Before worship started on Sunday, July 12, I sat in the pew talking with Duane Odland. I had not seen Duane since January. We had a lot to catch up on, in our lives and in our world. We both agreed that right now “The world seems to be going crazy.” That same afternoon I was at a wedding and talked with Ellen Lentz-Bang and to Harry Zola, among others. We discussed COVID-19 and national politics. Rather to have a diagnosis for the recent pandemic in our world, Ellen and I agreed, “Who really knows what’s going on?” Rather to have a diagnosis for the recent upheaval and turmoil in our world, Harry and I agreed, “The world is a mess.”
I’m sure I don’t have to inform you about the disruption caused to all people in our world by the coronavirus. Unfortunately, just when it seemed that things were working their way back to a previous normal, or to a “new normal,” the second wave of the virus is spreading faster than the first. I am sure you have observed the political upheaval caused by the sin of racism, which has always existed, and is displaying it’s evil again in our time. The riots and demonstrations seem to have caused more harm tthan good. And, our political leaders appear to be causing more division than answering questions and working for unity. What a time of unrest!
Perhaps those of us observing from past experience are caught in the past. But, to me, our world seems to be in chaos. I was taught in seminary that the sea, with all its winds and waves and storms, represents chaos. I was also taught that chaos, the lack of order, is the result of and is a sign of the sin and the rebellion of God’ children against our Heavenly Father’s loving direction. When the creation rebels against the Creator there is trouble, to put it lightly.
Yet, in the midst of this chaos I have found some places of calm, and peace. For example, being retired I have had more time to work on my yard and my garden this year. I can spend more time with a hoe in my hand, and more time on my knees, pulling chickweed, and the other weeds in my garden. I have given more attention to my flowers and vegetables, pruning and feeding them. The results show a beauty and order we see in God’s creation, but don’t always see in the rest of our world. My wife, Kathy, has been picking flowers for almost two months and displaying them in our home. We have been eating radishes, lettuce, and spinach for over a month. To be able to work in such a way that dispels the chaos of weeds, and which brings the beauty and the fruit of God’s creation, gives me a sense of peace.
Another place of peace for me has been time away fishing. When I am the only one, or one of few, on the river or on a lake, and I can listen to the sounds of the water, and the birds, and see other wildlife, I can observe the good which God created in the beginning.
I have many favorite Psalms, for example Psalms 1, 2. 19, 23, 24, 30, 32, 67, 84, 85, 90, 91, 96, 97, 98, 100, 103, 111, 118, 119, 121, 122, 130, 145, 146, 150 –whew! But, one of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 46. This Psalm describes the turmoil we experience in our world. God speaks through the Sons of Korah to describe natural disasters. “ . . .the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Ps. 46:2 b-3) Then the Lord speaks of political upheaval, “6The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. (Psalm 46:6) Yet, in the midst of this chaos, God calls to His people to trust Him, to trust His power and His rule. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:10-11) The world may be crazy, or in chaos, but our Lord is still God, still ruling, still in charge. He IS with us! It takes faith to see, but our Lord is there.
Jesus is the greatest sign of God’s loving rule in the midst of a world of sin. Jesus faced the storms of this world. When the disciples were in fear of drowning during a storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus simply spoke to the storm. “39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the stea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mk. 4:39) Do you hear the same command, “Be still.”? Then Jesus scolded the disciples, “He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark. 4:40) In the chaos of the mess we find in our world, we can trust God with the storms of life.
Does the world seem to be going crazy to you? Does the world seem to be in chaos? Does this chaos and turmoil cause you stress? Bring fear? Cause you to worry? After all, we are not in charge. BUT, the Lord IS GOD. Remember, Jesus has also faced the storms of selfishness, of sin, of rebellion, and He nailed them to the cross winning forgiveness. Jesus defeated the power of sin in His rising from the dead. The forces of evil may rage, but, Jesus speaks to us and says, “Be still!”
I have one more favorite place of order and peace, where I remember the beauty our Lord gives. This place also has weeds, but we live in a sinful world. Yet here I find God’s grace and peace. That place is in worship. In worship God’s Word is spoken to create and strengthen faith. In worship God calls people to Himself in baptism. In worship our Lord forgives sins in the Lord’s Supper. For the chaos of our world, God breaks in to plant the seed of faith and to give the gifts of grace and love and peace, so we do not have to be afraid. We can do what we are called to in Psalm 46. “Be still, and know that I am God.