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On faith: God stoops to us

Pastor Tom Murray

Zion Lutheran Church of Finland and

Lutsen Evangelical Lutheran Church

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“I waited patiently upon the Lord, who stooped to me and heard my cry. The Lord lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a high cliff, making my footing sure.” Psalm 40: 1-2

A traveler was walking down the side of a dark country road late one night, and as he walked along he fell into a deep muddy pit. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t get out. The walls were too steep and too slick. He couldn’t get a grip on anything that would help him reach the top. No matter how he struggled, he kept slipping back down into the muck.

When morning came, a politician came along and looked down into the hole.

“I sure feel for you down there,” he said as he walked on.

Next, a mathematician came along and said: “Well, statistically speaking, it was likely that someone would eventually fall in there.”

Soon enough a televangelist came along who thundered: “Only sinful people fall into muddy pits!” After the preacher left, the man’s mother came along.

“I told you to stay away from that hole, but did you listen to me?” She scolded, followed by an IRS agent who came along and wondered if the man was paying taxes on the hole.

An optimist looked down at him and said: “Cheer up! It’ll get better.” A pessimist heard the optimist’s remark and added that “things are going to get a lot worse than this.”

Finally, Jesus came along, and seeing the man lying helpless in the pit, He simply loved him, reached down, took him by the hand and lifted him up.

One of my favorite passages in all of scripture is found in the first few verses of the 40th Psalm, which tells the story of being pulled up and out of the miry clay by the hand of God. I love the imagery that the psalmist uses; it pulls us into the narrative of God’s love for us: “I waited patiently upon the Lord, who stooped to me and heard my cry.”

God stoops to us. God loves us so much that he lowers himself to where we are. God did this by bending down to a teenage girl and declaring that she would bear a son by the Holy Spirit. God did this by being born into this world in poverty, by living as a refugee, by being baptized along with sinners, by reaching out to the poor and the broken – and finally by dying on a cross as a common criminal.

God stoops to us, just as a parent stoops to pick up a child, because He knows that there is no other way for us to be lifted up. God comes all the way down into the brokenness and the sinfulness of this world in order to reach us. God reaches even into the desolate pit – the miry clay – of our greed, our lust, and our indifference.

I have never heard a better description of the human condition than this. We are lost in a desolate pit and we can’t get out. This is what we acknowledge when we confess that our sins are too heavy to carry and too deep to undo. This is why we turn to God and ask that the brokenness that our lips tremble to name, and that our hearts can no longer bear, be forgiven.

When we do, God stoops to us, and lifts us up, and sets us in a place where we can stand secure in his love and forgiveness.

This is the very definition of grace! No matter how deep the pit, God doesn’t wait for us to somehow claw our way out on our own. Instead, He turns to us, takes us by the hand, and sets us on firm ground. This is what we proclaim as people of God: God loves us. God reaches down to us no matter where we are. God forgives us. And God saves us.