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It Is Well With My Soul


A Homily for Trinity XII

August 30, 2020

All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ

Text: Mark 7:31-37

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.

“He has done all things well.” Mark 7:37

On November 30, 1873 Horatio G. Spafford received the following message from his wife: “Saved alone, what shall I do?” Spafford was a successful businessman, lawyer, and devoted Christian from Chicago. He, his wife, and four daughters had intended to travel to Europe onboard the French ocean liner Ville du Havre, but a business obligation kept him behind. So, the rest of his family went ahead and he would take another ship a few days later.

On November 21, 1873 the a Scottish ship, the Loch Earn hit the Ville du Havre and within twelve minutes the ocean liner sunk. 226 people perished, including the four Spafford children. Amidst this horror Horatio’s wife Anna managed to cling to a board and her life was spared. Nine days after the ship sunk, she made it safely England where she sent that message to her husband: “saved alone, what shall I do?”

Upon receiving the message Horatio rushed to take the next ship he could to meet his wife in England. On the crossing the captain of the ship which Horatio was traveling upon pulled him into his cabin and informed him that they were crossing the spot where his four daughters had died. It was over there that Spafford penned the lines to the much beloved hymn:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, /When sorrows like sea billows roll;/ Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,/

It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul.

The crowd was astonished beyond measure, saying

“He has done all things well.”

It is easy to marvel at what God has done when he does the things we want him to, but we confess and believe that God is good, and loving, and sovereign, this does not change, whether the sun is shining or when sorrow like seas billows rolls.

When the thunder claps and the waters rage can you sing with Mr. Spafford – that it is well with your souls? Do you trust God’s goodness when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel?

I suspect we have all had those restless nights, those nights when fear or sorrow fills the pits in our stomach, when we don’t know how God will bring us through. In those hours where it almost seems as though death has come early for us, and yet, our heart still beats, and air continues to fills our lungs, but nothing seems to matter. Nothing has taste any more, we feel there is no joy in life.

The crowd brings to Jesus a man who is without a hope in the world, he was deaf, he could not hear the birds chirp, he could not hear others talk, he had a severe speech impediment. He had no way of communicating. Undoubtedly, he felt alone and helpless. It is times of darkness – whatever they may be – chronic illness, aloneness, loss – God calls us to abide in him, calls us to lament to him, calls us to rest in Him as the good shepherd of our souls.

But another one vies for your attention in these times as well. The devil will come to you as the storm tosses you about and asks you the same question that he came to Eve with: “Did God really say this?” He will place doubt in your heart: “is God really your good shepherd?” “Is God actually good?” “Is he here in your suffering?” “Does he really do all things well?” Relentlessly asking, if we do not guard against him: “Are you sure?”

But, Christ takes the blind man, the man who has no hope other than him, he takes him aside and heals him. Christ takes us out of our spiritual blindness, takes us into himself, and it is in the assurance that we have in Christ we can sing with Horatio Spafford:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,/ Let this blest assurance control,/ That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,/ And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is in Christ’s healing of the deaf man that we learn that our hope is not in vain, we are reminded that our hope will be fulfilled. For Christ doesn’t take this man aside and give him a pep talk, he doesn’t give him ten steps to a better you, he doesn’t give him an attaboy and tell him that he’s awful proud of the man for persevering.

No – Jesus heals him, Jesus makes things well for the man, Jesus delivers him from his bondage. In the same way he delivers us from our bondage of sin, he descends into our pit of despair, and carries us out. He does not leave us with some vague notion hope, some half fulfilled promise but the deed is done, our sins are forgiven, they have been put away from us.

Our hope in Christ isn’t merely a hope of a maybe – but a sure promise that God is creating in us a new creation, that God is renewing our hearts, souls and minds. God is doing all things well, God is transforming our worldly struggles into eternal hopes and those hopes will be fulfilled.

And for this we can sing: My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!— My sin, not in part but the whole,/ Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,/ Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul, It is well, it is well with my soul.

I have a friend who is an amazing singer. She has this beautiful voice, and she writes soul stirring songs. I would love to see her talents discovered by the wider world and often when people are looking for song recommendations, I pass her music along, if I think they’d like it.

We desire that the people we love would be discovered, that they would be rewarded for their hard work, and natural talent and we may even think “if I share their writing with enough people,” maybe our friend will finally be discovered.

And it was natural that those who experienced Jesus would think the same thing, although it is more complex than this – they genuinely want people to know him, they want others to experience the healing that they have experienced, and they recognize that perhaps this man is the messiah. And so, it is natural that they think:

“This man! Does all things well! Let us tell everyone! Let us tell everyone that the messiah has come that we might rejoice!”

But their hopes are worldly and because of this Christ wants his works to be kept quiet, their desire for healing, for worldly fulfilment, for their wants of this age to be fulfilled they miss his message, they miss the call that he was making for each and every one of them.

His message – in his incarnation then, and his message to us now has not changed, it is: Repent and believe for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent, Believe, Join the kingdom of heaven.

Christ calls us to turn our eyes upon that eternal thing, that better thing, that thing that if you invest in it will never fail you.

For this world will pass away, this life will pass away – but the kingdom of heaven – where our true citizenship lies – there is where hope is, there is where our hopes will be fulfilled, there is where true healing will occur, there is where we will dwell with Christ forever.

Be good citizens wherever God has placed you, be good citizens, the best citizens of Prescott, of Arizona, and of the United States – but be good citizens not for worldly hopes – but because you are a citizen in a better country, your true citizenship lies in the far country, you belong to the kingdom of heaven.

My friends : where is your focus right now? What are you worried about? What do you spend most of your time thinking about, pondering? Are your thoughts resting upon the glory of the kingdom of heaven? Have you made sure your focus is daily, hourly, from moment to moment - upon living in and building up the kingdom of heaven? Or have the princes of the world distracted you?

And why should our focus be upon the kingdom? What is this kingdom like that it should comfort us so and demand our total focus?

The Book of Revelation promises that one day the kingdom of heaven will come, one day all that has been perverted by sin, all that has been tarnished in the fall, all that is dying in this world will be made new. This is what St. John saw in the re-creation:

A new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

God says: behold, I am making all things new.

My friends, this is what creation is groaning for, this is what we are groaning for. When we long for a better thing – this is what our hearts are longing for. Often we misplace this longing, often we think “if this thing happens,” or “if I get that thing” then my longing will be over, and perhaps for a little bit it is. But our earthly hopes will fail us and leave us longing for something more.

After his conversion St. Augustine recalled his restless heart – he recalled how he chased after every little thing in hopes of finding rest – but as he looked back he recalled, “my heart was restless, until it rested in thee O Lord.”

As long as we chase worldly affections, whatever they may be – our hearts will be restless. But our citizenship is in heaven, we are called to place our hope there, we are called to place our hope in the kingdom of heaven and to recall what God says:

Behold, I am making all things new.

He is renewing your heart, and he will renew all of creation. He is doing all things well.

Can you imagine anything better? Is there anything earthly that can compare? Is this well with your soul? Will you sing with Spafford:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:/ If Jordan above me shall roll,/ No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life/ Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.

And the people were astonished at all that Christ was doing – They were astonished because he fulfilled a promise that God had made to Israel 700 years before. Through the prophet Isaiah, He promised that one would come and “then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped.”

Christ was the promised messiah that opened the eyes of the blind, that unstopped the ears of the death, that caused the lame to walk. In his working in the world, Christ started to make straight that which sin had made crooked. And we look forward to how God will act in eternity, how God will correct and make straight the ways that are crooked, how God is making all things new – we see where our hope is to be placed – that God is making all things new.

But – we are as prone to misplace our hope, prone to cling to the wrong hopes, to find our faith flaying in the wind if what we want doesn’t happen when we want it. For the crowds hope was that Christ would heal them, and heal their nation, would free them from the bondage of foreign rulers. But our hope in Christ – our hope that will never fail is that the kingdom of heaven will come and it is here that we find peace, it is here that we are motivated to cry out to Jesus amidst so much turmoil “come Lord Jesus, come.”

It is here, that we say to our friends, and our neighbors, “I know you hurt, I know you feel dismayed, come, let me introduce you to the one who brings me peace, let me bring you to the country that is better than you could ever imagine.” It is here that we sing with Spafford:

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,/ The sky, not the grave, is our goal;/ Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!/ Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.

My friends, I know the world feels dark right now, I know there is a lot of mystery and unknown, there is a lot of fear, and there is much to be fearful of. Cry out to God in that fear – lament that which you have lost, lament that which causes you pain, lament your sin – but trust that God is sovereign, He is merciful, He is bigger than you can imagine, that He is good,

Trust that God will put the evil we see in this world away, that God can use all circumstances for good, for His glory, that God will continue to draw men and women to himself, and one day, God will make the paths straight, will renew the world.

That what you see through a glass dimly now – we will see clearly, that the creation that is aching to be remade will be remade in a more beautiful way than you can imagine. And on that day when our aching will be no more, on that day we will know with Spafford and all the saints before that our hope was not in vain, and until that day we will sing with joy,

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,/ The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;/ The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,/ Even so, it is well with my soul.

And we will sing:

It is well with my soul. It is well, it is well with my soul.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

ALL SAINTS ANGLICAN CHURCH

Anglican Province of America

Presiding Bishop: The Most Rev. Walter Grundorf

Episcopal Visitor: The Rt. Rev Robert Giffin

Rector: The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn

(928) 443-5323

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