WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FOUND
Dear Friends in Christ,
Country music is not my favorite. I know some of you will say that I am a country music bigot, but it seems like so many songs consist of a guy singing the blues because his lady friend dumped him, and now he is on his way to Abilene, Tulsa or Wichita in a box car of a freight train. I wonder if there are enough trains that are headed to Abilene, Tulsa and Wichita because so many guys have gotten their “Dear John.” What is it about Abilene, Tulsa and Wichita?
Lots of songs are written about life-changing events. There is a song entitled “30,000 Pounds of Bananas.” It was written by Harry Chapin. He based it on a horrible truck accident that occurred in Scranton, PA. On March 18, 1965, a 35-year-old truck driver, Eugene P. Sesky, was on his way to deliver a load of bananas to Scranton. Sesky was headed down Rt. 307 in his 35 foot semi. He lost control of his truck loaded with 30,000 pounds of bananas on the two mile descent into Scranton. His brakes went out. By the time he was at the foot of the hill he was doing 90 mph. Heroically, Sesky flipped the truck over before he got the middle of town and would have killed a lot of people. He died. 30,000 Pounds of Bananas were spilled all over the street.
The twelfth chapter of Isaiah is a song too. It is called the Song of Isaiah. It is a song that really fits with our service theme today – “Lost but Found!” This song explains to us “What it Means to be Found.” 1) It causes us to sing; 2) It causes us to speak.
People do write songs about red letter dates in their lives. The Bible records a number of them. When the Hebrew nation crossed the Red Sea that God had miraculously opened, Moses and Miriam sang about. Read about it in Exodus 15. When David had downer days and uplifting days, he sang about it. Read the Psalms. When Zechariah became the father of John the Baptist, he sang about it. Read Luke one. When the angel told Mary she would be the Virgin mother of the long awaited Savior. She sang about it too. Read about it in Luke chapter one too. Isaiah writes this song too. The reason is found within the song itself.
The Song of Isaiah is very positive. There are people who seem to be crabby all the time and can make milk turn sour by looking at it. There are people who seem happy all the time. Many of us get crabby because of outside forces or give us a lift because of an outside force. Isaiah mentions so very briefly what is a downer for all of us. “I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.” Isaiah knew that God had every reason for him to be angry.
We have friends who had children just about the same age as our kids. Our kids spent time at their house; their kids spent time at our house. A few years ago we had dinner with the oldest of the other family’s kid. She is a wonderful and beautiful woman in her thirties. She said to us that her parents would often get frustrated with her and her two brothers and her parents used to say. “Why can’t you be more like the Zahn children?” Judy and I began to laugh, because more than once we said to our kids, “Why can’t you be like the Greene children?” Our kids had the ability to be little angels at least for a little while, but if you want to know the truth, no one has the ability to be perfect all the time. That is a problem before our perfect God.
Remember when God gave the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel. God was giving the Ten Commandments and not the Ten Suggestions. God was as serious as a heart attack. There was thunder and lightning. The mountain began to quake. Dense clouds formed. A loud trumpet blared from the mountain echoing in the valley below. What frightened the people most was when God spoke. He recited the Ten Commandments one after the other. “You shall have no other gods. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath Day…” and so on. The people went to pieces in dread.
They knew they had already broken them. Three days out of Egypt, weeks before they even got to Sinai, they had been griping. They said they would have rather died in Egypt than to suffer like they said they were at the beginning of their wilderness journey. If they would have been smart, the song they should have been singing is one we all need to consider when we consider the Ten Commandments:
Lord, to you I make confession:
I have sinned and gone astray,
I have multiplied transgression,
Chosen for myself my way.
Led by you to see my errors,
Lord, I tremble at your terrors.
Not the happiest song, but true!
But as Paul Harvey used to say, “And now the rest of the story…” Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.” A professional football player wrote a book where he said that he prayed before each game. He prayed that no one would ever get hurt, but if someone did, he prayed that he would be him. It seem on the surface as if that is such an unselfish prayer. I say that it is on the surface it is a good prayer, but does God have in mind that there is a certain quantity of people who need to get hurt. So he volunteered to be first in line. He asked that God would turn injury from others to himself.
I played football in high school and college. I remembered that prayer from the book I read. My motives were not pure. He could see that I really wasn’t sincere. God saw right through them. God answered my prayer. He sent number 64 from an opponent as his agent. He clipped my left knee and tore up my knee. Lo and behold, I wasn’t happy that God answered my prayer. In fact, down deep I wanted God to turn his wrath toward number 64. I am not saying I was right. But I wanted the wrath of God to be turned on 64. I wanted God to put him on a stretcher like he had done to me. Hey, I am only being honest. I didn’t say it wasn’t sin. In fact, I confess my sins a lot to you, don’t I?
No one wants to have the wrath of God turned toward them but away from them. Isaiah sings, “Your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.” I need it for myself as you need it for yourselves. That’s what God did. But understand this, God didn’t cover his righteous anger with sin. He is a just God and sin needed to be punished. Enter Jesus. He stepped between us and God so willingly and so perfectly. Jesus was the lightning rod to keep us safe and protected. That thought makes us sing.
In Christ alone! Who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones he came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
the wrath of God was satisfied -
For every sin on Him was laid;
here in the death of Christ I live.
God is our salvation. He is the agent. He is the cause. He is the source. He is the price. Isaiah sings:
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
I once had a problem with the post office about a mailing we were sending out. We were missing the word from our official title - Messiah Evangelical Lutheran Church. We printed Messiah Lutheran Church on the postcard. They were not going to send the mail piece because of it. I had to go through layers and layers of bureaucracy to get the change. I want to talk to your boss – four times! I was ready to go the president himself, although I know I wouldn’t have gotten too far with him. I spoke to someone who said she was the new supervisor at this post office because there were complaints that this post office was not serving the public well. I laughed. After explaining the situation she said she was at her computer and she said she used a delete button and all was well. It took a couple of seconds when I was told I had to file all kinds of forms otherwise to get the word deleted.
When it comes to our salvation, we don’t go through layers of heavenly bureaucracy. The CEO of the Universe takes care of it himself. He didn’t hand it off to anyone else. God the Son took care of it. No wonder Isaiah sings,
“I will trust and not be afraid.
The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense;
he has become my salvation.”
Isaiah continues his song:
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Water is a precious and necessary commodity, something we take for granted way too much. We turn on a faucet and get a drink; we wash our faces or dishes or clothes. We take showers and come out refreshed. We fill pools and people swim. There is always laughter and happiness. We only see how vital it is when the electricity goes off and the water pumps at the water works don’t run. Then we miss it.
In Biblical times water was so much more appreciated. People had to go to city well and drop their buckets into the well. They had to carry it home. Getting water was tedious. It was a very special commodity.
God’s salvation in Christ and water have so many parallels. There is an absolute need for both. Without either we suffer die. There is a lot of water in the world, but even it has a limit. God’s well of salvation is deep; there is no floor. There is always more; with more forgiveness, more love, more mercy. A bath can change an attitude. Salvation changes values, priorities, gives hope to the hopeless, fearlessness to the fearful, certainty to the doubting. As the hymnwriter writes,
Lo, on those who dwelt in darkness,
Dark as night and deep as death,
Broke the light of thy salvation
Breathed thine own life giving breath.
Another way of saying it? Lost but found! Indeed we are moved to sing.
We are also moved to speak. “In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.” Because the waters of the wells of salvation are so deep and so plentiful, there is a more than enough supply.
For that reason make it known to others. No need to keep it under your hat. “Make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted.” The wells of salvation have more than enough for everyone.
In a few moments we will be praying for a dear pastor friend of mine with whom I spoke this week. We roomed together in college for two years; we drank a few beers along the line, we worked together in Glacier Park a summer. We graduated from college and Seminary together. He is a good friend. He is dying. He has brain cancer. He lives in Alaska. Talking to him is tough because he has a tough time talking. The tumor has done a lot of damage. We used to laugh a lot. Our conversations are very serious these days. His goal in life now is to live until July 7th. His family is planning to get together for the last time. He doesn’t know if he will make it.
As we were talking he said, “I just wish I had told more people!” “I just wish I had told more people!” He said it is hard facing the end of his life with Jesus, he can’t imagine what it would be like to be without Jesus. “I just wish I had told more people.”
In one way, I hope that all of us would say that. I wish I had told more people. Yet he needed the assurance that the very sermons he preached for all these years not only was doing that, but also assuring him that in Christ he was forgiven of the blown opportunities. If we didn’t believe that, then we are believing a counterfeit Gospel.
I wish I could tell the whole world, but God gives own little world and those around us. Every day we awaken is another opportunity to tell people about their lostness but how in Christ they can also know they have been found. WikiMiniAtlas