Friday, July 27, 2012
EMOTIONS AND FAITH
A familiar voice cheers you when depression clutches you. The knock on your front door relaxes your tension. After an hour’s wait, your ride to the store arrived. Later, you feel your blood boil when the cashier rings your bill up, higher than you expected. Within two hours’ time, you felt half a dozen emotions. You reacted and moved on to the next activities of your day. Whether you face depression, elation or the good old blahs, you show emotions. You learn to be more or less sensitive to others’ needs. You may even let your emotions guide your decision-making from time to time. Who can forget the disembodied voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi telling young Luke Skywalker that very thing in STARWARS? “Trust your feelings!” What a contrast the tin man in the WIZZARD OF OZ displayed! He desired a heart with which to sense the world around him. Whether stable or tossed about, your emotions are gifts from your lord. God provides your senses with your reason so you can empathize with friends who suffer. He blesses you with compassion by which you identify with someone else’s struggle for independence. Our Lord Jesus Christ was no stranger to emotions. He angrily turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the tempole courts. He wept at Lazarus’s grave and cried over Jerusalem who rejected His Word. He grew tired when crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. He sympathizes with you in your weakness and temptation. Rom. 8:15 (ESV) declares: “You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear but you received the Spirit of sonship, and by Him we cry, “Abba, Father.” Certainly, your Lord has redeemed you to everlasting life. You have known that from infancy or, if you came to faith later on, for these past few years. Your Lord comforts and sustains you each day in His grace. Still, you feel overwhelmed by many pressures and concerns. Confirmation is that time when seventh and eighth grade children speak for themselves the words which sponsors spoke for them at Baptims. After a concentrated, two years of study that goes beyond Sunday school, public worship[p, and daily devotions—they show receive our Lord Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion for the first time. What an emotionally charged age for them to enter young adulthood as congregational members. For this reason, many pastors become more explicit when inviting these teenagers to confide their struggles and sins to them and receive forgiveness as if Christ Himself declared it in their presence. Still, pressures to rebel against the very Word that brought thejm to faith in Christ arise with every condom the high school nurse hands out. Friends who stop attending church lure them into late nights where they feel like begging for Sunday morning as a time to sleep in. “Oh, they’ll pray by themselves at home!” Not when their old Adam has anything to say about it! So how are you feeling these days? Confused by a myriad of broken relationships around you?...Afraid of future changes our nation holds in store for us?...Happy every time you receive a paycheck or promotion? How is your trust in God holding up these days? You feel the words to the verse: “Just as I am, though tossed about With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings and fears within, without…” And yet, by the grace of God, you come to Him in prayer. Emotions change, fluxuate and fade. But, not so the Word of the Gospel! The same Spirit by whom you pray, praise, and give thanks, He reminds you that you are God’s adopted son or daughter. Long before your emotional frustrations, before you cried in anger or sang with joy, Jesus died for you. Long before you let your emotions get the best of you and, in a moment’s notice, proved unfaithful, Jesus faithfully bore your sorrows and griefs ont the cross. Though you have lashed out in your rage, wished death upon yourself in depression, demanded your rights with bitter tears, Jesus has taken your sinful thoughts, words, and actions on Himself in your place. You come to Him in distress because He still comes to you with compassion. In the public words of your pastor and the consolation of friends and family, He never stops forgiving you of your trespasses. Since your baptism, you are an heir of the life Jesus promises you. That life, His risen life sustains your trust in Him. “Come to me, you who are weary,” said Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you. My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Come, just as you are, tossed to and fro by your emotions. In Holy Communion, receive for yourself Jesus’ very body and blood. These gifts our Savior gives you forgive your sins and strengthens your fraying trust. Come to worship and hear for yourself the peace of sins forgiven in God’s Word. Your risen Savior assures you in every reading from Scripture, in every sermon that your pastor preaches that He is with you always. His Spirit fills you and forms your prayer to your heavenly Father. In the week from Sunday to Sunday, you catch others’ misspoken words and hurtful actions. You feel angry. Our Lord gives you the release and joy to forgive them just as He has forgiven you. Approach His throne of grace in prayer. He will not turn anyone away who so cries out in His name. The familiar voice jeers you just when you felt everything was going right. You feel exhausted as you turn the key and unlock the door to your apartment. Yet, thanks be to God. His peace fills you with certainty. He is your Lord who calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies you together with the whole Christian Church both now and in eternity.