Wembley Downs Uniting Church
Current Sermons
Abandonment (Revd Geoff Blyth) 14.10.2018
Readings: Job 23: 1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22: 1-15; Mark 10: 17-31

The hymn we just sang is a favourite of mine, often used on Trinity Sunday. It is based upon the ancient Te Deum. Though I love it, I almost rejected it for use today - it has had a serious alteration, which in my opinion, spoils its meaning for me.

We sang in the last verse:
Keep us free from sin today
Never let us be confounded:
Grant us with your saints a place
All our trust is in your grace.

The older setting in the Australian Hymn Book:
Keep us free from sin today
Never let us be confounded:
All my trust I place in thee,
Never, Lord, abandon me.

NEVER, LORD, ABANDON ME!

Perhaps those who compiled the new hymn book were anxious about such harsh words - words of protest, even if earnest prayer. Too often we want to protect God, to mask our feelings, to adopt acceptable language - political correctness, even in our approach to God.

NEVER, LORD, ABANDON ME!
Is it possible that God could, or even would, abandon us?

We have been observing Mental Health Week with a focus upon services for those who feel discarded, misunderstood, even worthless - either in their own eyes or the eyes and judgement of others. We are urged to feel their sense of abandonment.

We have seen the decision made not to continue searching for the bodies of two fishermen who drowned. We can feel with those families who are grieving such a loss.

We join with people who experienced the Meckering earthquake fifty years ago who looked upon the wreck of their town and their livelihood with feelings of profound loss - and perhaps abandonment.

The Indonesian Government decided to abandon the search for bodies buried in the wreckage of cities and villages in Sulawesi.

ABANDONMENT! DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS?

NEVER, LORD, ABANDON ME!
Neville Ward writes, `To rail against God has a natural place in the religious life. It is a pity that the prayer of protest, so clear in the Bible and consecrated by the Saviour`s use of it, is so infrequent in the public prayer of the Church.`

MORE IMPORTANTLY:
`The Bible is at its most human and believable when its many dismayed and incredulous figures make their protest and put their angry questions to life. This strain of faith appears dramatically in the prophets` loneliness, is marvelously strident in the psalms, and reaches a majestic articulation in the book of Job. It is always a part of sensitive religion.`

IT IS A PART OF OUR WORSHIP TODAY!

JOB RAILS AGAINST GOD: Read Job 23: 1-9, 15-17 C.E.V.

Isn`t that moving? Isn`t it magnificent!

Gerhard Von Rad makes the observation:
`These dialogues show a man - not the man wholly sheltered in his faith and commitment to God, but one sinking into all the depths of abandonment by God, and accusing God. Indeed, he is a blasphemous and scorning Job.

HE HAS LOST EVERYTHING! HE FEELS TOTALLY ABANDONED!

Perhaps the people of Meckering were tempted to feel and express such thoughts fifty years ago! At 10.59 am on 14 October 1968.

PSALM 23, our most favourite of all begins: `The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.` But today, we read from the preceding Psalm, whose words were on the lips of Jesus as he hung there in all loneliness and seeming abandonment on the cross.

Read from Psalm 22: 1-2
`My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.`

WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME - ABANDONED ME - DESERTED ME!

We cannot know just what the psalmist was feeling or expressing in such abandonment by God and by his fellow human beings. Biblical scholars and devotional readers have sought through the ages to enter the mind and the suffering of Jesus. His words are something of an enigma. But they have come to have enormous meaning to so many who, down the ages, have felt abandoned by God - abandoned by fellow human beings.

THE ABSENCE OF THE EXPERIENCE OF GOD!
EXPERIENCING THE ABSENCE OF GOD!

BY CONTRAST, IN THE GOSPEL READING FOR TODAY, WE SEE ANOTHER STORY ABOUT ABANDONMENT!

Read Mark 10: 17-22

Here is a very pious, likeable, lovable seeker after God. But Jesus throws him the ultimate challenge: to abandon his wealth. To give it all away. To become completely bereft - to suffer the loss of everything - to forsake the world - to be forsaken!

e.g. In Mental Health Week - James Packer confesses to panic attacks, feelings of depression, loss of empire and significance. `The phone does not ring!`

Sigmund Freud once wrote in a letter to Princess Bonaparte, `The moment a man questions the meaning and value of life, he is sick.` Viktor Frankl, on the other hand commented on these words saying, `I think on the contrary, that such a man only proves that he is truly human.` `Sell all you have and give it to the poor.` ABANDON IT!

Helmut Thielecke writes in his book `Death and Life`
`The rich young ruler is challenged to sell all that he has so that his riches can no longer substitute for him. SO THAT HIS RICHES CAN NO LONGER SUBSTITUTE FOR HIM!`

`Jesus had looked deeply enough into him to see that this man`s piety was calculated on the presupposition of his standard of living, which he needed as much as air to breathe - at least much more than he needed God.`
DO YOU UNDERSTAND?

`Separated from it he considered himself to be nothing. He was completely identified with his wealth and its ups and downs. For this reason Jesus challenged him to break away from it and to become singularly alone.`

`When goods, fame, child, and wife are gone we are not then simply nothing, indeed in certain circumstances we then for the first time become something. That is, we become people who exist entirely by God`s address and in obedience to him.`

NOT THEN SIMPLY NOTHING - BUT MAYBE FOR THR FIRST TIME BECOMING SOMETHING!

No-one says it quite like Henry Nouwen:
`This story does not imply a huge leap from everything to nothing but rather a long series of small steps in the direction of love. The tragedy for the rich man was not that he was unwilling to abandon his wealth - who would be? The real tragedy for him was that he missed something both he and Jesus desired, which was the opportunity to develop a deep and intimate relationship.`

`What would have happened if the young man had said Yes to Jesus? Wouldn`t he, just like the other disciples, have become a source of hope for countless people? Now he drops out of history and is never heard of again! What a loss! TO FOLLOW THE VOICE OF LOVE, STEP BY STEP, TRUSTING THAT GOD WILL GIVE US ALL THAT WE NEED, IS THE GREAT CHALLENGE.


130 Calais Road, (crnr of Minibah Street)
Wembley Downs, Western Australia.
Phone 08 9245 2882

Ten kilometres northwest of Perth city centre,
set amongst the suburbs of City Beach, Churchlands,
Scarborough, Wembley Downs and Woodlands