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God has us right where he wants us. I know, it probably doesn’t seem that way. It probably doesn’t seem like God is working for our good. It seems more like everything is coming undone.
The coronavirus is surging again. You know, I remember back in March and April we were worried that this would last until June. And here it is July, and nothing has changed. And worse yet, we have no idea when it will change. Sure, there could be a vaccine early next year. But that’s six months away or more. And in the meantime, everything is completely up in the air. Can we plan a vacation? Will the stores remained stocked? What will school look like? Will work from home go on forever? We don’t know. It’s like we’re stuck in this indefinite limbo. The daily life we had is pretty much gone, but the future we will have is nowhere in sight.
And then along with that, our country seems really unstable right now. Everything on earth has become a point of political contention between Republicans and Democrats, the right and the left. If there’s something to fight about, right now, we’ll find it. Masks, the president’s daily briefing, absentee ballots, you name it; the people on the left or the people on the right will find a way to turn in into an argument for how their side is right and the other side is wrong. And we have a presidential election coming up! It’s like we’re watching a train wreck in slow motion and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.
And honestly, the 4th of July this year only drives it all home. The 4th of July is the time to enjoy the summer—backyard bbq’s and diving into the swimming pool. But it’s not clear that getting together is a good idea and the pools are closed. And it’s not clear what about our country we would celebrate right now anyway. We’re so divided and dysfunctional. Everything seems to be coming undone.
But God has us right where he wants us. God is making us the people who have nowhere left to turn but to Jesus. God is making us the people who have nothing going for us but Jesus. And honestly, there’s no better place to be. Because it’s when our lives are in the hands of Jesus, that we can finally rest and rejoice in God’s goodness and mercy.
There’s a strange detail in our gospel reading. Jesus prays, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” God has hidden his kingdom from the wise and understanding and revealed it to little children. And Jesus is thankful for this? What’s going on here?
Jesus came bringing the mercy, the compassion, and the goodness of God in all of God’s power and extravagant abundance. Jesus healed the sick, he raised the dead, he sought out sinners and tax collectors and prostitutes and he restored them to God. And some people said, “that guy’s a drunkard and a glutton,” or worse yet, “that guy’s a sinner!” I wonder what kind of charmed life you have to be living to see Jesus heal the sick, restore the lost, raise the dead and not explode into praise and joy at the goodness of God!
For example, there was a time that Jesus was in the synagogue on the Sabbath. And there was a man there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” After all, the Sabbath is the day of rest. And Jesus said to them, “Which of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath.” Then he said to the man, “stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored. And the Pharisees said, “That guy’s a sinner!”
What kind of charmed life do you have to be living to see Jesus heal the sick, not to mention restore the lost, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead, and not shout together with the Psalmist, “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” But that’s just it. It’s the people who are so content with themselves and their circumstances that when they saw Jesus bring the mercy and compassion of God in full measure, they could only say, “What the heck’s wrong with that guy!” They were so satisfied with themselves and their lives that they couldn’t enjoy the goodness and mercy of God when it was staring them right in the face!
On the other hand, it’s the people whose lives have been reduced to rubble, it’s the people who have been reduced to nothing—to the status of little children that see the goodness and mercy of God and rejoice!
People like Jairus, who though he was a ruler of the synagogue, was reduced to rubble when his daughter became ill and near death and there was nothing he could do but fall at Jesus’ feet and beg him to come and lay his hands on his daughter. And as it turns out, Jesus was more than willing to help. Even when people came from Jairus’ house and said, “Your daughter is dead, why bother the teacher any longer,” Jesus kept going. And when he got to the house, there was weeping and wailing. But Jesus put them all out, went into the little girl’s room and said, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” And she got up and began to speak.
People like woman who had an issue of blood for twelve years. She went to every doctor she knew and spent all her money, and was no better but only worse. And when she saw Jesus, she thought, “If I but touch his garments, I will be made well.” And she snuck her way through the crowd , came up behind him, and touched him. And she was immediately made well. And Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
Even people like the disciples, who when they were caught out in the middle of the sea when a great storm came up and the boat was being swamped by the waves, and they had nothing left to do but cry out in desperation to Jesus, who was asleep in the stern, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!” And Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” And he got up and rebuked the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.
It’s the people who are not wise or understanding, but those who have been reduced to the status of infants, that see the mercy and goodness of God and rejoice! It’s the people whose lives have been completely undone, and have nothing left going for them but Jesus, that finally rest and rejoice in the goodness and mercy of God.
And that’s why God has us right where he wants us. When life is going well and we’ve got it all figured out, it’s easy to think that Jesus’ invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” is nice and all, but really for someone else; you know, all those people who are need. But now, God has been at work, so that we are the people who are in need. We are the people who have nowhere left to turn, but Jesus.
What is the future going to look like? Will we go back to work and school? Will we ever be able to plan a vacation? Will this go on forever? We don’t know! Will our country ever pull it together, or is this one long train wreck that we just can’t stop? We don’t know! It’s all up in the air. The only thing we have going for us in all of this is Jesus.
But what better place to be. We have nothing going for us but the one whose mercy and compassion will never fail us. We have nothing going for us but the one who in his love and compassion has gone ahead of us into the grave and been raised victorious over death, so that whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. We have nothing going for us, but the steadfast love and faithfulness of God in Jesus.
And that’s not a bad place to be. Because whether our country pulls it together or falls apart, whether our lives get back to normal or continue on in unending limbo, we can be confident that, as the Psalm says, “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”