End of the rope.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom.
Welcome, thank you for joining us this Sunday as we testify to the great salvation and confidence we have in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We have all heard the old saying: When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
If we think but a second, we see that this saying is about self-reliance. I am slipping down the rope and I need to have the presence of mind to tie that knot for myself and hang on. In our great American tradition, we can connect with that. I need to make my way and take care of myself.
God asks us to think differently, to see His provision for us. To know that He has us and is with us constantly, the essential truth that we do not have to worry at all.
God does what He does, and attempts to show us in varied way, throughout salvation history, how His people can rely on Him, how our end of the rope is never the end or disaster because He has us.
Our first reading from the Wisdom of Ben Sira, or simply Sirach, gives us groups of wise sayings. We might say, how nice, it is good to have wise sayings we might live by, until we see that this is the wisdom of God Himself passed onto us by the prophet.
Sirach loved the Lord’s wisdom and was dedicated to His worship because He saw how God made a difference in the lives of the people. A person who has that kind of love and devotion for God places their reliance on the Lord because He has proved Himself.
For us it seems obvious. God’s ultimate sacrifice for our salvation and well-being is well known. As we study and worship Him, we connect to the fact that in this loving relationship we have ultimate protection by His promise. No one and nothing, as St. Paul would say, takes us away from the love of God. Nothing can overcome it. For us here, we have seen it in the life of this Kingdom family. We are surrounded and infused with His salvific power. We own that.
In the Epistle, Paul speaks of his persecution before the Roman authorities. Even to this day, as we learned at Holy Synod, our people, clergy, and parishes are the targets of persecution – but it does not bring fear. It does not cause us to shrink, but to stand forth faithfully because God has us in the palm of His hand. We trust. We stand. As Paul tells us, it would be inconsistent to fear for we live in the strength infused in us by our faith made most present in Jesus.
Finally, Jesus sets forth the example of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the self-righteous and the sinner. This brings it all together. The Pharisee was tying ritualistic knots in his rope, fully confident he was saving himself, yet he was slipping away. The tax collector, like all of us, sinners though we are, trusted completely in and only on God. God justified him, declared him not guilty, saved him, and like all of us he lived in confident reliance on the God Who saves. He will never let us slip and fall.