Monday, December 4, 2017

Sermon: The Hope of God's Faithfulness

"The Hope of God’s Faithfulness"
Isaiah 64: 5-8; 1 Corinthians 1: 4-9
by Rev. Carson Overstreet
Van Wyck Presbyterian Church
December 3, 2017
The First Sunday of Advent

You [Lord God] meet those who gladly do right,
those who remember you in your ways.
But you were angry, and we sinned;
because you hid yourself we transgressed.
We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
- Isaiah 64: 5-8

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
- 1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

The network television drama This Is Us just completed its second season. The show has come into America’s homes and quickly become a favorite. It is one of the few tv shows that I have actually binge watched for hours on end; I am completely captivated by the story line of the Pearson family.

Their story unfolds from 1980 to the present day. That storyline narrates an ordinary Pittsburgh family who faces the very real and oh so common joys and trials of life.

Jack and Rebecca Pearson have triplets; Kevin, Randall, and Kate. Jack is the family anchor. He is not a perfect man; he struggles with alcoholism as his father did. But he strives to live into a different story as a family man. Jack and Rebecca live into the greater purpose of raising their children to navigate through the great joys, obstacles, and the gut-wrenching moments of life.

As their lives unfold in switchbacks from childhood and adulthood, the triplets each have a thorn in their side: Kevin wrestles with self-doubt, Randall struggles with anxiety, Kate is conflicted with low self-confidence.

Life just happens and when it brings deep needs to overcome, the triplets’ individual memories flashback to a tender moment with their dad. Jack’s loyalty as a patient father and husband oftentimes moves us to tears.

Whatever the moment held that brought an emotional unraveling, Jack would cup his hands around his child’s face. He would look them in the eyes with a trusted and tender spirit. And he would say, “Just breathe. We are going to get through this.”

Jack gave his kids a great hope when they could not see it for themselves. Jack’s love was a centering force that calmed Kevin’s, Randall’s, and Kate’s heart and mind, preparing them to take the next step. And Jack’s loyal love tethered each one in that household to a family bond so strong that nothing can separate.

This Is Us reminds me of some deep truths that our Advent texts hold today.

The season of Advent comes into our ordinary and imperfect lives. It meets us where we are in all the switchbacks of life’s joys and messiness. The season embraces us in God our Father’s trusted and tender spirit.

Advent is a holy space to anticipate God’s faithfulness because we are still in need of a Savior. God’s faithfulness is ultimately revealed in his loyal love.

Gods’ loyal love gives us a great hope when we cannot see it for ourselves.

Whatever life throws our way, we do not need to fear. Our help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2) and says, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10).

God embraces the messiness of our lives with trusting and compassionate hands like a potter. God’s faithfulness is reshaping our hearts and minds, as the prophet Isaiah says, “We are the work of God’s hands” (Isaiah 64:8). God is shaping our faith by God’s own faithfulness, therefore giving us the assurance of things hoped for and deepening our conviction of things not yet seen (Hebrews 11:1)

God’s loyal love is a centering force that calms the chaos of life, preparing us to take the next step.

When life is spinning out of control and we continually think of that thorn in our side or that struggle in life, God tells us to keep our eyes on the Lord.

The writer of Lamentations says, “My soul is bowed down within me, but this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end, they are new each morning. Great is your faithfulness!” (Lamentations 3: 20-23). “The Lord is the keeper of our lives; the Lord will keep our going out and our coming in from this time on and forevermore” (Psalm 121: 5, 8). The Lord will always help us to see a forward when there seems like no way.

God’s loyal love tethers each of us into the great family of faith, which is the fellowship of God’s Son Jesus Christ, which will strengthen us to the end.

The mystery of God’s love is that it is revealed to us in a profound way – God’s loyal love is embodied in human form. We are waiting for the birth of the Christ Child whose name is Emmanuel, meaning God-With-Us.

Emmanuel leads us from the manger to the cross and to our highest calling to be the body of Christ. We are called to continue Christ’s ministry of love, justice, reconciliation, and peace. We are called to be God-With-Us people so that we might see Christ in one another.

There is nothing more powerful than to be the body of Christ and shine the light of God’s love in the great joys, obstacles, and the gut-wrenching moments of life. These kind of God-With-Us moments reveal the ties that bind us together in God’s faithfulness and will strengthen us to the end.

My prayer for each of us today is that we will be intentional to claim this holy space of Advent. Eagerly anticipate God’s presence in whatever chaos is tossing you and me around like a faded leaf in the wind. I promise you that making time to draw near to God will quiet our hearts and minds and prepare us to take the next step.

I want for you to close your eyes just for a moment. Behold the light of God’s loyal love embracing your face as a beloved child of God. Listen in the silence, listen in the noise, listen for the Spirit’s voice.

God’s Spirit is saying to you and to me, “Just breathe. We are going to get through this. I will strengthen you and I will help you with my victorious right hand!”

In this first week of Advent listen in the silence for the still small voice of God’s faithfulness.

In the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

* Special music, Listen in the Silence, shared with permission of singer / songwriter, Linnea Good

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