Keeping Vigil Although Weak
Third in a series, Keeping Vigil
Isaiah 40:25–31 // Luke 24:1–12
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon touches on the Old Testament Reading and the Gospel Reading, and we will begin with these words, “He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We are working our way through a sermon series, Keeping Vigil. We began Keeping Vigil on this mountain (That’s the language of Isaiah 25). Last week we explored Keeping Vigil As We Wait. Today, Keeping Vigil Although Weak, and we get that language from Isaiah 40. “The Lord does not faint or grow weary; He gives power to the faint. Even youths shall faint and grow weary but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.”
There are at least two kinds of weariness. There’s a kind of weariness that comes because you’ve done a whole lot in a day. There’s another kind of weariness that comes from doing nothing in particular.
For example, the first kind of weariness is what you get when you end up with 35,000 steps on your fitness device. The second kind of weariness is the kind that keeps you up the day before your surgery. The first kind of weariness is when you get off of a 36-hour workday raising barns, or you finish a 24-hr. rollerskating challenge. The second kind of weariness is like, well, let me tell you a story.
The second kind of weariness is what you get when you’re a first-time father-to-be. Do any of you remember that? It’s the weariness of being vigilant. Every time your dear wife has contractions, you’re there with the stopwatch (and if you’re me, you’re falling asleep between contractions). Every time I’d go up to preach or begin service, I told Rev. Big Dog, “I’m going to have my phone out and if my wife texts, you got the sermon right?” Every time I’d go running, I would order my route so that I could come back and check on Laura, and I always knew when I was furthest away from her. It’s a weariness of being alert. It’s a weariness of keeping vigil. It’s the weariness that wears out endurance.
Today we consider especially the second kind of weariness. Hyper-vigilance. Living on a knife’s edge. After the adrenaline runs out, you just get tired. You get to your limit. You find, you’re just done.
This is point number one of our sermon today. You have limits. Your strength will fail. Have you ever been there before? Your strength fails in such a way that even easy tasks become difficult. After a particularly draining day, my 4 year old asks me again where his shoes are, and I find out that I don’t have the patience to help him work through how he can find it.
I’ve been there. In my world, it’s called compassion fatigue, thinking, “I don’t know how to help this person anymore.” “I can’t see how this could end well.” “I just can’t care anymore.” “I am not enough.” Have you ever thought that?
The law of this sermon boils down to simply this: you are not enough. You have limits, whatever they may be. You will meet failure, however you try.
But here’s the curious thing about the Christian faith. We can acknowledge that, that our strength is at its end, and we can keep on going. Why? Because we don’t rely on our own strength anymore.
Hear the words of Isaiah again. “The Lord is the everlasting God, Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” Hear those words for what they’re saying. Our God created all things and he has no bounds. He has no limits; he has no end to his strength. He is the maker of heaven and earth and instead of lasting just for a time, he is everlasting. Instead of time-bound, he is eternal. He is the only God who made heaven and earth.
And then it gets more interesting. Because, the one who is the creator reveals himself to be our redeemer. You see, none of this would matter if the creator weren’t also the Redeemer. It’d be like a Foodshelf that said, “We’ve got all the food you’ll ever need but you can’t have any.” That doesn’t help you.
The Almighty God who makes heaven and earth uses all of his might (think about that—he uses all of his boundless might) to redeem the whole world in his Holy One, Jesus. The Almighty, boundless, eternal, everlasting God is the God who chooses to have boundless mercy and steadfast love and miraculous forgiveness.
He does this in the cross. Jesus died to do what we could not do. Jesus wins for us in his weakness what we could not gain in our strength. Jesus does by the plan of God what is beyond us so that we might receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation.
We don’t rely on our own strength anymore. We pray things like, Lord, my patience is running out. But I know that these children are even more yours than they are mine, so give me your patience in these days. We pray, Lord, I need a peace that passes my understanding, because I don’t even understand what’s happening. So if my situation is beyond my understanding, I need a peace that reaches farther still. We pray, Lord, I need you to renew my strength, because I’m faint, I’m weary, and only you can lift me up.
Consider our Gospel reading. The women and the twelve, they aren’t going to be doing anything on their own. And yet, the revelation of their God comes upon them. The God who created everything uses all of his might to redeem all things, and then, and then, starts to work through them. They are opened up to a new perspective, one where the Jesus that they thought was defeated has in fact conquered death, not only for himself, but moreover for them and for the sake of the whole world.
St. Paul says it like this, at the end of 2 Corinthians, in this paradoxical little statement that fits so perfectly for those who are at the end of their limit: “But he (that’s Jesus) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Keeping vigil although weak. We don’t rely on our own strength but on the strength of our God. We know with Paul that when we are weak, then we are strong. We know with the disciples that Jesus brings all of the might of the creator into his redemption.
Three thoughts in summary. Three thoughts about what your Christian faith can do to you.
1. Christian faith is honest. Your faith is stubborn to see things like they are, not to hide behind falsehoods or white lies but to see things as they are, to see things in light of eternal truths.
2. Christian faith allows us to see our own limits. It lets us be honest about how we fail, where we fall short, and when we are not enough.
3. Christian faith rests on the strength of our God. In acknowledging all of that, it frees us to do what God calls us to, through his Word.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther