For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
It was about 6:30am on April 18, 2013. The phone rang and the voicemail picked up and the message said “Lisle Schools are closed because of flooding”. Immediately aware that something very new was happening, I raced to the front porch and there, confirming all I was most terrified of, was 3 feet of water in the front yard.
We lived in a flood plain, it wasn’t unprecedented for us to flood, but it had never before looked like this: water continued to rise. Tom was recovering from a surgery that left him unable to walk and I knew it was going to get really bad for us pretty quickly.
I had my daughter move our van up as close to the garage as possible: that was the highest ground and least likely, from past experience, to flood. I called the fire department next. They arrived not too long after and had as little preparation as any of us for what was going to transpire that day.
There was no evacuation plan, they said. I told them that this was definitely the worst I had ever seen it and we were all leaving. But of course, that my husband would need some other method of leaving than walking. I gathered bits and pieces of things from around the house, threw them in a suitcase and a laundry basket and along with my dog, my daughter, and a firefighter, I left my house for the last time as a resident.
The water was now waist deep and it was extremely cold. We walked about ½ a block to dry ground, and neighbors whose home had not flooded at all took us in to dry off and warm up. But I was anxious about Tom, and so I did not stay in the house. I also had managed to leave my cell phone in my pants pocket when I left the house, so my phone was dead. As I watched my block of neighbors and friends become homeless, and as I realized that we had most certainly lost our home permanently, a strange peace fell over me.
I was comforting my neighbor Fran, who was waiting for her disabled son to be rescued as well. Our other neighbor had been pumping water out of their basement so well that the water pressure collapsed a wall in their basement. Once that happened the firefighters became concerned about a gas leak, and now they too were frantic to get us out.
And these words came to me:
His mercies are new every morning.
Great is thy faithfulness.
And I knew in that moment, that no matter what happened that day, God was still God and God was still faithful.
There were certainly, in the days and weeks to come, lots of moments when I lost sight of God’s faithfulness, especially as I dealt with insurance companies and FEMA and claims adjusters.
But I watched my church and pastor be Jesus to me and my family by providing some of our immediate needs, including housing for a week.
I watched as my daughter’s softball coach got her cleats and a bat and the things she would need to participate in the coming softball tournament.
I watched as God showed up, over and over. Not just with the things we needed, not just in that space of several weeks of homelessness, but in every single day since.
And I realized – God is always faithful. It doesn’t matter what my circumstances look like, it doesn’t matter what I’m going through – God. Is. Always. Faithful.
Eventually, as all of you know, Tom was rescued from our house in a little paddleboat. And we did lose everything, pretty much, in that house. But some of that loss made it possible for us to be here. I’m not saying that we had to lose everything to gain anything, but I am saying that even through that – the God who works all things for good to those who are called according to his purpose – that God, worked the evil of a flood to the good of those who are hearing this message today.
Jeremiah, the probable author of Lamentations had a lot of reasons to doubt and mistrust God. Listen to the way he describes himself in this chapter:
I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the Lord.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Jeremiah is despondent. He is living out what God told him would happen at his call – he is despised by the people he has been called to preach to. He has been mocked and tortured and at some point (as you will recall I mentioned last week) he has been thrown in a pit and left to die…
BUT he doesn’t stay in his pity party – oh yes, he is having one and well he might, things are not easy and sunshiny and joyful where Jeremiah lives. His city is under siege, people are starving and dying all around him. His words are thrown back in his face and everyone pretty much despises him – but his next words are beautiful reminders of WHO God is:
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
He has hope. He has nothing else. But he has hope.
Because he knows that God loves him.
He knows it. The same way he knows that the sun rises in the east, Jeremiah tells us that he knows that every single morning his God will pour out new mercy because God’s love never fails.
Great is thy faithfulness.
It is a beautiful expression of what God will do and what God can do and who God is.
Jeremiah knows it isn’t happening immediately, he knows it isn’t necessarily going to happen as soon as he would like, but he says to himself – God is enough. I will wait on God and God is good to those who hope in him.
You see, Jeremiah knew that if he waited on God, God would take the evil and use it in a positive way. That doesn’t mean everything will turn to sunshine and roses for Jeremiah – it does mean that Jeremiah’s work is not in vain…even though Jeremiah himself may not see the results of his efforts in preaching and writing down his prophetic words and even sitting in the lovely muck of a cistern – Jeremiah can trust that God’s work will be accomplished and God’s love will be visible to him and to others because that is who God is.
I know one thing – Jeremiah’s words in lamentations have meant much to many people because of a hymn written by Thomas Chisholm. It is one we sang this morning – and I would ask us to remember the chorus together now:
Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness, morning by morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided, great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me.
Thomas didn’t write the hymn because his life was in turmoil either – he had had some health issues, but truthfully, nothing was terrible – he would later tell people that the hymn was not written with any kind of dramatic story, it was just written and then he sent it to a friend who wrote the music for it.
But that’s the even better part – we don’t have to have flood stories to know that God is faithful. We can have every day my tire is flat, my kids are not behaving, my boss is a jerk, my washing machine went out, my spouse is great, the weather is beautiful, today is payday – whatever kind of days and still KNOW that God is faithful and that tomorrow, God’s mercy and love will pour out on us anew.
We serve and love a faithful God who loves us and who is working all things for our good – no matter what those things look like. It is a wonderful thing to be loved by God and I for one am ever grateful that God works faithfully whether our lives are good or bad or boring or exciting – God is faithful. Always. Forever.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.