Listen To the Voice

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May 27, 2018. Pastors Penny and Keith have retired. Guest pastor Tom Schoenherr preaches today on Psalm 29, and grieving the loss. We don’t really know what will happen during this time of transition. But what we do know is that God’s voice will continue to lead us.


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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


This may be a day of some sadness and grief for you, as you come together this morning. You may have hoped that pastors Keith and Penny might have been here to lead this worship instead of me. I appreciate the relationship that we’ve had together. But I also recognize that this is a time when people who have been significant in your life, who have led the congregation for fifteen years, are not here because they’ve retired. There is grieving that happens.


We need to recognize that, as we move forward into this time of transition. You’ve heard the announcement about what’s going to be happening in the future. There is still opportunity for you to grieve for Keith and Penny that they’re not here. And I share that grief with you, because I miss their voices, and you probably miss their voices and their presence too.


But as we come together today, we’re having the opportunity to grieve, but also to celebrate a new chapter for Keith and Penny, for the Holstes as they move into a new chapter in their lives. And as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit move this congregation into your new chapter. And where that will lead and what that will mean in the future. We don’t really know for sure. But what we do have is a promise that as we listen to God’s voice that he will continue to lead us in the days and weeks and months to come.


The text for today is Psalm 29, and you read that psalm earlier. If you would like to refer to it and take a look at that in the bulletin, you are welcome. Psalm 29 is a reflection of a terrible storm, a chaotic storm that has taken place. And there are evidences of that storm throughout the psalm. There are certainly earthquakes. There is thunder. There’s fire. There’s the breaking of cedars. There’s flooding. There is the whirling of oaks turning around. It sounds scary to me. It is a scary storm.


And I think about the pictures that we’ve been seeing about Kilauea in Hawaii. Some of you maybe have been there yourselves. But that storm, that volcanic storm, can be scary because you see that lava, that hot lava, burning and flowing and it surrounds houses and trees and cars and burns them out. You don’t want to get too close to lava because it’s extremely hot. It can cause all kinds of problems, particularly also from the gases that are emitted out of the Earth. And we recognize that that volcanic storm, and the storm that’s being described in the psalm, are evidence of great power. And we’re left just looking at it and saying wow, out of an understanding that we don’t have that power at all. We don’t have any control over those storms. And that God is the one who is in the midst of it all.


How do we worship a God who has that kind of power? Well, maybe we need to be listening to the voice, as we repeated again and again, the voice of the Lord. To hear that voice, that voice may be speaking to us in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty that we may feel as pastors Keith and Penny are no longer here. As we move into the future, we may sense some bit of confusion and uncertainty, and that’s normal.


But as we do, we also listen to the voice. Listen to the voice of the Lord. What is God saying to us in the midst of the storm? If you look at the psalm, the first two verses, the word of the Lord or the name “Lord” is repeated four times. In verses 3 through 9, there are seven “voices of the Lord,” and there are ten times when the divine name is mentioned. And in the last two verses of the psalm again four times “the Lord” is spoken. So in the midst of the storm the Lord is present, and in the midst of our confusion and chaos that life can bring to us, how do we respond? How do we respond to this storm in our lives?


One of those storms is certainly the retiring of beloved pastors. Another one, maybe those who are sick or dying who are part of our family and our household. A number of you have attended graduations in these days. And as we come to those graduations, there is a certain amount of sadness, as well as joy, as we see children and grandchildren graduating from high school and from college, and what the future may hold for them as well. And as we come to a time in our lives when maybe we need to make some decisions about where we’re going to be living so that somebody else may be taking care of us at a time later in our lives, then in the midst of all of that this psalm is saying to us, God has this. We’re in the Lord’s hand. God will not forsake us. He is in the midst of the storm. He will not let you go.


But we want to try to control it somehow or other, don’t we? We want to figure out a way in which we can deal with this chaos with the vacuum that’s been formed. And so we have questions and we wonder, why does it take so long to get a new pastor or pastors? Why can’t we speed up that process and just have somebody here right away, because that’s what we need. We think. Or we may think that we’ve lost the voice of the Lord as pastors Keith and Penny are no longer here. Where is the Lord’s voice now? Does God know or care about our problems and the kinds of things that we’re going through? Where is God’s presence for us? Life seems somewhat out of control. It seems a little bit chaotic. Things are not certain. Where do we go from here?


But the psalm says the Lord sits above the flood. God’s there. He doesn’t stop the flood from happening or the earthquake or the thunder or the whirling oaks or the breaking of trees. But God is there in the midst of it all. And the voice of the Lord, where is it? It is where it’s always been. The voice of the Lord is with our Lord Jesus Christ who comes and is in the midst of us, who invites us to the table, who continues to speak God’s word to us, who sends that Holy Spirit into our hearts and minds that we might receive a word from the voice of the Lord. That is a word that speaks hope and promise in the midst of some chaos and confusion.


Where is the voice of the Lord? The voice of the Lord is also you. You are the voice of the Lord to one another. And as you gather together and have opportunity to be together, you are speaking words of love and hope and care and peace to one another that are so necessary, and you are God’s voice to one another. Where is the voice of the Lord? The voice of the Lord is also in the community. People of different religions, of different cultures, of different races. People who are oppressed, people who are broken, people who are looking for hope listen to those voices because the voice of the Lord is also coming through them.


Listen to the voice.


So when the stormy times, when anxiety levels rise, and we feel so uncertain and a bit confused, it’s important to continue to gather for worship. The importance of continuing to be here, to listen to the voice of the Lord, to gather at the table in order that you might be strengthened for the work that you are called to do. Continue to care for one another. Continue to reach out with the voice of the Lord to one another in this desperate and difficult time.


Continue to hear that word gathered at the table, so that you may come to receive the forgiving love of God in Jesus Christ, and there be strengthened and connected to one another again, so that your stories and your struggles and your problems and concerns are shared with one another and you can minister to one another with that voice of the Lord that makes so much difference in our lives.


And also continue to reach out in service and care to all of the world that God is calling you to serve. Because you don’t need a flashy, exciting pastor to continue to do the work of the Lord in the world. That’s you. God speaking to you and moving you into all kinds of ways. Yeah, when a pastor comes that’s exciting and wonderful. But you don’t need that presence in order to continue to do the work of the Lord in this place.


So, God who’s enthroned in the storms of life is also the God who calls you children of God, who loves you and is with you and loves this whole world. There is awesome power in that love. And God is always faithful to us, will never abandon us or forsake us.


Finally God’s gift to this congregation is peace to calm the storm. Peace in the midst of the struggle to lead you in ways that can heal a broken and chaotic world. May God bless you and all the people of God say, “Glory.” Glory in the name of Jesus.




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2018, Christ Lutheran Church, Webster Groves, sermon, podcast, transcript, Pastor Tom Schoenherr