KEEP LOOKING UP
Dear friends in Jesus,
When a church has a children’s sermon the pastor takes risks. I know a pastor who once asked the question of the children, “What is something you don’t like?” I suppose this doesn’t qualify as something so horrible, but it was embarrassing for parents to hear especially when it is his own child. “I don’t like taking a bath!” I quit doing children’s sermons at a different church at a different time. Two children got into a fight in front of the congregation. Thank you, Amanda, for Kidzpraize.
Yet the Lord says that the faith of a child is the kind of faith that God wants in all of us. President Bush – 41 - once repeated a prayer that a young child prayed, “God bless Mom and Dad and sister and brother. And, dear God, please take care of yourself because if something happens to you, we are all sunk.” That’s right! If anything would happen to him, we would all be sunk.
Can you remember those days when you were six years old? You could see that you were more trusting of God. We didn’t doubt our parents. Especially, we didn’t doubt God. The questions about God but they don’t say, “That’s ridiculous to believe something like that!” Today God speaks to us through Isaiah and urges, “Keep Looking Up!” 1) To our God who is great! 2) To our God of Grace.
My wife, the librarian, gave me a book a number of years ago and wondered if I wanted to read it. People give books to the Oglethorpe University Library and then the staff determines if they want to shelf it or not. They didn’t want this book on their shelves. I don’t want it on any shelf. It is entitled “The Evolution of Religion.” I thought it might be good to read just to know what the anti-religion crowd is coming up with these days. It didn’t take long for me to determine it was a waste of time. It was going to trace the “psychology behind worship and why many of us are addicted to worship.” Addicted to worship? Where is the garbage bin?
Our faith did not evolve. It has been created by our God by his revelation. Isaiah was a prophet. Our great God revealed himself to us through him. Isaiah stands tall between Moses and John the Baptist, the last prophet of the Old Testament. The problem, however, in the days of Isaiah was that they wanted a god more to their liking rather than the way he revealed himself to the world. They didn’t like, as do many in these days, but want a God who says “You shall” and “You shall not” but a God who says whatever you want is okay with me. They didn’t want a God who says, “I AM that I AM,” they wanted a god who says “I will be what you want me to be.”
But the Lord challenged Israel, as he does the all people, “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.” These are questions that don’t really need answers. To whom will we compare him? There is nothing and no one we can compare God to. He is indeed in a league of his own.
The first commandment says, “You shall have no other gods!” If we even think we can compare something or someone with God, we are violating the very meaning of the commandment. Whom do you love most? What do you want most in your life?” God forgive us for all the things or people that make us smile in life when we fuss and fume to come to church and Sunday School. God forgive us for the pleasure and joy we get from a video game or a night out when it outdistances the joy and pleasure of being in your presence and singing your praises. Nothing compares to God! Nothing equals God! Yet, you wouldn’t know it by our lives, would you?
Time to get our thoughts on God! “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Look up and see the starry host. How did it get there? Chance? Accident? Fools!
In Copenhagen, Denmark there is a town hall that contains the world’s most complicated clock. It cost $1 million dollars to build back in in 1955. It has over 15,000 moving parts. It is supposed to be accurate to two fifths of a second every 300 years. The clock computes the time of day, the days of the week, and the month of the year. Some parts of the clock will not move but once in 2500 years. Did the clock suddenly evolve? Did the clock come into being? Actually it took more than ten years to build. If I believed it could evolve, dear Pastor Zahn it is time to retire. If you believe that it evolved I will escort you to the doctor. What did Isaiah say? “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name.” Give credit where credit is due. Give credit to God. Give glory to God.
When the Hubble telescope was launched many years ago, science proudly announced, “Now we will be able to tell where we came from.” Hey, Mr. Scientist, are you ready to say “God”?
Isaiah relates something that is quite fascinating. He “calls forth each of them by name.” He is talking about the starry host. Science says that there is somewhere between three billion to 100 billion stars in the Milky Way Galaxy alone. Beyond that they use this number: one with twenty zeroes behind it. Is that a gazillion? Sirius, Procyon, Zubenelgenubi are names. There is AA, AB AC all the way to AZ and they do that with all the other letters eventually to ZZ. They have millions and millions left over. But God “calls forth each by name.” Bow down to worship him. St. Augustine once said a prayer to the Lord, “Thus the world forgets you, its Creator, and falls in love with what you created instead of you.” Remember how great our God is. But he is also a God of grace.
When Isaiah writes, “He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name,” we are reminded of what we talked about last Sunday. He is our Good Shepherd. He leads the stars and names the stars as a shepherd leads his sheep.
I have noticed this about churches in our church body. We like to have Shepherd in our church names. There is Good Shepherd, Shepherd of the Mountains, Shepherd of the Hills, Shepherd of the Plains, Shepherd of the Palms, Shepherd of the Desert, Shepherd of the Valley and who knows what else. But there should also be a Shepherd of the Stars. He set them in place. He knows where they are and concerned about every nook and cranny of the universe. He also knows about you and me.
Judah needed to hear that. We need to hear that. During the years of Isaiah, the Assyrian army had taken off the northern kingdom of Israel. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was nearly empty of people. The northern kingdom was no more. Now Assyria was knocking on the Southern kingdom of Judah door ready to break it down. “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God”? If God could call the stars into their places and call each of them by name, Judah’s situation was not hidden from the Lord of the universe either.
The Lord goes on. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” He names four truths about himself that Judah needed to remember. The first was just stated. The LORD is the Creator. He calls into being what was not there. Nothing is out of his range of control. Nothing is out of his range of power. The universe is proof.
The second truth is this: “He will not grow tired or weary.” We get up in the morning with energy particularly if we have slept well the night before. By the end of the day, we are tired. Have I ever noticed that as I have gotten older!
Even youths need rest. Catechism classes over the years I see kids yawning their way through. To catch up on classes we are starting at one in the afternoon. We will see if things are different. The psalmist writes, “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” The Lord is on duty 24/7.
The third truth. “His understanding no one can fathom.” How can we fully explain God when we don’t fully understand God? Yet he promises that he has a purpose for everything. Everything about God doesn’t fit in here (pointing to head)! Yet he has a purpose for all.
Back in 1975 there is a rather unforgettable film clip of Carlton Fisk, the Boston Red Sox catcher, hitting a home run. He knew he hit it far enough but he didn’t know if it would stay fair. He stood a little off home plate trying to motion it in with his arms. It is a classic clip. There is an interesting story behind that clip. Many wondered why the cameraman kept his focus on Fisk and not follow the ball. The reason the camera man kept the camera on Fisk was because he had a rat circling his feet and didn’t much care what else was going on. I know I am stretching this illustration a bit but God has a way and a promise that in his wisdom, his unfathomable wisdom, he will make good things come from everything. There seem to be some odd turns here and there that leave our head scratching, but remember God’s promise. No one can fathom all that God does and is.
The fourth truth. “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” When we lived in Florida I saw eagles much more regularly. I played golf regularly there. I would often spot them on the golf course. God gave them a sense of humor, I guess, when they watched me play golf.
They are impressive birds, so regal and powerful. Yet they had a compassionate side. They taught their young to fly like other birds. They nudged them out of the nest. If the young eaglet wasn’t ready to fly, they would swoop down under them and catch them on their wings. Such a strong and impressive bird, yet so kind and compassionate.
That’s our God. He is concerned we grow and mature. He gives us his Word and sacrament. When we fail, he swoops down ready to forgive and ready to teach us, always concerned.
After long stints in space American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts had a real problem adjusting to the earth again. Early spacemen and women suffered from dizziness, heart palpitations and high heart rates when the returned to this earth. Some couldn’t walk for a full month because in zero gravity hearts grow weak and muscles atrophy. The Russians actually invented a suit that counteracted the weightlessness. The suit was laced with elastic bands that caused resistance to force muscles to make an effort to move and stay strong.
Even in trials God will allow us to soar. Even when times are tough, God gives us strength. God uses difficulties to make us stronger. Even when we feel deserted God’s eyes are on us. We are the center of his attention always. The Savior and his precious work of salvation guarantee he loves us…all the time. So Keep Looking Up!