Ash Wednesday & Lenten Series 3
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
Psalm 31:14-16 Sermon
March 5, 2014
Click here for service internet broadcast/podcast.
Hymns (from The Lutheran Hymnal & With One Voice):
TLH 149 "Come To Calvary's Holy Mountain"
TLH 144 "Jesus Grant That Balm And Healing"
WOV 731 "Precious Lord, Take My Hand"
TLH 655 "I Pray Thee Dear Lord Jesus"
WOV 721 "Go My Children With My Blessing"
TEXT: “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!”
Young Tommy was quite a boy. From his earliest days, it was obvious that he loved music. Every time he heard music play, he would listen intently. And when he sat in the church where his father was the pastor, and listened to the people around him sing, it wasn't long before his little voice joined with the others.
It was little wonder that little Tommy began to play the piano. His mother was a piano teacher, so she was able to help form his natural talent. Nobody had to beg him to practice either. He was the happiest when he played his music.
As he got older, he began to play the piano for Vaudeville acts. And while he was in college, he played the jazz and blues he loved at about every tavern, beer hall, pub, or bar he could find. News of his musical talent spread all around, earning him the nickname of "Georgia Tom." He was also known as "Barrelhouse Tom" and "Texas Tommy."
But something in Tom's life was about to take a change. At the age of 22, the Holy Spirit touched this young man's heart. The Lord had other things in mind for this brilliant young musician that would forever change the course of his life. He had graduated with a degree in music from the Chicago College of Composition and Arranging, and now that degree would be used in ways that young Tom never imagined.
Gradually he quit playing in the taverns, pubs, and beer halls; and instead turned his attention to serving the Lord with his music. He eventually went back to school and studied to become a Pastor.
One day in 1932, Pastor Tom was preaching a sermon when a man came up to the podium upon which he was standing and handed him a note. The note informed him that his wife Nettie had died during childbirth. And he was devastated. But that wasn't the end either. Scarcely a day later, his new-born son also died.
Young Tom was almost inconsolable. He began to spiral downward in a sea of doubt and anger. He felt deserted and abandoned by God, and he vowed then and there to never write another hymn, ever again.
I'm going to leave Pastor Tom alone for a little bit as we take a look at the topic for this evening's sermon. The term "Hurting Hands" can refer to several different things.
There are those hands that hurt us. If somebody came along and punched you in the nose, that would be a hand that hurt you. Or maybe in a less violent way, the hand that hurts can be somebody stealing your wallet or pocketbook, or someone who forges their name on a check, or somebody who vandalizes your property.
Then there are those times that our own hands are hurting. Think about the blisters you might get when doing yard work; those blisters can be good reminders that we should wear gloves next time. Or maybe our hands are hurting because of arthritis in the joints.
However, our text for this evening has us take this in a more general sense. The hurting hand is attached to the person experiencing the hurt, wherever that hurt might be. A person may be experiencing grief or sadness, and so they extend a hurting hand to be comforted. A person may be experiencing an illness or they might be recuperating in hospital, and so the hurting hand of the person is extended to be healed. A person's life might be in crisis from a wide variety of things, and so the hurting hand of the person is extended to be helped. There are just so many things that happen in our lives that cause us to extend our hurting hands, looking for relief of some sort.
I frequently quote Psalm 121 in a variety of instances, especially when a hurting hand exists. Listen to verses 1 and 2: "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."
God speaks to us through the Psalms in a variety of instances. It's here that God reveals himself in different circumstances. The Psalms give words of comfort, forgiveness, trust, and hope. We hear about the love and compassion of our great God. And in keeping with our theme for this evening, God assures us in the Psalms, as well as in other places in the Bible, that when we extend the hurting hand in our lives, we aren't just waving our hands in mid-air. God is always there, right within arm's reach.
If we look at today's text from Psalm 31, we read verse 14: "But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, 'You are my God.'" This verse, in one short sentence, tells us two very important things. First, it is an acknowledgement of God's power. This is something we cannot forget either. There is nothing that God cannot do. He has made many miracles happen in the past, and he still makes miracles happen today. This is done according to his gracious and loving will, so we can't get angry with God for not making things turn out the way we would like them to.
Second, this verse acknowledges a person's faith. These words express a type of trust that relies upon God for everything, and never seeks to try to eliminate him from the picture. The Christian knows that God provides the ordinary and everyday blessings we sometimes take for granted, as well as the miracles.
Moving ahead now to verse 15: "My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!" Just think about the tremendous comfort of these words. You have probably heard the cliché statement, "Let go and let God." And when someone says that to you, you probably say something like, "Yeah, yeah, I know; but still...."
Sometimes we need to be reminded of this simple fact. We know that God is in charge and that our time is in his hands. And yet, we still try to be "masters of our own fate" by yanking the reins out of God's hands and trying to take control ourselves. And that is certainly a recipe for disaster! How can we even think that our sinful minds are a match for God's perfection?
Like I mentioned before, these words are comforting. We can take comfort by knowing for a fact that whatever happens in the life of one of God's children is under God's care. In Luke chapter 12, verses 6-7 we hear the words of Jesus: "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."
And this now brings us to verse 16 of our text, which says: "Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!" As members of the human race, we receive blessings from God. But as Christians, we receive the greatest blessing of all, which is the forgiveness of sins. And along with this comes the defeat of Satan, the deliverance from death, and freedom from the threat of hell. I'd say those are some pretty incredible blessings! This gives us a greater appreciation for all of the things God has done in our lives.
Our hurting hands hurt from the disease of sin. We are so infected with it that sin is running rampant through our entire bodies and souls. If we extend our hurting hand and try to find relief and comfort on our own, we will as I mentioned earlier be just groping in the dark. But God the Holy Spirit has picked up our hurting, diseased, and withered hand. He has taken it and placed it into the hand of our Saviour Jesus. Then we experience the forgiveness that he has promised. Jesus takes that disease of sin, that hurt caused by Satan, and completely removes it from us.
How did he do this? Dr. Luther says that Jesus Christ "...redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death..."
This tremendous blessing is ours through nothing more than faith alone. This is how God's grace works. His grace is nothing we earn or find on our own; but rather it is what finds a lost and condemned creature the likes of you and me, and brings us to our Saviour Jesus Christ.
When God's face shines upon us, we know that we have found favor with him because of what Jesus has done. And faith alone brought about by the Holy Spirit is what makes Jesus' sacrifice personal for you and me.
There are three important things brought out in our text for today. First, the hand of God is the hand of life. God gave the gift of life at creation, and he continues to give life as a gift every day. He gave this gift to you and me. And even though we are born in sin into a world of sin, we live this life with the hope of a blessed future in the life to come.
Second, the hand of God is the hand of compassion. So often we don't see this right away. We say, "Why is God doing this to me?" So we always need to remember that God is the solution to a problem, and not the cause of it.
We also need to remember that God acts according to his grace. There are many who contend that God acts out of his sovereignty and power in an arbitrary manner simply because he can do it. But we need to remember that he exercises his power out of grace, or his undeserved love for us. God's actions are for our benefit.
And finally, the hand of God is the hand of healing. He takes our hurting hands and heals them. Jesus heals our spirits. And when we experience trials and tribulations in this world, we know that if God's healing doesn't happen during our life upon earth, then that healing will be in the life to come. God's healing hand gives us hope.
In the beginning of this sermon, I told you about the young musician turned pastor, young Tom. Now I shall finish the story.
After the tragic death of his wife in childbirth, and the subsequent death of his son a day later, Tom was grief-stricken and spiraling downward. A week or so after the horrifying events, Tom was visiting a friend's home. He was just sitting at the piano in his friend's music room, when the words of Isaiah chapter 41 verse 13 came to mind: “I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.” And suddenly a peace came over him calming his troubled and aching heart. It was a peace the likes of which he had never quite felt before.
He suddenly had the urge to play the piano, and a melody literally erupted from his troubled soul. And he opened his mouth, and he expressed the entire gamut of emotions he was feeling. So what were the words of that hymn? "Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light: take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home."
Young Tom was the famous Thomas A. Dorsey, not to be confused with the big band leader or the baseball player, who continued to write spiritual songs and hymns in his own unique style for the rest of his life. Unhappy with the treatment received at the hands of established publishers, Dorsey opened the first black gospel music publishing company, the Dorsey House of Music. He also founded his own gospel choir and was a founder and first president of the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses.
Thomas Dorsey had a hand of hurt, and his precious Lord reached out and took a hold of it. God had given him a song that would not only lift him from despair, but would also change the course of his music career, as well as his entire life.
Whatever happens in our lives, we can be assured that the same precious Lord Jesus takes our hurting hands and lovingly leads us through this life until he takes us to our mansion in heaven for eternity.