On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
We have a strong city;
he sets up victory
like walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates,
so that the righteous nation that keeps faith
may enter in.
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—
in peace because they trust in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
for in the Lord God
you have an everlasting rock.
For he has brought low
the inhabitants of the height;
the lofty city he lays low.
He lays it low to the ground,
casts it to the dust.
The foot tramples it,
the feet of the poor,
the steps of the needy.
Psalm 118:1, 8-9, 19-21, 25-27
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his steadfast love endures forever!
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in mortals.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to put confidence in princes.
Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the righteous shall enter through it.
I thank you that you have answered me
and have become my salvation.
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.
We bless you from the house of the Lord.
The Lord is God,
and he has given us light.
Matthew 7:21, 24-27
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”
I had an interview with two people who had worked their way out of homelessness. That man and that woman had very different reasons for why they became homeless, they had very different experiences as homeless people, and they both suffered tremendous things, including devastating set backs in their endeavor to work their way out of it. Impressed by their patient perseverance in the face of total lack of security, tremendous need, and humiliation, I asked them how they maintained their courage through their trials. They both looked at me and answered in one word: God. They answered so definitively, making it so obvious that no human can endure such conditions and come out on the other side without divine help. I felt stupid for having even asked the question. I realized that these people, in their moments of having lost everything, who had to lay their heads down on cold hard cement to sleep, were the first to name the ways they could see God’s grace operating in their lives. These people who seemed to have been dealt the worst hand knew the ways that they had been blessed and saved from a worse fate. These people whose lives had been in a free fall from prosperity to destitution had an unshaking conviction of God’s fidelity to them.
Today’s scriptures challenge us to stand firm in God. They do not promise that it will be an easy go. They do not say if we lean on God, then everything will work out and good things will come to us. They do not say that with God we have no storms in life. There will be storms. The rains will come, the floods will come, we have all experienced it before, and we will all experience them again. What they do promise is that when we stand firm in God, he keeps us firm to the end. The storms will come, but they will not break us. The floods will come, but they will not sweep us away. The wind will beat on us, but we will not be destroyed. Let us pray today for God’s grace to recognize his blessings in the face of trials. Let us pray for the grace to recognize his steadfastness when everything else is falling apart. Let us pray for the grace to see his goodness when everything else feels bad. May we always remain grounded in Christ, that he may keep us firm to the end. Amen.