Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Bethany Bullet - June 8, 2010

Sir Edward Elgar composed Pomp and Circumstance in 1901. The title comes from a line in Shakespeare's Othello ("Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!") But it wasn't originally intended for graduations. Elgar's march was composed for the coronation of King Edward VII of England.

It first became associated with graduations in 1905, when it was played when Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University in 1905, but it was played as a recessional, not as a processional, at the ceremony. After Yale used the tune, Princeton used it, the University of Chicago and Columbia, eventually everybody started using it. It just became commonplace at most graduations.

For many it is a sweet sound. As seniors begin to hum the tune this time of year, many are looking forward to the future. Graduation marks the end of one journey and the beginning of something new. Soon, the sweet sound of that final bell will ring in the ears of students everywhere and the freedom of summer will begin. Perhaps there are some butterflies in your stomach as you hear the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

In our Old Testament lesson from Sunday we have a sort of graduation. It had been a difficult 40 years since the people of Israel had left Egypt. During that time, God had been forming His people. Much like school, it was a long journey. The promise that was given to Abraham was about to be fulfilled. The Promised Land lay before the people, their future was in front of them, hope of a new life filled their hearts. I am sure there were some butterflies as the people prepared for the end of one journey and the beginning of another. The people were about to graduate from a life of preparation to a life of action, but one thing stood in their way…Jericho.

The city was fortified, the inhabitants steadfast. It would take some divine intervention for the people of Israel to succeed. Joshua, the leader of the people has an encounter with an angel, and the message was that this ground was holy. The land had been promised to the people and God was going to come through on His promise.

A plan was hatched and the people marched, and seven days later with the sound of trumpets, and loud shout, Jericho falls. The people are jubilant. God has been faithful. The holy land is theirs. And the story ends with these words, “So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.” (Joshua 6:27)

At the end of one journey, and the beginning of another the LORD was with his people and soon, many knew of the power of God. The next few years were difficult for the people, but the LORD was with them. The words of Moses to Joshua were coming to pass, "Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the LORD swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deuteronomy 31:7b-8)

The LORD’s fame spread throughout the land. The journey in the wilderness had come to an end; the people had graduated to the next phase of life.

It was the end of a journey of another sort for one in our Gospel lesson. The only son of a widowed woman was dead and Jesus’ heart went out her. “Don’t cry.” the words of a loving Savior to one of His own children in the midst of grief. As the woman was facing an uncertain future, not knowing where she was going, the sound of grace came in the sound of the Savior’s voice, “Young man I say to you, get up!”

With those words, a mother had her son back; jubilation was the order of the day. Luke tells us, “They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’”

Facing an uncertain future, the sound of the Savior rang in the ears of those that day, and freedom from death was proclaimed. A new phase of life was to begin. This text ends with these words, “This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.” Once again the Lord was with His people, and His fame spread.

Two stories of uncertain futures turned to jubilation, both end the same way, more people heard about the Lord.

  • Where are you today?
  • Are you standing at the end of a journey?
  • Have you started on a new one?

Whether it is diapers, diplomas, doctors or departures, you can experience the sweet sound of jubilation because like Joshua and the people of Israel, like the widow in our Gospel reading, the Lord will never leave you, nor forsake you.

It was Jesus who was forsaken for us, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” As Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross and cried out “It is finished.” His earthly journey was complete. His actions destroyed sin and His resurrection guaranteed victory. For us a new journey can begin.

In reality we are all at the start of a new journey as we daily struggle with our sinful nature. At the start of our day we are bombarded by distractions, tempted by sin, and coerced by the world. We have rejected the Savior and are deaf to the life giving words He speaks. As the Old Testament prophet wrote:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Each day, each hour, each minute we struggle with sin. But the Sweet Sound of Jubilation comes to us from the mouth of our pierced Savior, “Surely I will be with you always. I say to you, get up!” Like the young man in our Gospel lesson, we too have been given new life. The sound of our Savior has spoken to us; we rise because He is Risen! So now we can join the psalmist in shouting with jubilation:

“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.” (Psalm 30)

The Sweet Sound of Jubilation comes as our Lord turns our despair into dancing, as he takes away our sin and clothes us with his righteousness. As he comes to us in bread and in wine, as he takes away our sins and failures and gives us the courage to face any trial that comes our way. And our God has promised that he will be with you always!

As students look forward to the end of another school year we look forward to the day of our ultimate graduation, the day we will hear the final bell sound to call us to process to our heavenly home, we pray that our story will end the same way as the two from our readings today; that because of our story, the message of our Lord will spread throughout the land.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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