11/5/06, All Saints Sunday
“Praising God Through Hard Times”
1Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! 2I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long. 3Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. 4When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish. 5Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, 6who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; 7who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; 8the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. 9The Lord watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. 10The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord! (Psalm 146, NRSV)
ife can be so good at times that we just seem to float along. Everything is coming up roses! Hopefully most of us are in that period now. Hopefully there are a few who have had so many good days and years that they have almost forgotten the hard times. I have known many good Methodists who seem to be enjoying a picture perfect life. That’s my prayer for you all.
However, many of those who appear to be on a high road are masking their problems, ever so slight, and whistling through the rain. Many of those whom I have been fortunate to know and to serve as their pastor, had simply learned to mask it well. These have helped me find the high road during times of sorrow.
Rev. Leroy Smith was our only elder to have graduated from the Candler School of Theology though he was blind. The wrong drops were put in his eyes at birth. We could feel sorry for him, but he met life with a smile 24/7. I asked him once, “What is the secret of your joy?” His answer was, “I have learned to cultivate a pleasant attitude!” Leroy put us all to shame. Even blindness did not stop him. Indeed, his life was a living example of overcoming adversity.
Brother Leroy has regained his sight, in Glory! He is possibly disappointed in the many frowns he has to look at, even in heaven.
Leroy will be OK with that too because he preached that we are saved by Grace, and not by our pleasant disposition. Now that he can spot the frowns more easily, he will be busy turning the frowns upside down.
Are there persons here, besides me, who sometimes allow hard times get us down? Most of us are that way. I have allowed adverse situations to overcome my typical positive approach to life. Those who are always glowing are the rare exceptions.
Most of us have times of “singing the blues.” These down times are caused by circumstances which are typically beyond our control. Looking back most of these events that were life flattening, at the time, were repairable. Most I have forgotten. My knee injury from playing football in high school kept me from hopes of a scholarship to Wake Forrest, but I was able to put that in perspective as I lost friends in the Viet Nam war, who were not exempt as was I because of my football knee.
Years later, when my father died, I took it hard. My grief was profound. On All Saints Sunday we mourn those members of our church who have died during the year, and all of us are whispering names of dear ones whom we still grieve. We grieve as people of faith who have hope.
Today’s Psalm reminds us that God is able to help us find victory in any adversity and nothing can separate us from His love as we hold on. We must have an open heart to allow the Spirit to share in our personal pain. The mourning of losing a dear one is one of the hardest things we will ever work through.
I hope that everyone in our Sanctuary today will know that God is going to eventually help us even “cultivate a more pleasant attitude.” The mourning of a dear one is one of life’s major problems. Surround yourself with family and friends as you have some real tough times.
The best news is that we know and love a Heavenly Father who is aware of our pain. He wants to help us regain our confidence and our joy. All we have to do is open our hearts and invite Him in.
All Saints Sunday can be a time of new beginning as we all realize that God’s plan does not require that we grieve forever. Through this time of worship we might feel God saying that it is time to take another positive step in this painful process. Recovery is never easy. There are dips in the road. Even now as I type these closing lines I spot one of my Dad’s old writing pens and I feel a pang: And I take it as a foretaste of Glory.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor