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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25
March 19, 2017
St Paul's Anglican Church

"Escaping Disasters"

Lent III
St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Disasters are fearful, indeed!

The word disaster, by the way, comes from the conjoining of two Greek terms – “dis” meaning without… and “aster” meaning star. Together, they form a word that literally means “without a star.” To be without a star is to be without light… To be without a star is to be without navigational bearings… To be without a star is to be without guidance… without leading… and, all too often – without hope!

And speaking of disasters, the world’s worst recorded earthquake took place almost 500-years ago in the Shensi Province of China when 830,000 people perished! Imagine almost one-million people dying in an instant!

And when we consider “man-made” disasters, none can really compare with WWII, a conflict which drew participants from 73-nations of this earth… in which a total of 62-million souls perished in only a few years…

Such sobering statistics give us good reason to pause… and carefully consider the lesson before us this morning. For in these words spoken by the Almighty through Moses to His people as they were entering the Promised Land, He showed them the pathway by which they would always find security and protection in a disaster-plagued world…

First of all, if we who call ourselves God’s people would find His protection from disaster… we must Fear Him. Verse 1…

Now these [are] the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments, which the LORD your God commanded to teach you… That thou mightest fear the LORD thy God…

Though God is our Heavenly Father, and though He loves us, yet are we to fear Him... In the vernacular, we might say reverence Him… or respect Him… or honor Him! He is immanent (near), yet is He also transcendent (far away). And though He is our Friend… yet does He also remain our Judge. Though He forgives, yet must we remember the accounting we will one day be required to render before Him…

Second, if we would find His protection from disaster, we must Love Him.

Verse 5. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Our commitment to the Ancient of Days must be guarded against all rivalry… and jealously defended from all competing claims. Jesus identified these words as constituting the first and great commandment…

Third, if we would find His protection from disaster, we must Hear Him.

Verse 3. Hear therefore… that it may be well with thee… that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee…

The competition for the minds of men, women, children and young people has always been fierce… always unrelenting… always unremitting. No less today than before! No wonder the Almighty taught His people to write His commands on the gates of their property… on the posts of their houses… binding them as reminders on hands and foreheads!

Fourth, if we would find His protection from disaster, we must Obey Him.

Verse 24. And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes… for our good always, that he might preserve us alive...

As the old hymn-writer wrote:

He who would valiant be ‘gainst all disaster,
Let him in constancy follow the master

The prophets reminded God’s people through the ages that He sought obedience from them much more than He sought their sacrifices… He looked for submission to His Word more than their burnt offerings…

And at the Last Supper, Jesus warned the Twelve against betrayal!

But, alas, the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve are easily deceived! Unhappily, this has all too often been our distinguishing mark, as well… The history of Israel, of course, as you know, is a sad reminder that even His Own people… to whom He had entrusted the Oracles of Life were eventually sent into exile.

When Jesus walked this earth 2,000 years ago, He found an eerie absence of respect for His Father. Words were there, but also an unnerving absence of love for Him. A stunning absence of obedience on the part of God’s people. They were found to be stone deaf to His Voice… They had conveniently replaced His Commandments with their own traditions! Our Lord had to tell them they were no longer the children of Abraham… for they no longer followed the example of Abraham whom God had called His Friend… St. John records that He came unto his own and his own received him not!

It is quite frightening, is it not, to see so many people in our day walking the broad, easy pathway to destruction… to disaster! To see world leaders following the will of people but ignoring the Will of God! And worse, following their own corrupt inclinations! But what is most frightening of all to see is so many self-professed Christians walking shoulder to shoulder with them – thinking like them… reasoning like them… laughing with them… acting like them!

Thanks be to God for the Lenten Season, when we are reminded that just as it is possible to wander… so, too – with God’s help -- it is possible to return! To return to the safety and security of our Father’s Household…

Draw nigh to God, St. James wrote, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse [your] hands, [ye] sinners; and purify [your] hearts, [ye] double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and [your] joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

During Lent, we remember that only one single solitary leper whom our Lord healed… returned… to give thanks.

…that the prodigal son finally came to his senses, and returned… to his father with the words…

Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son...

We remember the publican standing afar off, not lifting up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smiting himself with the immortal words:

God be merciful to me a sinner.

During Lent, we remember the Roman centurion, who returned worthy tribute to Him whose beaten and crushed Frame hung upon the Cross – Truly this was the Son of God.

During Lent we also remember the worst disaster imaginable which no one, it would seem, dares speak today, lest they be labeled a religious bigot! Being cast adrift upon the Lake of Fire for eternity, alone and without light… without guidance… without the help of a loving Father!

This Lent, may we pledge that as long as we have life… that as long as we have breath… we will give reverence to the Father… love Him with all of our hearts and souls and minds and strength… hear His Voice of wisdom and truth… and gladly obey His Will.

During Lent, we remember that to do these things is for our own good – that He might preserve us on this earth for His holy purposes… beginning with holy worship!

World without end! Amen.
 




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