Sunday, October 21, 2007

Unseen Footprints

During the opening announcements Pastor Shannon asked us all to stand for a moment of silence for Bonnie Finkbeiner who on October 16 continued the next part of her life in the presence of her Savior.

The Scripture readings today were from Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Luke 18:1-8.

The message, Unseen Footprints, was an exposition of Psalm 77.

Where does prayer begin? For the psalmist, it is not cozy comfort or ritual that produces our deepest prayers, rather it is pain.

Though the circumstances that initiated this psalm are not identified here in this passage, there are many sources of pain. In numerous psalms it is national calamity that crushes the spirit of the writer, causing him to cry out to God with groanings too deep for words. Other times it is personal circumstances. It might be the illness, or death, of a child. It might be heartbreak in relationships, or a broken marriage.

Prayer is born in the depths. In the first portion of this psalm, the writer cries out to God. “I stretched out my untiring hands”… as if drowning. “I was too troubled to speak,” he says. Like drowning, one is aware of his or her helplessness. In other places the psalmists compare their circumstances to being confined in a pit. This is the place where pain and prayer come together.

The second section of the psalm reveals the questions that emerge when it seems God is far off. Will the Lord reject us forever? Will He never show favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?”

“Why are such questions in the Bible?” Pastor Shannon asked. In reply he noted that God is not far from us, but rather, He is near. But there is no path to Easter (& the Resurrection) but through Good Friday and the Cross.

The good news is that even when we can’t see Jesus, He can see us.

The psalmist’s anguished questioning is summed up with this specific thought: Has God’s right hand lost its grip?

The third section of Psalm 77 leads to the re-connection: Remember. Remember the good deeds of the Lord. Think about this, meditate on this. Let your thoughts dwell on this. God has been good to you. Remember all He has done. He has been faithful. When we remember, we re-connect.

The concluding portion of the psalm contains a very interesting statement. “His footprints were unseen.”

God may not be visible but he has always been present. He has always been at work.

Like poet Francis Thomas’ “Hound of Heaven,” God will never stop pursuing us when we stray and will never forsake us. Like a good shepherd, God leads us to a land where there is no more sorrow, where we can bask forever in the presence of our loving God.

During the children's challenge, Pastor Shannon used blocks to illustrate the message from Psalm 127:1, "Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."

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