This is my manuscript for my sermon on August 30th using Psalm 13 as a text. This is what I wrote, and may be different than what came out of my mouth.
This is a song of someone who is suffering. This is a psalm of lament. Psalm 13 is a cry for help. How long? How long do I have to wait? How long do I have to suffer?
How long, O LORD, will You forget me always?
How long hide Your face from me?
How long shall I cast about for counsel, sorrow in my heart all day?
How long will my enemy loom over me?
Four times the psalter asks God, How long? Four times the psalter asks God, where are you? Four times the psalter asks, don’t you care? Four times the psalter asks God, how can you let this happen?
About a third of all of the psalms are prayers for help, cries of lament. They are more prevalent than any other type of psalm. More than songs of praise, more than pleas of penance, more that gifts of thanks, more than statements of trust, more than any of those, the ancient book of prayers and songs contains laments.
Some how that seems right.
We ask God Why or Where are you or Don’t you care when things go bad, than we ask for mercy, beg for forgiveness, let alone, give thanks or praise. And that makes sense, because so often, too often, things don’t go as we expect.
We struggle with hardships.
We feel alone.
We deal with illnesses and bad prognosis.
Friends move away.
Loved ones die.
How long, O LORD, will You forget me always?
This psalm doesn’t just ask how long, it challenges God. Besides the four times it asks How long, it also says three times, lest or unless.
Light up my eyes, lest I sleep death,
Lest my enemy say, “I’ve prevailed over him,”
Lest my foes exult when I stumble.
The psalter is telling God these things will happen, lest you act. Unless you act God, my foes and enemies will rejoice in my defeat. Unless you act God, I sleep death.
If you don’t act God, I will die.
Almost one third of the psalms are of this theme, how long or where are you; cries for help. Even psalms that are of different themes, psalms of thanksgiving like Psalm 40 ask the question how long? So much of the biggest book of the Bible is asking God how can you let this pain go on, why don’t’ you stop my suffering.
That’s why I wanted to do this series. That’s why I wanted this psalm.
It is ok to ask God why? It is all right to question God. It is fine to challenge God.
God has some pretty big shoulders.
God is big enough to handle our pain, our anger, our doubts, our questioning.
If you feel guilty for asking questions or having doubt or being angry, that is ok. God does not love you less because you are angry or have questions and doubts. God loves you because that is what God does.
God is with us in our suffering.
We want God to stop our suffering, to make our suffering go away.
But God is with us in our suffering. God suffers along with us.
We want God to take away our pain, but that’s not what God does.
God is with us when we suffer, and God has suffered for us. In the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God endured suffering. God took the pain of our sins into himself on the cross for us. We remember what that suffering gives us in our baptism. Christ’s suffering on the cross gives us forgiveness of our sins, washing us clean in the blood of the lamb. His overcoming of death gives us the promise of life evermore.
But we still ask How long because we don’t want the pain and the suffering.
And asking how long is good. Because asking how long means that we believe God has the ability to do something. The fact that we ask how long, that we challenge God to act lest, that we cry to the Lord why, that we scream to the heavens NO!, the fact that we speak to God means that we still believe God can act and can change things.
You complain to someone who you think can do something about the suffering you are in. This psalm is a cry to hear me and help me.
Many times, the change is not what we want. Many times, the answer is not what we ask for. But even in those times, God acts.
The last line of the psalm is Let me sing to the LORD, for He requited me. Requited means responded or acted appropriately. When we are in the midst of our suffering and pain, we usually can’t see or feel God’s actions because we are in pain.
God puts people who love us and care for us in our lives. God moves people to help and reach out. God reminds us that we are God’s beloved children.
That is where I find hope when I am asking and crying out how long. I find hope in others. I feel love from other people.
There is so much suffering in the world. We have problems we suffer through, illness, death, and a variety of problems. But there are people who have those problems and more. They have to deal with violence and persecution. They have to deal with war and hatred. They have to deal with hunger and poverty. And they cry out, how long?
AS I was working on this message, a song popped up on the feed I was listening to. It’s a song by Matthew West. In the song, he lists a variety of problems in the world, poverty, violence, etc. The end of the first verse is:
So, I shook my fist at Heaven, said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
Genesis 2, which we will get to in a couple of weeks, tells the story of the creation of people. God created a man from dust, but then saw that there was not found a helper.
God created us to love God and love one another. Jesus said those were the most important commandments.
When we are suffering and in pain, we NEED others to help us, to care for us, to cry with us. They may not be able to make it better, but they can help us to carry the burden. We can share in each other’s sorrow. We can bear each other’s burdens.
When I think of the pain and suffering we face, the pain and the suffering in the world, I have hope because of the young people. If you’ve ever watched a group of little ones, and one of them cries, the others go to comfort them. If someone doesn’t have something, they share.
Taking care of each other is natural to us. We are wonderfully made as children of God to help and take care of each other. But somewhere as we grow up, we grow cold. We don’t want to help THEM. They should take care of themselves. The impulse to help and comfort becomes not wanting to get involved.
In his last talk with his disciples before he was arrested, John writes that Jesus gave them a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you.
Can you imagine what that world would be like? What if we loved one another with the love that Jesus Christ has for us? I totally and absolutely believe that it is possible, if we can only stop worrying about what is in it for us, or how will showing that love impact me.
I believe we have been made to love and care for each other and for everyone, to be a helper.
I just wonder, how long?
Above are the images I created and posted to Instagram, Twitter & Facebook as I prepared my message. Below is the video to the song, Do Something, that I referenced at the end of my message.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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