SUNDAY SERMON: Stuck in a rut?

Rev. Stephen Baldwin

OT: Psalm 98

NT: John 15.9-17

Do you ever get stuck in a rut? Try having to write a sermon…every…single…week. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut! 

But it’s not just sermons; I get stuck in all kinds of ruts. If it weren’t for Kerry, I would eat the same thing for the same meal…every…single…day. Anybody else fall into that turkey sandwich trap? 

Prayer can lead to a rut in a hurry. Same words to the same prayer at the same time each night. 

I even get stuck in a schedule rut. This on Monday, that on Tuesday…same thing…every single…week. 

If you’ve ever been stuck in a rut, can I get a “Help!” 

The difference between habits and being stuck in a rut is razor thin. Aristotle used to say, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Which he thought was a very good thing. You build a good life by having good habits. 

Church is a habit. Eating right is a habit. Exercise is a habit. Kindness is a habit. Grace is a habit. Helpfulness is a habit. We are what we repeatedly do. And if we do good things habitually, we see positive results. 

But the opposite is true as well. Sleeping in is a habit. Staying inside is a habit. Judgment is a habit. Gossip is a habit. We are what we repeatedly do. And if we develop bad habits, we see the results. 

What’s the difference between developing good habits, resisting bad habits, and staying out of a rut? The answer might just be in Psalm 98, which says…“Make a joyful noise to the Lord.”

Theologians call Psalm 98 the heart of the psalms, for it contains the spirit of hope and joy that carried God’s people out of ruts and bad habits…and into the promised land. 

Did you know that “Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98? It is the inspiration Isaac Watts used for writing that famous Christmas carol, and it makes perfect sense when you know the backstory. 

When Psalm 98 was written, God’s people were stuck in a terrible rut. They had been defeated by their enemies, driven from their homeland, and scattered across the desert lands. Things were so bad they questioned whether God still existed. Have you ever been in a rut so deep you didn’t think God could see you anymore? 

              But Psalm 98 proclaims that God is present, even in the tough times, and that the people who forget that fact need to sing a new song and make a joyful noise to be reminded of God’s presence. 

Do you ever get stuck in a rut? Of course you do. We all do. Psalm 98 reminds us that the way out of a rut is through it. Sing a new song. Make a joyful noise. Give thanks to God. Look around in your rut, or in your bad habit, and realize that even though you’re now where you want to be…God is still with you…and you can find a better way. 

Sing a new song! Try something different. Alter that routine. Start a new helpful habit. Do something to get out of that rut.

I remember one time I was in a rut during baseball season. I usually was a pretty good hitter, but I was struggling at the plate. Coach Eggleston pulled me aside, and I expected to get a pep talk. Something like, “We need you. I know you can do this.” 

But instead he said, “I don’t know what’s going on with you, but I think your girlfriend is going to break up with you if you don’t get in gear.” 

And I got in gear. Not because I did anything different, but because he distracted me from whatever was keeping me in the rut I was in, and when that bat hit the ball it made a joyful noise. 

We all get stuck in a rut sometimes. Don’t panic. Don’t question God’s existence. Remember. Jesus told us, “You did not choose me; I chose you.” And God did not choose for us to get stuck in a rut. God chose for us to life fully. 

Sing a new song! Try something different. Alter that routine. Start a new helpful habit. Do something to get out of that rut and into the life God has chosen for you. Amen.


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