Awaken the Others (Psalm 115)
- Order of Service: Matins
- Hymns: LSB #837, 708, 563
He will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great. (Psalm 115:18)
Prince Caspian is set a year after The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. At least in our world. But 1300 years had passed in Narnia. In this time, Cair Paravel has fallen into ruin. Another nation had invaded Narnia and has made the previous Golden Age seem like a long-ago myth. The book culminates in a great battle between the current authority and Old Narnia at Aslan's How, a hill that had been built over the Stone Table after Aslan's sacrifice. Our reading this morning shows an episode while the Penvensies and allies are trying to make their way there, but we see that those who want to be in charge are spiritually asleep.
In our reading, we find them at a crossroads. The edge of a precipice overlooking a river. Two routes stand ahead of them. One that would take them down into the gorge and maybe where they want to go. The other, wanted only by Lucy, which would go higher up the side of the gorge they were already on. The opposite direction that the older ones want to take. But Lucy had seen Aslan on that trail.
It's a case where we "walk by faith, not by sight." Or is it? Peter and Susan, the older brother and sister, invoke their age and higher standing in Narnian society to justify their position. They denegrated what Lucy saw because she's the youngest, the smallest. They held on to what they thought to choose their path.
But the Psalm says, "[God] will bless those who fear the LORD, both the small and the great." The small often see things that the great do not. The great often let their eyes glaze over and don't see what's literally right in front of their eyes.
The great often slumber because of complacency. The prophet Nahum says against Assyria, "Your shepherds are asleep, O king of Assyria; your nobles slumber." Assyria was the greatest nation in his time, but Nahum prophecied their ruin. Ruined because they slumbered in their complacency.
But this isn't just a problem for those outside God's chosen people. High priest Eli had the same issue. He was complacent because he was the descendant of Aaron who stood before God in the Tabernacle. No one living could take that position from him. It was a lifetime appointment. But his security in his position and social status made him complacent. He didn't teach as God wanted. "The Word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision." God overlooked great Eli to call small Samuel to be His prophet. Small Samuel could see what Eli could not because he had not made himself great.
"But that's the Old Testament," you might say. Jesus' disciples were no different. Especially Peter, James and John. These three troublemakers needed more of Jesus' attention than the other nine combined. Peter couldn't help but puff himself up as better than the others. Maybe he was the oldest. The oldest tends to make themselves seem more important. Peter even tries to make himself greater than Jesus. Rebuking the Savior for talking about being the Savior. James and John wanted to call down fire from Heaven because a town didn't want to hear the Gospel. They also ask Jesus to sit at His right and left hand when He came into His kingdom. Jesus certainly needed to watch these guys! They were caught slumbering while Jesus prayed to His Father with great drops of sweaty blood. They thought they were great because they were Jesus' inner circle, but they found how small they really were.
But God specializes in calling the small to faith. Abram was one elderly man when God called him to leave his homeland and become the "father of a multitude of nations." We saw it again last week as God called Gage to become His beloved son in Baptism. You don't get much smaller than an infant being brought to the font where he receives salvation. Because Jesus came "to seek and to save the lost."
The small acknowledge that they are lost. They have an easier time denying themselves because they see little in themselves. The small are more willing to "follow where our Captain trod" because they confess their smallness.
Lucy confessed her smallness to her older brothers and sister. At the end of our reading, she followed along with them downstream. Not Aslan's way, but the way of the majority. Lucy followed, but she was "crying bitterly." Small doesn't mean quiet. Lucy stood up for herself. She tried to awaken the others, but meek and mild Lucy was overrun by their desires. The great ones were not considerate of the small.
That is the downfall of the great. The great are slumbering while the small are awake and alert. This is one of Jesus' greatest warnings to His disciples, "What I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!" Those who are awake in Jesus' parables are the servants. Jesus praises the awake because the awake are the ones who see Him when He arrives.
Lucy was awake and she saw Aslan. The others didn't see him because their eyes were closed to his presence. Peter, Susan and Edmund were worried about too many other earthly things. They weren't able to see Aslan because they had bought into the idea that he was gone. They were like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Unable to recognize Jesus walking next to them.
When you take your eyes off Jesus, you need someone to awaken you. You can only be awakened through the Word. The Word that will sound to wake you on the Last Day even from the sleep of death. The "cry of command" that Jesus will say to bring not just one person from the grave, but it will bring everyone out of their graves. Then everyone's eyes will be open. We will see Him as He is.
What keeps your eyes closed in slumber in God's presence? What worldly cares take up too much of your time? What keeps you from seeing God's leading in your life? This is the difference between the great and the small. Between Lucy and her older siblings. Lucy's eyes were open. She didn't have worldly cares dragging her down. She wanted to see Aslan again. That was her main focus. That's how you stay awake. That's how you awaken others.
And Lucy was awarded for her faithfulness. For her search. Just as small Samuel, Lucy was called by Aslan during the night. She saw and spoke with Aslan, but the others still don't believe her until they are eventually awakened, one by one, through Aslan's continual revelation. One step at a time. One set of eyes at a time.
This is how evangelism works. You are awakened through Christ's Word. And you can awaken others through that same Word. You share His Word. Lucy kept telling her siblings the Word until their eyes were opened. While she got a bit discouraged, she knew beforehand that they wouldn't listen right away.
Lucy stood up for herself. Her siblings eventually saw Aslan for themselves. They went on to follow him into battle and come out victorious. Prince Caspian took his rightful place as the King of Narnia. Peter and Susan are told this is the last time they will be in Narnia. They were "getting too old" for Narnia. Aslan had some last things to say to them so that they would continue to make themselves small for his blessings in our world. Because God blesses the small by exalting them into greatness that they never could have imagined for themselves.
That's life in this world. We are called to awaken everyone. To share the Gospel with the whole world. Jesus commands that evangelism begin at home and then spread out to the end of the earth. We sometimes get discouraged with the vast scope of "the end of the earth." The five billion people in the world not claiming to be part of the Christian Church seems daunting. But we must remember that we're not called to evangelize all of them personally. We're just commanded to evangelize the ones God brings into our lives. Starting with family and friends. Are they awake or sleeping? Are some in a church that is making them fall asleep in their own complacency instead of keeping them awake in His Word? It's time to wake them up!
Wake them up with the Word. Remind them or tell them the first time about the blessings God gives to "both the small and the great," to "those who fear the LORD." Proper fear of the LORD doesn't come except through His Word. Hearing it challenge what the world around us says. Hearing it ring true regardless of the age and our own circumstances. God's Word doesn't change because God doesn't change. His Word continues to wake people up around the world. Americans spent more than a century sending missionaries to the deepest, darkest parts of Africa while letting America slumber in self-righteous complacency. It's time to wake America up! We can be that first light on a strand of Christmas lights, bringing light and the Holy Spirit's power to those in line behind us. Illuminating them so that they may carry out God's work. Only then will we see God's promised blessings upon our small efforts.
One light doesn't bring great brightness. One word doesn't do much. But a great string of lights, a great string of words—the right words—can make all the difference in the world. God's Word isn't just spoken once into our world. It's spoken over and over again because we cannot plumb its depths. There is always something new for us to learn. That's why we share it. God blesses us so that we might bless others. But they can only be blessed if they are awake. So let's wake them up so they can see Jesus! Amen.