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Stepping that Next Step - By Pastor Thomas Engel


I think I can say that we all have felt at one time or another the strain of stepping that next step.

I can say that we have all been in that hard time of moving forward because it’s part of our human condition.

In our lives of all kinds of times, from ups to downs, it’s normal to have a time that makes it feel like we are so far down that we can’t step that next step.

It may sound strange to admit that our human condition can be, at times, for a fact, harsh.

By saying it’s normal how life has times that are so harsh they just grind us down to the dust of despair, it makes it sound like we are helpless creatures.

Out there in the world, I realize we are suppose to be people who appear to be invincible at all times.

But, I’m going to try to make the case today that it’s beneficial for us, in a way, to see how harsh life can be, how it can burden us, how it can make it so hard for us to step that next step, and how it can make us even feel sorry for ourselves.

It’s a kind of type of thing, “Why me? O my! Why always me?”

As you look at your life and see how miserable a part of it or two or many parts are, I’m going to try to convince you to go ahead and throw yourself the biggest self-pity party.

Yea, I said it. Since we get so miserable at times that makes us such tragic players in this play called life, we might as well as throw that party.

To help us get a perspective on throwing that self-pity party, let’s start by looking at one of D.H. Lawrence’s poems, “Self Pity.”

The first line of the short poem is, “I never saw a wild thing feel sorry for itself.”

The second line, which is also the last line, I told you it was a short poem, has a bird sitting a tree limb on a very cold day, so cold that it’s literally freezing to death, and, then, it falls to the ground, dead.

Oh well, poor bird, but that’s nature. Isn’t it?

I’ve seen nature shows where a little fish is swimming along minding it’s own business, and a big fish appears from out of nowhere and gulps the little fish down in one bite.

Imagine living as a mouse, every day you are on the menu of your neighbor, the fox.

For animals, it’s eat or be eaten type of world.

Talk about living a harsh life.

Do animals think thoughts about their status on the food chain?

Did the bird realize that it was freezing to death?

If the bird did know that it was in a certain situation that will cause its death, what was it thinking or feeling about how it will soon die?

In my interpretation of the poem, D.H. Lawrence thinks that animals do not understand about harsh times, and that lack of understanding is a good thing.

Or, they do understand, but they see that feeling sorry for oneself is of no use, for every day could be your last, so why think about it?

“Ignorance is bliss.”

Animals live with primal instinct, and that’s it. Animals just do what they can do by reaction, and if they make it, it’s another day. If not, that’s the end without any thought or feeling about it.

No worries. Just live for the moment. Don’t think about the end, for that next moment out in the wild has a very big chance that it is the end.

You might disagree with my interpretation of Lawrence’s thoughts about the animal world. If you have a puppy or kitty at home, you might have observed some thoughts and feelings of your pet, who is another member of the family.

When I wake-up CC from her afternoon nap to take her out for her weekly brushing, I’m sure she is saying with her look, “You’ve got to be kidding. What are you waking me up for? I was sleeping so well.”

But, let’s say you do agree with my interpretation that Lawrence has a point that animals at least don’t have much going for them as far as thoughts and feelings about the harsh wild, which they live in.

Can we agree that since the wild is so harsh, it’s better not to have too much in the way of thoughts and feelings about it?

“Just go with it.”

What can you do about the “Laws of Nature?” Nothing.

In a way, I think the world for humans like it does for animals has its ways that are harsh.

We can do what we can do, but even then, are we just fooling ourselves that we have any control of anything?

Do we, as humans, have any control?

If we do have any control, why are there so many crises that cause chaos that cause harsh circumstances that cause so much suffering?

For any of us, we live in a world where we are vulnerable to anything, for anything can happen to us as we step that next step out the door.

There’s a lot of harsh stuff going on out there, but it’s our world, which we live in.

We are fully aware how harsh our world can be. As humans, we do have thoughts and feelings that can go deep about our life circumstances and our harsh world.

You might be feeling like you are just hanging by string.

You might be thinking it’s just one problem after another.

You might be thinking you are the doormat that everyone else wipes their dirty shoes on.

You might be thinking you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.

You might be feeling you are all alone in this harsh world.

You might be feeling that you’re so tired that you can’t step that next step.

It’s true that life can dish out some harsh stuff, so it makes sense that you might be thinking and feeling, at times, one, two, or all of these things.

Life circumstances can be so harsh that it seems impossible to step that next step.

As hard as it might be to keep stepping that next step, we have to do it. Don’t we?

Getting back to throwing that self-pity party, I can tell you that feeling sorry for oneself has been around a long while.

Today’s Old Testament Reading is God’s response to how the Nation of Israel has been reacting to its harsh circumstances.

The situation for Israel is that they are refugees in another country.

The short history is that God has let their enemies overtake them because of their sin.

God is righteous, so in His

righteousness, He has to judge sin, condemn it, and punish it.

This judging, condemning, and punishing makes for a harsh world.

If you are thinking this is severe and makes for a harsh world, you are right.

But, it has to be this way.

God, our creator and provider, wants only good things for us, so we need to understand that nothing good comes from sin.

This understanding of how God deals with sin is where most of the world is confused about God and how He does things.

God is serious about sin because He wants the best for us. He does not want sin to dominate our lives and the world.

So, in this seriousness, He lets us meet the consequences of our sins. This letting of consequences to affect us can make for a harsh world.

To be clear, we can’t pinpoint any particular sin of our lives or that’s in the world that makes for any current harsh time.

The best we can do to understand our lives, this old world, and all of the harsh realities is to know that its because of us, all of us.

We are sinners living in a sinful world.

The fault falls on us all.

That’s real heavy stuff, and with all of this talk of sin and its consequences, don’t I wish was a bird sitting in a tree that wasn’t thinking and feeling all of this stuff?

At times, no wonder why it’s so hard to step that next step.

It’s not so much that I’m recommending throwing yourself a self-pity party, but if you are finding that you are so down that you are feeling sorry for yourself like there is no way out and that no one cares, go ahead and have the party.

If you have been noticing, I’ve been saying “in a way” a few times.

In a way, it’s beneficial to throw that pity party.

In a way, we throw that pity party here on Sunday mornings in our confession.

Remember, I am saying, “In a way.”

We confess that in our sins that we are poor and miserable in our thoughts, words, and deeds.

At this point, we are so different than the animal kingdom, we do have thoughts and feelings about ourselves.

We can only admit that we have sinned and that we are at fault.

Oh no! Now what?

As refugees, the Nation of Israel were miserable in Babylon. They knew that this place was not their home. Jerusalem was.

Oh no! Now what?

God heard their cries. God knew things were not right, even though He did let them happen.

God knew it was time for The Nation of Israel to go home.

God had them return. Jerusalem was rebuilt.

God had His prophet Isaiah say, “This is the word of the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, and a road through the deep waters.”

God reminded them that He made a way for their ancestors to escape Egypt when they were slaves.

Coming up on Holy Week, we can think ahead a little bit to when the disciples were hiding out in fear of the Jews after Jesus’ death.

They were in the room thinking since Jesus was dead that they had nothing with their Lord gone.

It sounds to me like a pity party as they sat in that room thinking about their situation.

But, God didn’t let them stay in that “down” time. He came to them with a new thing as he did with the Nation of Israel when they were in Egypt and then in Babylon.

From Egypt, they went to The Promised Land, and from Babylon, they went to a New Jerusalem.

In that room after Jesus’ death and resurrection, he came to the disciples. Jesus came to them, as he comes to us today, to tell us that there is a new thing as only he can do.

Every human has a way from sin to righteousness in Christ and from the harsh realities of life to new life of grace and power in Christ.

I’m going to keep saying go ahead and think and feel the weight of this harsh world, even to the point of feeling so sorry for yourself that you want to throw yourself a pity party.

I say that because I know God will not

have you stay there.

God hears us today, and He will always makes a way for us, so we can step that next step.

When I’ve been talking about “in a way,” we can go from that way of feeling sorry for ourselves to another way.

Notice how God didn’t let you stay home this morning.

God wanted to make sure you heard today how He has made a way for you by a new thing in Christ.

God gave Israel Moses when they were in Egypt, so they could go to The Promised Land.

Then, God gave Israel Isaiah, so they could go from Babylon to the New Jerusalem.

God gave the disciples Jesus, so they could go from that room where they were hiding out to all corners of the world to spread the Gospel.

God gives us here today His Word and the body and blood of Christ, so we can keep stepping that next step in all of our life circumstances whatever they may be.

We always have a new thing in Christ, so we can always be taking that next step.