Rev. Jeffrey T. Howard
Pitts Creek and Beaver Dam Churches
Sermon – Psalm 92:1-4,12-15 – Prepared for the Storm
Trinity May 26, 2013
This past week a great tornado swept though Oklahoma. The town of Moore OK was devastated. I am sure that you have seen the destroyed homes and bewildered people on television. This isn't the first time something like this has happened. People in biblical times also suffered from storms. Listen to this story from the Book of Job.
Job 1:18-19 18 While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, "Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother's house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!"
What are we to do at times like these? When the wind blows and houses fall and loved ones die, what should we do? Listen to what Job did.
Job 1:20-21 20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."
So Job's reaction to the news that a tornado had ripped apart his son's home killing all of children was to worship God, praising his name. A lifetime of worship had prepared Job for this day. And a lifetime of worship prepares us for the storms in our lives. Let us pray.
“Grant unto us, O Lord, to be occupied in the mysteries of thy heavenly wisdom, with true progress in piety, to thy glory and our own edification. Amen.” (John Calvin)
The planet we live on has a molten core of iron. It is a spinning ball on a tilted axis 93,000 miles from the sun. The Earth was created by God this way to support life. By creating a such a planet God gave us oxygen to breath, water to drink, and food to eat. But with the molten core of iron we have earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. And with the uneven heating of the sun we have droughts, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. And so the very things that make life possible also make disasters a reality. God could stop the disaster from occurring, Jesus stilled a storm, but to do so would make life itself impossible. So for life to exist God made a world where disasters occur.
God does not prevent disasters. Rather, in his goodness, he prepares us for the day when disaster strikes. God prepares us for disasters the same way he prepared Job by allowing us to worship him on the Sabbath day. By worshiping every Sunday we prepare ourselves for the day of disaster. We learn in worship of a God who does not prevent disasters, but his love and compassion can be seen in the midst of disasters. Here are God's instructions for Sabbath worship from Psalm 92.
Psalm 92:1-15 NIV Psalm 92:1 A psalm. A song. For the Sabbath day. It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, 2 to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, 3 to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp. 4 For you make me glad by your deeds, O LORD; I sing for joy at the works of your hands. 12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, "The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him."
The first thing we learn from the Psalmist is that the purpose of Sunday worship is to praise God. We praise God for the gift of creation, the world we have that sustains life. Sunday worship teaches us to praise God no matter what happens understanding that life itself is a miraculous gift. We are told that we are to praise God for his love every Sunday morning. We are to praise God for his faithfulness every Sunday evening. And we are to praise God with music using instruments and voices. Praising God every Sunday has the effect of helping us lead joyful lives. So that when disaster strikes we have an inner reservoir of God's love and faithfulness that we can drawn on.
Sadly, those who do not worship God on Sundays will be blown about by the wind. So many people think they can do it on their own. We live in a nation of rugged individualists who think they don't need any help. There are others who are convinced that the government will give them the help they need when they need it. But when disaster strikes they will find out that they need help and the government isn't always there in time.
God's loves us and will care for us in our time of need. And God is faithful, he will be there when we need him the most. Those who worship each Sunday know this, and they develop roots that go deep into the soil of faith that sustains them in times of trouble. Those who do not worship on Sundays face disasters alone and will curse God for their hardships, but those who do worship will know a loving and faithful God who sustains them in these hardships.
The psalmist knows that one of the hardships we must bear is old age. After you have survived the storms of life you now face your own personal storms of poor health. This is part of the mortal life you were given. But your faith will never grow old. And the faith that has grown in you as you attend Sunday worship for so many years will continue to produce fruit that will sustain you. I see this over and over again when I visit people at the hospital and in nursing homes. Even though their bodies are deteriorating there faith remains strong. They are sustained by God's love and faithfulness. And they face death with the sure hope of the resurrection and eternal life.
“Kevin Clarkson, the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Moore, Oklahoma, said it’s important to remember that “this isn’t the final story” and that “God’s not done.” Clarkson said he’ll tell those who are struggling that “God loves them and God understands. He’s not punishing them…God is with them in their suffering, [and] we’re with them.” Cliff Mansley, the pastor of New Creation Church in Joplin, added: ”Hang in there, God is going to do great things.” When asked how he and his community can possibly help so soon after they were in such desperate need, he had to bite back emotion. “How can you not help people? Mansley said. “The way that people have poured out their hearts and their lives for us, when we see other people in need, we just can’t help but to move into action.”” http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/05/21/how-can-god-let-tragedies-like-the-okla-tornado-exist-pastors-weigh-in/
Rhett Burnett, an Oklahoma sheriff said, “Yesterday, I had a man say to me, ‘I don’t understand why God does things like that,’ Everything this man had was destroyed in the storm. What I told him was that I don’t believe God creates this mayhem. I told him that we all need to praise the Lord that we’re alive, and I told him that God is his provider. We need to praise the Lord and trust that He is going to take care of us. We prayed together, and I believe that man is going to be OK. He did praise God, even after such an ordeal.” http://www.charismanews.com/us/39571-with-god-s-grace-we-ll-recover-says-okla-under-sheriff-after-tornado
D.A. Bennett is the pastor of St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. His church served as a shelter for the people of Moore during the storm. A mother and a preschooler from his church died in Moore that day. At their funeral he said, “As people of faith, we do not grieve without hope. We’re going to walk together through this. It is not something you can walk through alone.” http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/05/21/pastor-oklahoma-tornado
No matter what disaster strikes our faith in our triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit will be with us and he will sustain us with his love and faithfulness. We learn to depend on this though our Sunday worship where we praise God for his works of creation. The faith developed though years of Sunday worship sustains us just as it sustains the Christians of Moore OK. Let us pray.
“Holy One, you are our comfort and strength in times of sudden disaster, crisis, or chaos. Surround us now with your grace and peace through storm or earthquake, fire or flood. By your Spirit, lift up those who have fallen, sustain those who work to rescue or rebuild, and fill us with the hope of your new creation; through Jesus Christ, our rock and redeemer.” Amen. http://www.presbyterianmission.org/media/uploads/pda/pdfs/prayers_after_tornadoes.pdf