In 2008, I was serving a fairly wealthy, well-education, and self-reliant community in suburban Chicago. Many among the church membership were professionals in their fields—white collar workers who lived rather comfortable lives, eating out and entertaining regularly. They may not have loved their jobs, but they took pride in what they did and in the security they were able to provide for themselves.
In 2008, we entered a recession unlike any our nation had seen for at least decades. The stock market tanked, the housing market imploded, and our economy bled jobs at such a rate that one 99 year-old church member felt compelled to declare it “worse than the Great Depression,” a sentiment that many economists and historians came to believe as well.
The repercussions of this crash were (of course) felt throughout our nation. But it seemed to me that affluent, white-collar communities like that one were hit especially hard. They, after all, were the ones with the most to lose—and lose they did. Many remarked how their 401k’s or their homes lost half or more of their value virtually overnight. Some lost their jobs, something that was inconceivable to them a year prior. Others did the math and realized the retirement hopes they had been building towards for decades were now never going to be possible. No one realized prior to that point how deeply they had come to trust in their money to guarantee their future, their security, and their hope.
Their experience, of course, was not unique to them. The economic woes that began in 2008 caused many in our nation to come unmoored—vulnerable and susceptible to the waves and storms of life in ways many never expected.
There are countless places we choose to anchor our trust: money, family, friends, possessions, politicians, education, even ignorance!……
But all of these will betray our trust, sooner or later. In each case, the time will come (eventually) when our anchor doesn’t hold, and we are ripped from our moorings.
I remember a machinist with nearly 40 years experience—virtually all of it at the same employer. He had never used a computer before, and every job required an online application. Talk about disorienting.
I remember an HR person whose whole identity was wrapped up in her work when she found herself suddenly looking for a job. Unemployed, she did not even know who she was.
From other contexts, I could tell stories of grieving spouses, of the victims of fire or natural disaster, and—yes—even of politicians I have known—all of whom found themselves adrift and uncertain when the relative dies, or the dream home is destroyed, or the party betrays them.
In every case, they lost an anchor point. In many cases, it was their only anchor point.
The testimony of the Bible is that there is only one anchor strong enough to hold something as precious as our trust—and that is God.
Here in Psalm 146, we are warned not to put our trust in politicians—”princes”—nor any human beings. After all, the psalmist reminds us, we are dust and our schemes perish with us. No human being is worth trusting as our anchor, because no human being is capable of escaping death. No human being can do the impossible.
But God, now God is something different. God can do what no one else can do.
God—the Psalmist tells us—is the faithful creator of everything that is. Yet it goes beyond that. God is the only one who can transform our fate—who can change us from what we are to what we can be.
[The LORD] upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets prisoners free,
the LORD gives sight to the blind,
the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down…
The LORD watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow
In these actions, God does more than simply love us—God redefines us. We are no longer the oppressed, the hungry, the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the broken down, the alien, the powerless, or the marginalized.
What then do we become? Who are we? We are the redeemed of God.
The root of our trust in God is our belief that God can do what no one and nothing else can do. This becomes most concrete (of course) through the person of Jesus Christ, who also happens to be God-made-concrete—incarnate—tangible—enfleshed—for us.
In a world plagued by cycles of violence that ensnare and enslave us, Jesus paves a path of liberation, demonstrating how we are to live and serve and ourselves liberate those drowning on account of the concrete boots of sin.
This, Jesus tells us over and over, is what the Kingdom of God looks like—a kingdom both “now” and “not yet.” A kingdom initiated by Jesus in the world, but one that we are charged with advancing and living into as God’s kingdom comes, God’s will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
But even beyond this—in the resurrection, the bonds of death are destroyed once and for all. No longer can the powers of darkness use death against us unless we submit to them. No longer does death have the final say.
In the resurrection of Jesus, we see the transformative power of God at its fullest. The power that transforms even death into life again is capable of bringing about resurrection from even the most broken and dead parts of our lives too.
No matter how broken and sinful I am—no matter how broken and sinful my neighbor may be—no matter how broken and sinful my enemy may be, God is able to redeem good out of their evil, hope out of their despair, and unity out of their burned bridges. No matter how impossible it seems, our God is able. Such Jesus reminds us in Luke 18:26, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (ESV).
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” That, friends, is the root of our trust. If we trust God, we trust that the impossible may well become possible. That means we are always on the lookout for the ways that pesky Holy Spirit is going to interrupt and interfere with our expectations. And it means we are always seeking to look at others through compassionate eyes, ready with grace to offer those who have been deceived into sinful choices and actions.
The storms of life will toss us about—there is no escaping that. But when you are anchored to the solid rock of Jesus Christ, we also know that: “in ev’ry high and stormy gale my anchor holds within the vale.”
You know, there’s a lot of songs that talk about the importance of being anchored to God in Jesus Christ. Another of my favorites is “In Times Like These.” The chorus on that one ends with the charge: “Be very sure, be very sure, your anchor holds and grips the solid rock.”
That’s really my challenge as we wrap up our communal worship of God today: Have you anchored your life to the Solid Rock of Jesus Christ? Where is the root of your trust?
Let us pray.
Loving and saving God,
Reveal to us those things we substitute for you:
be they family or friends,
be they a job or money,
be they politics or principles,
or be they even even the Bible and our interpretation of it.
You alone are God—
one in three, and three in one;
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;
beside you there is no other
in heaven or on earth who is able to save us,
(as James 4:12 reminds us).
We praise you, God,
proclaiming to all the world
that you are a God who can do the impossible.
You are a God who can redeem us.
You are a God who makes us new.
We need your grace.
We need your transformation.
We need your love.