragedies to take place on our soil, in our land… the events of 9-11. And on the horizon… literally… was Hurricane Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut.
One, man-made… the others, acts of nature. When you think about it though, it doesn’t really matter how they come about for both types spell disaster, damage and devastation, loss of life, injury, headaches and heartaches.
We know the pattern… the drill… all too well. Indeed, we look back on the past at what has been… the present and what is… the future and what will be, assuredly… and it could all lead to despair.
It COULD… but it doesn’t. Not for us. Not for the faithful. Not for the children of God… those whom the Lord has claimed and named as His very own in the waters of Holy Baptism… those whom the Lord God Almighty firmly has in His hand.
Did you hear what was chanted in the Introit this morning?
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 31:24)
Come what may… in all of the storms of this life…
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
The fact of the matter is… our strength… our courage in the face of adversity… each and every time… is in the Lord. Not in ourselves. Not in others. Not in any other thing. But rather, thankfully, in one place, one source, one Person.
What is it we say? “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalms 124:8) The very words of yet another Psalm and the very words of our sacred liturgy.
If you put this with the Psalm of today’s Introit you get the wonderful connection: “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth… so… in light of this immutable fact… Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
It is going to be Ok… more than Ok. And if any of you are considering responding by saying “I’d like to think so.” Think again! Why would you and I simply like to think so when we can know so… without a shadow of a doubt… without a smidge of uncertainty?
And there, my friends, is your proof positive… that everything is going to be OK… more than OK. The cross is your proof… the events of the same… what the very Son of God, our Savior, Jesus Christ did upon the same… insures our present and our future… that everything is going to be OK… more than OK… come what may in your life… my life… and that of all believers. And this, regardless of whether we enjoy peace and tranquility or face terrible storms be they of natural or man-made origin.
In Jesus Christ, we have the victory over all things… ALL things. And this, God’s people know right well… including King David who penned the words, Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”
In fact, he begins the Psalm by declaring, “In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” (Psalm 31:1-5)
Wonderful words, a beautiful Psalm that we would do well to consider… to read, pray and say over and over again.
David put his trust in the Lord… as did all the faithful witnesses, wonderful witnesses that we find in Holy Scripture… including Isaiah.
What did he say in our Old Testament text? “The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.” (Isaiah 50:7-9)
THAT is what awaits those who would do us and all the faithful harm. THEIR end will be destruction… not ours.
You know, it is high time that we stop our sniveling, weeping, crying, worrying, wondering and just trust. Simply trust. To really leave it all, our all, to the Lord… the Maker of heaven and earth… the Commander of the wind and the waves… our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier.
With the certain help of the Holy Spirit, it is high time we live each day in peace come what may… regardless of what is happening out in the world and in our own little world. The Lord is with us.
Do we know what that means? Yes… in part. But there is more to know and things… wonderful things, divine things to constantly be reminded of and taken to heart.
And so it is that we continue to come here to the Lord’s House… to this holy sanctuary to be enlightened, renewed, refreshed, strengthened and forgiven. What a privilege this is… to be in the presence of the Lord… to worship with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven… to be fortified in Word and Sacrament so that we are able to continue on, journey on here below, come what may.
Come what may… in the interim… in the here and now… knowing that so very soon it is the Lord Himself who comes that our deliverance from evil may be complete as we dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”