It Is Slippery Out There

November 20, 2022; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
Proper 29 C. La_nouvelle_Jérusalem.jpg

The LORD Is with Us that We Shall not Slip

 

Rev. Kurt Lantz Last Sunday of the Church Year Psalm 46

November 20, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON

 

 

Dear people in trouble,

 

Grace to you and peace from God our refuge and strength.

 

 

It’s slippery out there. The way that we have to walk in winter when there is a light dusting of snow over a sheet of ice, is much the same way that we have to walk our Christian way in this fallen and wicked world. It is slippery out there.

 

You may have heard mention of a slippery slope during a debate about an ethical issue. It is the idea that once you start down a certain path of permission, then there can be no holding back as things slip out of all control. The argument may be used in ethical discussions about euthanasia (or as we know it in Canada, Medical Assistance in Dying). The slippery slope argument would be something like, once you allow for a physician to assist in the suicide of a person who is in intense pain near the end of their life, how will you say no to all of the other requests of people who are under some intense suffering who may not be at the end of their life, or whose suffering may be emotional and not physical? We have seen this happen most tragically here in Canada, even more so than in the Netherlands which used to be the testing ground for euthanasia before Canada slid into even more permissive killing than had been going on there.

 

The slippery slope argument is often denounced as fear-mongering and dismissed because there is no way to prove that one small action will lead to a chain of successive events taking you to places where you did not intend to go. However, such nonchalant dismissal of the argument has proven the point of the slippery slope over and over again. Almost every ethical decision regarding morality in our nation has proven to be a slippery slope for society. I believe it has to do with our fallen sinful nature plunging us ever farther down into depravity. The only argument against a slippery slope that I can see is that the consequences may not have been unintentional from the beginning. They could have been the goal of social manipulators all along.

 

Certainly we believe that it is the goal of the devil to lead us to the slippery slope and gleefully give us a shove once we are at the precipice. Perhaps you have had such slip ups in your own life and find that you have to constantly fight your way to find solid footing on the slippery slopes of your sins. They may be in the area of church attendance or gambling or pornography. It may be in your social views that have gone against what the Word of God says for the sake of some extreme example and now it has ever since been a struggle to keep upright thoughts and views on sexual identity, honesty in the workplace, respect for authority, and things like that. It may be a root of bitterness that has sprouted and is now creeping like an unrestrained vine to choke out all love for your fellow man.

 

Perhaps it was a slippery slope that led the criminals crucified with Jesus where they ended up. It may have started with the desire to have something that a friend had and they did not. It may have begun in an extreme situation when they felt they needed to steal some food in order to feed their family. Perhaps they had taken a bit too big of a financial risk and ended up in debt to some shady characters or fallen in with the wrong crowd. Maybe they were dissatisfied with government actions, and repeated rantings with other malcontents had driven them into a mob mentality in some public act of open, violent rebellion. We don’t know how they came to be condemned to crucifixion, but we know how it works with us.

 

Sin operates on a slippery slope and at some point you are no longer able to stop your downward plunge into despair and damnation. You may have intended to stop at some point but you won’t dig your heels in soon enough and then there you are before the judge and the sentence is pronounced and it is going to be carried out and there is nothing you can do about it anymore. You should have repented at the first slip and not gone down that treacherous path at all.

 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). He is present when you are in trouble. That is when we are most deceived to believe that He has left us, but His Word promises that even in those times He is present. He is present to be our refuge and strength. He is present to be a place of rest and safety, like the cities of refuge appointed for the Old Testament people of God. If you had an argument with someone and things got out of hand and came to blows, and although you didn’t intend it, your adversary died, then you were allowed to run to a city of refuge in order to escape the vengeance of the man’s family, until a proper inquiry could be held. God is our refuge when things have gotten out of hand. He is a place of safety from the avenger.

 

God is our strength when we have no strength to stop our slide into ever deeper sins. He reaches out to us and grabs hold in order to stop our descent and to pull us to safety. His divine strength is able to pull us out of our skid and snatch us from the fire. Our Lord Jesus displayed that kind of strength for one of the criminals on the cross beside Him. Having seen how far he had fallen and with no hope to back away from the edge, the criminal on Jesus’ right hand cried out, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus immediately replied, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43).

 

I’m not sure you can get any closer to the end of the slide over the fiery pit of hell and be snatched back to safety than that criminal experienced in his dying hours on a cross. But Jesus was a present help in his time of trouble. Jesus, Himself suffering in agony and dying, was still more than strong enough to snatch that man from the fire. God was very present to help. He was truly present as the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. In His dying flesh He was strong enough to save and to be the refuge that the sinner needed. That man in the presence of Jesus found a refuge of peace and safety against the divine avenger who would have followed up the crucifixion with an eternity of suffering where the flame does not go out and their worms never die and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus was present to be his refuge and strength so that he could face down death with faith in the God of Jacob and be transported to everlasting life in Paradise.

 

Where are you on the slippery slope of your sins? How will you know if you are at the precipice? Is it visible to you? Will you have time to stop your descent? Will there be a sudden drop off you couldn’t have planned for, a blind curve that you didn’t see coming? How precipitous is it for you already? The fool will say that there is time to stop. “I am still in control. I can continue to rant and rave in a rage like the other crucified criminal.” But those of you who hear the call of God’s Word as you are speeding down the slope of sin, will know that it is already too late to stop yourself. Yet the psalm reveals the safety line that is your only salvation. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

 

This is our joy and confidence and hope even as we know we are in the last days. Jesus warned about earthquakes and signs in the heavens as portents of His coming again to judge the living and the dead (Luke 21:11). Yet if we know that “God is our refuge and strength... we will not fear though the earth gives way, though mountains slip into the heart of the sea” (v. 1-2). We don’t need to fear stormy wind, hail, sleet, snow, or global warming. Even if our planet has gone too far down such a slippery slope to stop its destruction, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help.”

 

Jesus warned the women of Jerusalem on the way to the cross about the coming destruction of their city by the Romans (Luke 23:28-31) and He warns us that nations will continue so to act until the end. But the Word of God also tells us about the City of God that will not fall because God is present there, a very present help for all time. This is the city of Christ’s Kingdom, the Paradise promised to the thief on the cross. “God is in the midst of her; she shall not slip; God will help her when morning dawns” (Psalm 46:5).

 

Jesus warned that nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom until the last day (Luke 21:10). We know that the war in Ukraine is not the only conflict raging in the world today. But last week seemed to be another slip down the slope when one of our NATO-allied countries was hit by missiles. The nature of the NATO treaty is that if Poland goes to war, all of the other NATO countries, including Canada, will go to war with it. It is a reminder of how close we are to being at war every day. But the Word of God proclaims to us that “The nations rage, the kingdoms slip; He utters His voice, the earth melts. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (Ps 46:6-7).

 

Our place in this world is precarious because of our sins. Mountains slip. Nations slip. But there is a city that does not slip. There is a kingdom that does not totter. It is the kingdom of Christ built on His death and resurrection for sinners who are sliding uncontrollably down a slippery slope. God is a very present help in time of trouble because His Son came into this world to save sinners. God is present to be our refuge and strength. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). We are where God is present to help. We are in His kingdom.

 

He is present with us in His Word and Sacraments like a river running through the City of God. We don’t have to fear natural disaster or national destruction, nor do we have to fear our sins. We look to Him when we are in trouble and cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And He replies, “Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

 

 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.