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Jan 27th
Home Sections The Daily B.R.E.A.D. Year-End Homily 2007: God Is the Same
Year-End Homily 2007: God Is the Same PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 29 December 2007 11:55

Today is the last Sunday of the Year 2007. I think the first thing that we must do is to thank God that despite all the dangers and challenges of the year, we have survived and we are alive! And where there is life, there is hope. Today, we want to say Goodbye to 2007 and prepare to welcome the New Year 2008.


Editor’s Notes: The Rev. Dr. Winfred Vergara is the Director of Ethnic Congregational Development and National Missioner for Asiamerica Ministries of The Episcopal Church  in New York City; he also serves as Supply Clergy for St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, in Seaford, (Long Island), New York and priest at Holy Child-St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Woodside (Queens), New York. This following will be the homily that he will deliver this Sunday, 12/30/07



I would like to base my message today on the Gradual Hymn we have just sung: ”O God, our Help in Ages Past.” This hymn, written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was actually taken from Psalm 90, the prayer of Moses, the leader of the Hebrews and lawgiver of Israel.


Moses lived to be 120 years old and his life can be written in three chapters of 40 years each chapter. The first 40 years, Moses thought he was somebody (he thought he was a prince, the son of the Pharaoh); the second 40 years, Moses found out he was a nobody (he discovered he was a son of a Hebrew slave); the third and last 40 years of his life, he realized what God can do to a nobody. (God has called him to be the liberator of God’s people and the messenger of God’s Ten Commandments).


This Psalm of Moses, therefore, contains a lot of wisdom for us to live by. May I invite you to meditate with me as we go from verse to verse?


1. First verse: O God our help in ages past our hope for years to come

                          Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.


God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. In God, we live and move and have our being. Billy Graham once said, “If God takes his hand from my life, my lips shall turn into clay.”


The Book of Hebrews says, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” We live in a world that is constantly changing and we live a life that is full of uncertainties. Someone once said, “The only two things we are certain are death and taxes.” Everything is uncertain and temporary. That is why it is comforting to know that God is permanent, that Jesus is the same. God never changes. His love remains forever and his faithfulness endures from age to age.


The Black Church has greeting which says:”God is good?” and people respond “all the time!” And “all the time?” people respond “God is good!” Shall we try it?


If God is the only permanent, then we must place our trust in Him. God alone can truly answer our deepest needs; God alone can mend our broken hearts; God alone can wipe the tears from our eyes; God alone can truly give us a new and abundant life. Today, let us affirm our trust in God.


2. Second Verse: Under the shadow of thy throne, thy saints have dwelt secure

                                Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.


In the world, power is the source of authority and security. There are many kinds of power: political power, military power and economic power. In the days of the Cold War, whenever our security is threatened, we invoke these powers. For instance, when the security of a country is threatened, the first thing that they do is to have a display of their military might, not necessarily to fight but as a display of force. The United States would threaten an economic embargo, a naval blockade, or a political censure from the United Nations.


In today’s War on Terrorism, the means of our security has become complex because terrorists do not necessarily belong to only one country. So the most that we can do is to tighten our guards and increase our level of awareness. In the airports, the Department of Homeland Security raises the color code from yellow to orange and finally to red. But yet despite the precautions, we still feel insecure.


In this Psalm of Moses, our security lies in the shadow of God. God is sufficient. There was a girl in Sunday School who was asked to recite Psalm 23. She began with confidence, “The Lord is my Shepherd” but she stopped right there. The other classmates began to give her an encouragement, saying “what else, what else.” Her own teacher also said, “What else?” The girl replied, “The Lord is my shepherd, what else do I want?” I believe if God is indeed our Shepherd, our security is assured. As the Bible says, “not by might, not by power but by the Spirit of the Lord” are we secured.


3. Third Verse: Before the hills in order stood or earth received her frame;

                            From everlasting thou art God, to endless years the same.


The Gospel today speaks of Jesus as the logos, the word in Greek. John said, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was with God. He was in the beginning with God…And the word was made flesh and lived among us.”


The doctrine of incarnation says that Jesus was from the beginning, God. He did not grow to be God. He was God from the beginning. He did not achieve nirvana like Buddha. His divinity was not earned from his good works or obedience from the Father. His divinity was intrinsic to his nature as God. That is why, we believe in Jesus Christ who will come to be our judge. In Isaiah 40:6-8, the prophet Isaiah said, “What shall I cry? All men are like grass and all the glory like the flowers of the field; the grass withers, the flower falls…the grass withers and the flower falls but the Word of the Lord stands forever.”


We believe in the everlasting God. But God is not only eternal on His own. He has also put eternity in our hearts, through our faith in Jesus Christ. From Christ’s fullness, we received grace upon grace. William Faulkner, one of the early Nobel Prize in Literature believed that even in the end of the world, man will never perish because man is created in the image of God. He wrote, “Even when the last ding dong of doom shall have clanged and faded, there will still be one more sound, the sound of man. Man will not simply endure, man will prevail.”


4. Fourth Verse: A thousand ages in thy sight are like an evening gone

                              Short as the watch that ends the night before the rising sun.


Because God is the creator of time and seasons, God is not bound by time. He belongs to the 4th dimension, the dimension that is beyond time and space. And so the true meaning of time can only be comprehended from the standpoint of God.


For us, human beings, time is relative. It can be long and it can be short. Psalm 90 tells us that our lifespan is 70 years or by reason of strength 80 or more. For instance, many of us are amazed that at her age, our organist, Dr. Gertrude Box is remarkably strong and energetic at age 87.


Yet in both history and scriptures, we are often judged not on the quantity of life but the quality of life we lead. The oldest men recorded in the Bible included Methuselah who lived to be 365 years; Enoch who has no record of death; and of course, Cain who wandered on the earth with a sign that he can not be killed. But we know that Jesus Christ lived only to be 33 years but the impact of his short life touches so many generations and so many faiths.


So the wisdom from Moses was to pray, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom  . . . knowledge is the accumulation of information . . . but wisdom is the application of knowledge.


5. Fifth verse: Time like an ever-rolling stream, bears all our years away

                         They fly, forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.


Someone said that the epitaph of the modern society is “hurry, worry and bury.” We seem to be always terrorized by time. We live our lives in the order of our management diaries. We get anxious about tomorrow even as we multi-task the burdens of the day.


From history, we have always tried to idolize speed. From the wheels come the chariots, then steamships, then automobiles, then airplanes, then jet planes that seek to break the speed barrier. Yet, no matter how much we increase our speed, we can never overtake time. We continue to find our work never fully complete, never fully accomplished. There is always something we are unable to do, unable to fulfill.


But if our life is centered on God, there is fulfillment. St. Paul in his letter to Timothy (2 Tim 4:7) said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” I think these are the words of complete and final fulfillment of mission. You can freely and happily conclude it with the words, “Unto thy hands, O God, I commend my spirit. I will rest in peace.”


6. Finally, the Sixth Verse: “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.

                                                Be thou, our guard while life shall last and our eternal home.”


The poet T.S. Elliot said, “We should never stop exploring…and the end of our exploring is to return to where we come from and discover the place for the first time.” The essence of our Christian message is this: God is the same---yesterday, today and forever. His faithfulness, mercy and love remain forever. God has saved us in the past, he saves us today and he will save us tomorrow. God has guided us in the past, he guides us today and he will save us tomorrow.


God does not promise us a bed of roses or a life without trials. We do not expect that we will be free from trials, from difficulties, from the struggles and challenges in this world. But if we put our faith in God, God will provide us the strength, the guidance and the saving help. Indeed, “God is good? All the time! And all the time? God is good!”


May we all have a good, happy, healthy, more abundant and faith-filled New Year!


We at the say, "Amen!"

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Last Updated on Saturday, 31 January 2009 04:17
Comments (1)
1 Tuesday, 29 December 2009 06:16
I am happy for your messag,especially on how the hymns were used to brings out the end year helped me

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