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Worship Theme: Jesus Conquers Death
Sermon Theme: "A Cry for Help"--based on Psalm 130.
Transcript of this week's message:
Whether today's current state of affairs leaves you annoyed and frustrated or anxious and afraid, we’re at a time where many are feeling trapped in the depths of uncertainty. Psalm 130 is fitting to share today as we reach out to God with “A Cry for Help.” March 29, 2020.
After a hot and grueling summer practice, twelve young teens from a soccer team along with one of their assistant coaches decided to explore a nearby cave together. A sign at the entrance to the tunnel warned against entering the caves during the rainy season. But the rainy season didn’t start until July, a week away. So, they went in. While they were in the cave the unexpected happened. The monsoon rains came…early. The sudden and continuous downpour flooded the tunnels trapping the team inside. As they fled the rising waters, they were driven back through the maze of tunnels until they were 2.5 miles away from the entrance. Trapped in the depths of the cave.
Do you recall this true story that took place in northern Thailand in June and July of 2018? It drew the attention of the world. Would the boys be found? Would they be alive? Could anyone rescue them? The world watched. But imagine being on the inside in the depths of the tunnel. I don’t know enough about what they did inside the caves, but imagine what you would do. Would you cry out for someone to hear and help you until you could make no more sound? Weep in hopelessness, tremble in fear? Dig and claw your way out to no avail? Wander in the darkness? Be filled with the dread of this is it? Can you imagine?
I’m going to go out on a limb and say you that while you maybe don’t know the experience of being trapped in the depths of a cave, you do know what it’s like to cry out for help from a place of darkness and despair. In fact, maybe you’re feeling that way today. Your life and the way you live it has changed quite a bit and quite quickly over the last week or two. You’re largely confined to your home. Maybe you’re struggling to figure out how to do your job from home or to be at home all day with your family that you love so dearly. You might be one who is working long hours on the front lines in less than ideal situations, with less than ideal supplies, to help those in need. Or maybe you’re one whose job is suddenly gone because the business has had to close. Maybe all the news and information terrifies you and causes you anxiety. You might be a high-risk person afraid of contracting the virus. I don’t know where you’re at today, but whether this current state of affairs leaves you annoyed and frustrated or anxious and afraid, we’re at a time where many are feeling trapped in the depths of uncertainty.
That’s why Psalm 130 seems so fitting to share with you today. “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.” I have a sneaking suspicion that God’s prayer inbox has suddenly over these last number of days been exploding with prayer notifications. Those prayers probably sound similar to the cry of the soul in these opening verses. Cries of help coming from the depths. This vivid picture of the depths describes the distress that is so common to people, to you and me. It has this idea of being down in the pit, hitting rock bottom and all of the emotions and experiences that come along with it: the excruciating silence, darkness, destruction, corruption, mud and slime. You are sometimes knocked down by this world and don’t know how to get up. So out of the depths you cry to the Lord.
But you see, this psalm with its cries for mercy are more than just cries from the depths of the troubles and adversities of life. The pit goes deeper than a wrecked economy, than fear of infection, or even the reality of bodily death. It goes deep into the depths of your sins, your rebellion against God, your lack of trust, and the eternal death of hell. There is nothing that Satan and this sin-infected world wants than to use this pandemic and its upheaval of life to make you lose sight and hope in God by focusing on the wrong things. A great pastor by the name of Martin Luther said this, “We are all in deep and great misery, but we do not all feel our condition.” Realize that your lack of obedience to God’s will, your lack of trust in God in times of trouble, your own efforts to dig out of the depths of sin on your own, these efforts throw you into a pit far deeper than this world can dig. We too often lose sight of God in the midst of earthly troubles. Lord have mercy!
The young soccer team trapped in the caves could not escape on their own. They didn’t know the way out. They didn’t have the equipment to escape. They needed someone to come to them and risk their lives to save them. The same is true when it comes to your pit of sin. We are often lost in the deepness of guilt, in the blindness of unbelief. We can’t get out and by trying to get right with God on our own we find ourselves further from him. “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?” Do you want to answer that with me? No one. No one could stand. If God kept a record of every one of my sins, leave me in the pit!! But. BUT! “But with you there is forgiveness.” God forgives you.
It took over 10,000 people, which included divers, rescue workers, police officers, and soldiers, using helicopters, ambulances, hundreds of oxygen cylinders, while pumping out millions of gallons of water to rescue that team. The lives of two divers were lost in the endeavor. Your rescue from the pit of sin took even more. It took the almighty creator God to lovingly step down from heaven and take on human flesh to live and die to pay the price for your sins. That Savior, Jesus Christ, dove into the pit of this sinful world to give up his holy precious life to rescue you from sin. For this reason, God reaches down into your depths no matter how deep they may be and says I forgive you. Through his promise of forgiveness and life through Jesus, God pulls you up through faith and trust in him to have a new life free from sin and fear of death. He gives you life.
In the gospel from John 11, we heard the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus first got on the scene, he came across Lazarus’ sister Martha. She said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It’s almost like, “God, you could stop this coronavirus, why don’t you??” But how does Jesus respond? “Your brother will rise again... I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” No matter what troubles come in this life, Jesus is the resurrection and the life who has conquered the pit of death and gives life to you. Your eternal life is secure in Jesus.
Now I can’t promise to you that God will spare you from the virus, or that you your finances are going to fine, or that life will be back to normal in a few weeks. But I can promise to you that God forgives all of your sins. Every one of them. He hears your cry for help. The eternal depths of death and hell have been destroyed by Jesus. You have life with God now and forever.
So, we wait. The soccer team had to do a lot of waiting in the caves. They really couldn’t do a whole lot else. Even when they were found, they had to wait for a rescue to be planned and implemented. But after 17 days, the last of the boys was pulled out of the caves.
You’re doing a lot of waiting too. Waiting to leave the house. Waiting to get back to work. Waiting for Opening Day. Waiting for someone to heal. Waiting for this pandemic to pass. If that was all we were waiting for it would be easy to despair. But my dear friends, as people of God, knowing and trusting in his promises, we wait differently. “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Right now, it is easy to be tempted to wait with worrying. I’m worried about getting the virus even though I’m staying safe at home, washing my hands frequently, and social distancing. It’s not waiting with the uncertain hope that I’m trying my best to be a good person and do the right things so that God will accept me. No, it’s a waiting with certain hope. It’s a waiting for the Lord, for the day when you and I will experience his forgiveness and living life with him in its fullness. Right now, we only get a little bit of it and so often it’s overshadowed by the troubles of this world.
But get this, God promises that he is with you always even when suffering through a pandemic. God promises that these present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). God promises that death has been defeated. God promises that you are forgiven. God promises that you are loved. God promises that there is a place for you in heaven where he will wipe every tear from [your] eyes. [Where] there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away (Revelation 21:4).
So, we wait. We wait knowing that our cries for help don’t fall on deaf ears. We wait knowing that we are forgiven. We wait with hope in God’s word, hoping upon a Lord whose love is unfailing, who has rescued us from sin. We wait with longing for the morning, when the darkness of this world and sin will be gone forever.
These days are uncertain, look to the one who is unfailing. These days can be fearful, look to the one who has conquered the grave. The Lord hears your cry for help. Wait on him and put your hope in his word. Amen.
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