July 1, 2018

You know those Sundays when the readings are just so meaningful that they are a message all by themselves? After this morning’s readings I could say, “Well, we just had our sermon, so let’s move on to the Nicene Creed.”

Don’t get too excited! The Sermon IS listed in the bulletin, after all, and I certainly wouldn’t want to skip a part of the bulletin. So, let’s review what we read this morning and why these passages are so important.

I’m going to start this out with a question. Why are you here? Whether it’s Good Shepherd or any other church you might frequent, with all the things you could be doing this morning, why do you get up on a Sunday morning and drive to church?

Of course, there may be someone thinking, “I don’t know why I’m here. My husband, or wife, talked me into it.”

But it may be you like how you feel when you’re in church. I think a lot of people come to church seeking some kind of comfort. Words that will help them get through the next week, or maybe just get through the next day, or maybe even the next few hours.

I have good news for you, “The Comforter is here!”

We have THE Comforter in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We saw in our Gospel reading how Jesus healed two people – a woman who had a bleeding disorder and a child who actually ended up dying, but whom he brought back to life. In both situations I love how he spoke so loving and comforting. To the woman, after she had touched his clothes and was healed, Jesus felt power leave him, so he asks who touched him. Then it says, “The woman, full of fear and trembling, came forward.” Does he chastise her? Does he say, “Whoa, you can’t just come up to me and think you’re going to get healed so quickly. You have a to make an appointment for that kind of thing.”

No, he simply says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you; go in peace, healed from your disease.”

I also noticed when Jesus and the girl’s father were told the girl had died, Jesus continued on the path to the man’s house and when he reached it, even though there was commotion with wailing and crying, he kept things calm by saying, “What’s all this commotion and crying about? The child isn’t dead. She’s only sleeping.” Then after sending everyone out of the house, only the parents and his three disciples went into the room. Taking her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Young woman, get up.” The girl got up and began to walk around.

Jesus provides calm and comfort to those who are suffering.

In the 2nd letter to the Corinthians this morning Paul said, “God is the compassionate Father and
God of all comfort.”

And yes, he is. Not only to those we read about in the Bible, but to us today. I know many of you have experienced his comfort, whether it’s from trials of health issues, family relations, financial setbacks, spiritual needs.

God is not a God who does not get involved in our suffering. He is here with us.

Paul said, “We were weighed down with a load of suffering that was so far beyond our strength that we were afraid we might not survive.”

You know that verse in I Corinthians 10 that says, “He will not give you more than you are able to bear?” You need to know that is not what that verse says. Rather that verse is talking about temptation, not a burden to bear. What it says is, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be TEMPTED beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”

I bring that up so that you can understand Paul’s letter better. After he says, “We were weighed down with a load of suffering that was so far beyond our strength,” he goes on to say, “This was so that we would have confidence in God , who raises the dead, instead of ourselves. God rescued us from a terrible death, and he will rescue us.”

How can we know it is God who has helped us through situations if they were situations that we can handle ourselves? And if we can handle it, we don’t need God.

We read, again, this morning about Saul and David. Saul, originally, had been anointed by God as the first king over Israel. He disobeyed God and God brought David into the picture. Saul was jealous of David and tried to kill him. After many attempts upon David’s life, David still recognized and honored Saul as God’s anointed king over Israel. Throughout the many times David felt forsaken and in danger, he would turn to God. His many psalms tell of his pain and how he cries out to the Lord, and we read his psalms, such as Psalm 3 which says:

1 Lord, I have so many enemies!
So many are standing against me.
2 So many are talking about me:
“Even God won’t help him.” Selah[ a ]
3 But you, Lord, are my shield!
You are my glory!
You are the one who restores me.

David received comfort from the Lord many times.

Okay, Cindy, I understand that God is my comfort. I thank him and I praise him for the many times he has brought me through the trials and hardships of my life. Is there more?

Yes. After Paul said, “He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort,” he continued with a very special mission. He said, “He (God) is the one who comforts us in all our trouble – so that – we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble.” Paul continues, “We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. … So, if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort …”

And it goes on…

The trials you and I have experienced in our lives, and the comfort and peace you and I have received through these trials, allow us to understand when someone else is going through various trials. And as we have received comfort, we are to comfort others.

David put this into practice when he received news of the death of Saul and Jonathan. He grieved for both of them. Jonathan and David had been best of friends. Saul was the hero to many in Israel, and the nation needed comfort. So, David, who was gifted in writing psalms and songs, wrote the lamentation, or funeral song that we read this morning. God had comforted David many times, and David passed that comfort on to others who needed it at that time.

Suffering is a reality of life, and it is not going to go away any time soon. Only heaven is free of suffering. In the meantime, we will suffer, loved ones will suffer, friends will hurt, and those in our sphere of influence will experience pain, some more severely than others. There will be times when it will be our turn to be comforted, and there will be times when it will be our role to do the comforting. Those who have experienced comfort know how valuable this is.

I know we somehow feel we are not supposed to talk about our hurt and our pain, but ONLY the
comfort God has provided us. But our suffering and our pain is part of our story, as well as the
part where we received comfort from God. And sharing our story with others who are suffering
and in pain might be the only way they can understand the comfort that God can provide for
them when they look to him and grab hold of his hand.

So many times we are the instrument God uses to bring others who are suffering to him. They hear our stories, they comprehend that we understand, and they need someone who understands.

Through that, we (figuratively) reach our hand out to them and they are willing to take our hand. Then we can place their hand into God’s hand, the God of all comfort.

We might not be able to “fix” their situation, but we can give them love and comfort. God will do the rest. Sometimes they just need someone to lean on.

I remember heading to work one morning a number of years ago, and I received a call from my mom. She said, “Cindy, I’m in trouble. I need you.” I went over and realized I needed to call 911. While waiting for the ambulance we were sitting side-by-side on her bed and she leaned over and put her head on my shoulder. And we prayed. Could I fix her problem? No. But she had someone she could lean on for that moment. That was the last ambulance ride she ever took.

Your conversation might not be that severe – perhaps someone is having a relational problem, maybe a situation at work, maybe they’ve had recent surgery. Maybe depressions or anxiety attacks. Do you know what to do in those circumstances? Maybe not. But you know who does, and you’ve learned to trust him with your situations. You know he’s trustworthy.

And, you might not even need to say a word. Sometimes just your presence is important. There’s a story I shared quite a while back and it’s worth repeating. There once was an elderly, despondent woman in a nursing home. She wouldn’t speak to anyone or request anything. She merely existed – rocking the day away in her rocking chair. The old woman didn’t have many visitors, but every couple of mornings a concerned young nurse would go into her room. The nurse didn’t try to speak or ask questions. She simply pulled up another rocking chair beside the old woman and rocked with her. Weeks later, the old woman finally spoke. There were tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she said, “for rocking with me.”

“The Comforter is here!”

He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort others who are in every kind of trouble.