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3 Easter, Year A

3 Easter, Year A

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

Sermon by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson

 

During this season of Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. We also celebrate how the reality of resurrection takes shape in our lives too. In Psalm 116 today, we learn how the psalmist experienced a resurrection of sorts by calling on the name of the LORD and having prayer answered. This reminds us all that when we pray, we are not merely talking to ourselves or to no one; rather, we are speaking to the LORD. It also encourages us because the LORD does answer our prayers—maybe not when or how we’d like, but in the LORD’S good time and in the LORD’S way, not ours. 

  

Four times, the psalmist called on the name of the LORD. To call on the name is extremely important. In biblical times, it was believed that God’s name revealed God’s very identity. It gave God’s people a clearer picture of who God was and what God did. So, in the history of Israel, there grew an ever increasing number of names given to the LORD, as Israel better understood more and more about who and what God was and did. God was given, among other names, the names of: God and LORD, the Almighty, the Maker/Creator of heaven and earth, Master/King of the universe, the Holy One, the One and Only God, our Rock, Redeemer, Refuge, Deliverer, our Shepherd and Father. When the Israelites prayed to the LORD with these names, they were expressing their deepest beliefs about who and what God was; they were confessing their faith. In praying to the LORD using these various names, they believed God would act in specific ways to answer their prayers. Most importantly however, is that all of the words Israel used in naming their God refer to a deep, intimate, loving, covenant relationship with the LORD. Therefore, to call on the name of the LORD means to be in a deep relationship with God and to depend upon, to trust in the LORD for everything in life.

  

The LORD doesn’t want us to call on his name only as a last resort, when we find ourselves in trouble or danger. The LORD doesn’t want us to call on his name only after we’ve exhausted every other resource or means. The LORD doesn’t want us to call on his name only on Sundays in church or at night before we go to sleep. Rather, the LORD wants us to call on his name at any time, in any place, during any circumstance of life. That’s what it means to be in a loving, healthy, vital relationship with our God. Healthy communication with God needs to be an ordinary, essential part of our day, just as it is with our family members whom we love. If we approach prayer with the LORD like the psalmist did, then we too will see it as intimate conversation that we will want to have with God.

  

Our psalmist tells us that he believes God always listens to his prayers and therefore he “will call on him as long as (he) lives.” He trusts in the LORD totally, and therefore is able to pray for healing and health by asking God to: “save my life!” More and more all the time, even the medical profession is coming to accept the evidence that prayer is powerful and is also an integral part of healing and health.

 

Dr Alexis Carrel has written, “As a physician, I have seen persons, after all other therapy had failed, lifted out of disease and melancholy by the serene effort of prayer. It is the only power in the world that seems to overcome the so-called ‘laws of nature.’ The occasion on which prayer has dramatically done this have been termed “miracles.” But a constant, quieter miracle takes place hourly in the hearts of men and women who have discovered that prayer supplies them with a steady flow of sustaining power in their daily lives.” 1

  

The healing and health of countless people has come from the LORD thanks to prayers that have been answered. In my ministry, I’ve seen many people recover quickly and miraculously from illness and major surgeries, which cannot be attributed to medicine and technology alone, but also due to the prayers of the faithful, which have been answered. Indeed, contemporary research has now shown the healing power of prayer, along with the relationship of a more speedy recovery among those who have faith and are prayed for by others. This, of coarse, is nothing new for people of faith who have known it all along; what is encouraging about it is that now at least some in the medical profession are acknowledging it too.  Thus the wide gap between medical science and technology and faith may be narrowing as scientists and physicians gain more respect for the important role of faith in people’s lives.

  

It has been said that the LORD always answers prayer, but we might not always like the answer we are given. Some would say that the LORD has three answers to prayer: yes, no and wait. It is often at first anyways, that we have a difficult time believing our prayers have been answered when God says no or wait. Who is happy with a no, a door closed, an opportunity missed? Yet the answer no can, in the long run, prove to be the best one for us because we may not have been properly prepared if God had said yes. Or sometimes we pray for the wrong things, at the wrong time, with the wrong motives—hence, the answer no may very well be a merciful one for us and protect us from some disaster, which we might bring on ourselves, if the answer had been a yes.

For example, the apostle Paul prayed to God to remove his “thorn in the flesh,” but God refused and answered with a no. It took some time, but eventually Paul came to see and accept that God no was the best answer. Why? Because, Paul says, it allowed him to live with his weakness and find strength in it. It kept him more in touch with the LORD and grateful for what the LORD had done for him in suffering. His own sufferings gave him a much deeper appreciation for and understanding of the sufferings of Christ.

  

In our contemporary world of “life in the fast lane,” and instant gratification, perhaps the most difficult answer to prayer for us to accept is wait. We want results and we want them right now! Yet, many great people of faith have had to “wait on the LORD.” Abraham and Sarah had to wait until they were old; when they were well past childbearing age to finally receive God’s blessing through the birth of Isaac. Moses had to wait on the LORD too on many occasions as his leadership was constantly being challenged in the whole process of the exodus and the wilderness journeys of Israel—even then, he didn’t get to set his foot in the Promised Land. The disciples of Jesus also had to wait to receive the Holy Spirit and finally make sense out of the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus. Only then were they able to go out to the ends of the earth and share the Good News of the gospel. Those of us who have had to wait on the LORD may have learned things in the waiting process that we never would have otherwise. Perhaps the waiting has taught us to be more patient with God and each other; or maybe we gained a greater trust in the LORD for the provision of our daily needs. Eventually, maybe we too like others can come to say that the waiting was well worth it, since God knew what God was doing.

  

Others have said that prayer also involves us in the answering process. We are called upon to pray to the LORD as if everything depended upon the LORD and then work as if everything depended upon us. This insight is illustrated quite well in the following story.

  

In the days of sailing ships, two evangelists were aboard a vessel crossing the Atlantic. When a fire broke out in the hold of the ship, the one said: “Brother, let us go to the far end of the ship and pray!”

   “No, sir,” responded the other. “We’re going to stand right here and pass water buckets—and pray at the same time!” Prayer and action are the Christian’s two willing hands. 2 

  

So, like the psalmist, may we call on the name of the LORD, always trusting that he hears and answers our prayers.



1 Cited from: F. Gay, The Friendship Book, 1982, meditation for November 5.

2 Cited from: R. Andersen & D. L. Deffner, editors, “For Example” (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1977), pp. 166-67.

 

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