Sermon Details

Inescapable Grace

June 21, 2020
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, Indiana invites you to join us for our virtual worship service on Sunday, June 14, 2020. The Scripture Reading is Psalm 139: 1-18. Rev. John Van Nuys' sermon is "Inescapable Grace ". Jennie Fights Swick sings, "Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness". Alan White plays the piano for the Prelude, "Chopin, Opus 28 No. 1" and the Postlude, "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name".
(1) O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
(2) You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
(3) You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
(4) Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.
(5) You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
(6) Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
(7) Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
(8) If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
(9) If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
(10) even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
(11) If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,”
(12) even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
(13) For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
(14) I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
(15) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
(16) Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
(17) How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!
(18) I try to count them—they are more than the sand; I come to the end—I am still with you.
– Psalm 139:1-18

Last Friday, I began aching. I couldn’t get warm. I woke up 14 hours later: Exhausted. After being up a couple of hours, I had to lie down. I slept for 6 more hours. That’s been my routine this week. I don’t have a fever. I can breathe okay. I sleep 16-18 hours a day and when awake, I don’t move much. I’ve been living like a rainforest sloth: Sleep punctuated by small intervals of slow-motion activity.

I’ve been tested for Covid-19, and I’m awaiting results. Being sick isn’t fun. Besides feeling terrible, I’ve cycled through every emotion. Denial: This can’t be. Anger: I took every precaution! Regret: I’ve let the church down. Despair: I feel worthless. Gratitude: Somehow, I’m muddling through. And, oddest of all: Love.

One night I was struggling with all of this when God silently seemed to whisper: “I will love you through this.” I immediately thought: “Forget loving me. Just cure me!” As I recoiled from being so honest and angry with God, there was silence. And then God simply, patiently, silently said, “I will love you through this.” I’ve been reflecting on that ever since. Some of us need remedial instruction from God. At least I do.

I don’t know what the psalmist was going through when he wrote Psalm 139, but I doubt if he was celebrating. Defeat, suffering, and calamity cause reflection. Sometimes those things so break open your egocentric world that you catch a glimpse of God’s wider world — where, yes, bad things happen, but where those events and our essence are all ingathered by the inescapable God, who holds everything — and us — in love.

Where can we go where God isn’t? God in Christ even penetrated and was pierced by suffering, death, and the grave, which he conquered and from which he shall deliver us. So, if you feel you are in hell, God is with you (verse 8). If you’re at the end of your rope, God is there, too. If you’re experiencing a dark night of the soul, the God of light is there (verse 11-12). You may not feel that, but it’s true. God will love you through your present trials and celebrate with you in your future triumphs. God will never leave you. Love, as Paul reminds us, never ends (1 Corinthians 13:8).

If you forget that truth, that Truth won’t forget you. That Love will establish you in life even when you come to the end of your life: “I come to the end,” the psalmist says; “and — what do you know? — I am still with You (verse 18).” And if you are with the God of Life, who loves you with an eternal, resurrecting love, then you, too, shall live.

When going through hell, hang onto that. And if you’re too overwhelmed to hang onto that, just know that that Love is hanging onto you; is loving you through your present desolation — which will not have the last word. God will. And that word is: Love, life, salvation, blessing, and peace. That will be — because God is. Now and forever. Amen.

In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:

“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer, contact a pastor. They’ll show you how to live for Christ with purpose, peace, and joy. Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” That definitely includes YOU!