Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | March 10, 2010

Sermon on Psalm 130

Sermon preached for the Christian funeral of Velaska Wilhite, March 10, 2010.

A Hope Worth Having

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.  If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

There were many things that Velaska said to me many times.  But one sticks in my mind:  her insistence upon the Word.  Not a conversation passed where she didn’t emphasize her desire for the Word.  Not my words.  Not the words of friends and family.  Not the words of her favorite news anchor.  But God’s Word.  That was her deal breaker when it came to church.  She wanted a church that was in the Word.  Not sort of.  Not kind of.  Not sometimes.  But always.  Because her hope was in the Word.  And that’s a hope worth having.

Because, like the psalmist, Velaska found herself in the depths.  There were days and weeks and months, especially the last few, where things weren’t going well.  There were days of pain and suffering.  There were days of anguish.  There were days of uncertainty.  There was this hospital and that clinic.  There was this family emergency and that family tragedy.  There was the ever-present thought of death.  And then death itself.  We have before us the proof that something’s wrong with the world and with Velaska.  We have the evidence of the depths in which we live and the depths from which we must call out to God.  We have a coffin, the inevitable consequence of Velaska’s sin – death.

But we also have hope.  Because Velaska had hope.  The psalmist’s words were her words, I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope. There it is, the Word!  His Word!  From the deepest depths, in the weeist hours, here is where we look, where we grasp and crawl and reach and stretch.

Which, at first, doesn’t make sense.  As the psalmist said, If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? God the Know-it-all, God the everywhere, is also the God whose hard-drive never crashes.  He does have records of sin.  And in 86 years, Velaska wracked up quite a record.  And before such a God, before such a judge, who can stand?  No one.  Because this God says, “Be perfect.”  Well, I can’t be.  And most days I don’t want to be holy in the ways God wants me to be, because that’s just not the way I’m wired thanks to sin.  So, why cry out to this LORD?  Is it a last gasp?  A hope?  A wish?

Yes.  Jesus told a parable once, about a king’s servant.  This servant owed the king millions of dollars.  He had no way to pay.  The king was ready to sell him and his family into slavery.  When it was his turn to go before the king he begged.  “Don’t sell us.  Give me another chance.”  But the king refused.  Instead, he canceled his entire debt.  That man had no reason to expect mercy.  Neither do we.  We have no way to pay back our accumulated sin-debt.  There is no sacrifice we can offer, work we can do, gift we can give, prayer we can offer that will square things with God.  And what’s worse, even if there was, we’re so sinful, that we wouldn’t even do it.  Our last gasp, our hope, Velaska’s hope, is for mercy from the King, from the Lord, from God, the One who keeps record of our sins.

And we find that the psalmist had hope too.  But with you there is forgiveness. Because this Word in which we hope is not just so many words on a page, but the Word of God who is unbreakable truth; and, it is the Word Who became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  The apostle John writes:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men….He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. And just so there’s no doubt, we’re talking about Jesus.  Here is the King’s answer to the problem that put Velaska in this coffin.

This answer, Jesus, made everything the psalmist said true, because Jesus isn’t just the Word made flesh, God with us, but He is also the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  He is the God who hears and is attentive.  He is the God who announced forgiveness to lepers and paralytics, to prostitutes and thieves, and even to the men crucifying Him.  He is the God of unfailing love, who showed the extent of His love by letting Himself be lifted up on the cross with the weight of yours, mine, and Velaska’s sins upon Him.  He is the God of full redemption, who said, I did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give my life as a ransom for may. And, most incredibly, He is the God who does it all Himself.  Those last words of the psalm resonate, He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. God didn’t delegate this.  He did it.  He so loved the world – you, me, Velaska – that He sent His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

This is the hope worth having, Velaska’s hope; a hope that is no more, because it’s fulfilled.  She’s not waiting for the Lord anymore.  She’s with the Lord.  She’s in her Father’s house.  She has eternal life.  She has it, because He did it.  He laid down His life for her.  He took it up again.  In that Word put your hope.  Amen.

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