(Prepared for a sermon on Matthew 9:35-38)
My wife and I enjoy the turning of the seasons. Just a few weeks ago we were wondering why we weren’t seeing more leaves changing. It seemed to us that fall was late in arriving. Then, almost over night, it seemed, the colors came out. Everywhere we looked, we feasted our eyes on lovely red, brown and orange leaves.
Amazing as the colors are in the fall and the brilliance of new growth in the spring, there’s something even more miraculous about the change of the seasons. You can count on them coming each year. Yes, there may be a few days variation this way or that in when they come, but we know that they will come. These days we hear all kinds of fear-mongering about climate change and global warming. I just shake my head when I hear the predictions of catastrophe and how we’re all going to bake to death. You see, I’m old enough to remember the same panicky predictions back in the 1960s and 70s. Only then, we were all supposed to perish in the coming ice age. But more than that, I don’t worry because we have God’s promise that the seasons will never fail. After the flood, God told Noah, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (Genesis 8:22 NIV)
The regular turning of the seasons point to another very important corollary: There is a right or an appropriate time to do things. King Solomon wrote, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 NIV)
Solomon is right. We won’t be successful if we try to do things at the wrong time. For example, if you don’t plant your garden at the appropriate time, the seeds won’t sprout. Similarly, there is a natural sequence to many things. If we try to do things out of order, it won’t work very well. For example, you have to plant before you can harvest. But if you try to harvest before the grain or the fruit matures, you’ll only destroy the plants without getting a crop.
The principle holds true in spiritual things. There is a right time and there is a proper sequence. Often it seems to us that God is not answering our prayers, or that He’s taking far too long to keep His promises. But we need to remember that there is a right time and sequence for everything. Though right after Adam and Eve sinned God promised a Redeemer, thousands of years had to pass before the time was right for the Savior to come. In light of that, we should not lose hope when we are going through difficulties. God will keep His promises when the time is right. The Apostle Paul writes this in Romans chapter 5, starting in verse 1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:1-6 NIV)
At just the right time! Each week we keep a memorial of what God did for us at the right time. We look back and remember that Jesus died for us. He gave His blood to redeem us from our sins.
But the memorial of the bread and juice does not only look back. They are a reminder of our present hope. Because God kept His promise of a Savior, we can be sure that He will also keep His promises to transform us and to give us an eternal home. The bread and juice remind us that no one can separate us from God’s love.
We live in crazy times. We’ve been hit by several crises – the pandemic, the law and order situation, the drama over the elections, the homeless situation. As a result, we’re surrounded by fear and uncertainty. People are worried about the economy; they’re worried about what is going to happen with the schools; they’re worried about who might get sick next; they’re worried about not being able to visit their loved ones.
But the bread and juice remind us that we don’t need to worry. God’s promises are even more sure than the turning of the seasons. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV)