Monday, October 14, 2019

Trust the Lord

October 13th, 2019                    “Trust the Lord”                     Rev. Heather Jepsen

Psalm 27

         As you might know, this is a busy and difficult season for me.  Being in the midst of a health crises and a constantly changing plan, it can be hard to dig up sermon inspiration.  So following the advice of many, today I am taking care of myself a bit and giving myself a break.  Today’s sermon is something I have dug up from my archives.  Preached nearly 10 years ago in a church far away from here, in a much different time of my life, by the grace of God this sermon, and this Psalm seem to have something to offer us still today.

The book of Psalms is a collection of ancient songs that were sung during Hebrew worship services.  While I think the Psalms have many good things to say to us, we often overlook them.  They can be repetitive and challenging and it is not a book of the Bible that you are likely to simply sit down and read straight through.  Rather, the Psalms do better singled out one at a time, instead of in a large group.  Most of us are very familiar with the 23rd Psalm but other than that we probably spend little time in the book.  Not surprisingly there are many other wonderful Psalms in our Bible and today we are going to talk about Psalm 27.

         Psalm 27 begins with a declaration, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”  The Psalmist is declaring that they trust in God to protect them so there is nothing to be afraid of.  But then, the Psalmist goes right on to say that there is something to be afraid of.  Evildoers surround them, adversaries and foes.  An army is encamped against them and war is rising up.  Sure sounds like something that I would be afraid of!  And yet, the writer declares that they will not fear, they will have a confident heart.

         Why?  Because the Psalmist seeks God as their shelter.  The writer is confident that even though they are in danger, God will protect them.  They write that God will hide them in shelter and concealment, or place them high on a rock, out of the reach of enemies.  So, the Psalmist declares they will praise God. 

         In verse 8 the Psalmist writes, “Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”  Isn’t that a beautiful image, that our hearts would call us to seek the face of the Lord?  The writer declares that even if their mother and father abandon them, they know that God will be true.  The writer asks God to teach them the way of the Lord.

         In verse 12 again the Psalmist recalls the danger they are in, false witnesses have arisen against them and are breathing out violence.  And again, they declare that God will bring them out of this peril and into the land of the living.  The Psalmist closes with a word of encouragement to all who listen, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

         I think that sometimes the writings of the Bible can feel very far from our modern experience.  And yet here in this psalm, we find reflections of our own lives.  This psalm is all about maintaining a faithful hope in the Lord.  It is all about keeping our eyes focused on God, when the world around us is trying to drag us down.  We all know good people who have experienced suffering and hardship.  This is about keeping your head up in the midst of trouble, and trusting that God will see you through.  Though we are people of faith, there are no guarantees that our lives will be without suffering.  This Psalm is for those who suffer, and encourages them to look to the Lord for their help and salvation.

         Sometimes the language of the Bible can be a barrier for us, so I want to read this Psalm again, this time from The Message.  Listen again for the word of the Lord to you this day . . .

Light, space, zest— that's God

  So, with God on my side I'm fearless,
      afraid of no one and nothing.

 2 When vandal hordes ride down
      ready to eat me alive,
   Those bullies and toughs
      fall flat on their faces.

 3 When besieged,
      I'm calm as a baby.
   When all hell breaks loose,
      I'm collected and cool.

 4 I'm asking God for one thing,
      only one thing:
   To live with God in God’s house
      my whole life long.
   I'll contemplate God’s beauty;
      I'll study at God’s feet.

 5 That's the only quiet, secure place
      in a noisy world,
   The perfect getaway,
      far from the buzz of traffic.

 6 God holds me head and shoulders
      above all who try to pull me down.
   I'm headed for God’s place to offer anthems
      that will raise the roof!
   Already I'm singing God-songs;
      I'm making music to God.

 7-9 Listen, God, I'm calling at the top of my lungs:
      "Be good to me! Answer me!"
   When my heart whispered, "Seek God,"
      my whole being replied,
   "I'm seeking God!"
      Don't hide from me now!

 9-10 You've always been right there for me;
      don't turn your back on me now.
   Don't throw me out, don't abandon me;
      you've always kept the door open.
   My father and mother walked out and left me,
      but God took me in.

 11-12 Point me down your highway, God;
      direct me along a well-lighted street;
      show my enemies whose side you're on.
   Don't throw me to the dogs,
      those liars who are out to get me,
      filling the air with their threats.

 13-14 I'm sure now I'll see God's goodness
      in the exuberant earth.
   Stay with God!
      Take heart. Don't quit.
   I'll say it again:
      Stay with God.

         Eugene Peterson’s version has some interesting phrasing.  How wonderful is the idea of calling to God at the top of our lungs!  When we are in moments of real terror, this captures the way our hearts feel.  I also love the language that says “You’ve always been there for me; don’t turn your back on me now.”  I couldn’t tell you how often I have said something just like that.

         What is so wonderful about Psalm 27 is that it really speaks to those of us who live in a culture of anxiety.  All around us the world tells us to worry.  We need to lock our doors at night, in case someone might break in to get us.  We need to carry our purses a certain way, in case someone wants to steal them.  We need to park under a light in the parking lot, so we are not vulnerable to an attacker.  We need to keep our eyes open for someone with a gun, who might get angry and start shooting in a crowd.  We are told to watch out for someone who looks or acts funny, maybe they are a terrorist.  And we take our shoes off and have our bodies scanned at the airport, because maybe somebody there has a bomb.  We live in a world of anxiety and fear, and it is all too easy to get wrapped up in the stress of our culture. 

         In this midst of this world, it is important to be reminded that the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is fear.  More specifically, it is anxiety.  All of us are anxious about two things, our time and our space.  We are afraid that someone else is going to take up our space or take up our time.  Think about how you feel when someone cuts you off on the highway or cuts in front of you in line.  That immediate anger response is rooted in anxiety about the fact that this person did not recognize your time or space.  This person did not recognize you as a person.

         As people of faith, we trust that God will take care of us, and this helps control our anxiety.  But, anxiety frequently leads to unfaith, and we subconsciously worry that perhaps God will not take care of us and we need to take care of ourselves.  When this happens, we begin to tailgate the person who cut us off on the highway or we start an argument with the person who cut in front of us in line.  When this happens, we sin, because we let our anxiety get the best of us.

         Psalm 27 is all about trusting God in the midst of anxiety.  It is about being aware of what threatens us, and instead of responding out of a place of fear, to respond out of a place of trust.  Yes, the psalmist writes, the world is out to get me.  And yet, I will trust in the Lord to take care of me.  When we are in our down and out moments, and it feels as if the whole world is telling lies about us, the psalmist encourages us to trust in God; for trusting in God is the root of faith.  The psalmist reminds us that the goodness of God is greater than life’s trials. 

         As people of faith, we are called to wait for the Lord.  When the world tells us to get anxious, get worried, and to hurry up and grab what’s ours; the Psalmist tells us to be patient, to wait, for God will make sure we have what is ours.  God will make sure to take care of us. 

         It’s good to note that waiting for God is not about being passive; rather it is about activity.  We can’t wait for God by staying at home every week and doing our own thing.  Instead, we wait for God by nurturing our relationship with God, and we nurture that relationship through the discipline of worship.  It is by coming to church every week and singing the hymns and saying the prayers that we foster a sense of God’s presence in our lives.  When we make the commitment to meet God here, than we are better able to see God in the other places of our lives as well.  By gathering regularly at the communion table, we nurture our faith and strengthen our trust in God.  If God provides for us through God’s body and blood, surely God will provide for us in other ways as well.

         And so today, the Psalmist encourages us to trust the Lord in the midst of our real lives; lives that are broken and messy, lives that are full of hardship and trial.  Though even our parents might abandon us, God promises to be with us.  And so, in the midst of suffering, we are encouraged to wait for the Lord, for God alone will lift us up. 

         I want to close by reading the Psalm again, this time from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.  Again, listen for the word of the Lord to you this day . . .

1You, LORD, are the light

 that keeps me safe.

I am not afraid of anyone.

 You protect me,

   and I have no fears.


2Brutal people may attack

  and try to kill me,

   but they will stumble.

   Fierce enemies may attack,

   but they will fall.


3Armies may surround me,

   but I won't be afraid;

   war may break out,

   but I will trust you.


 4I ask only one thing, LORD:

   Let me live in your house

   every day of my life

   to see how wonderful you are

   and to pray in your temple.


5In times of trouble,

   you will protect me.

   You will hide me in your tent

   and keep me safe

   on top of a mighty rock.

6You will let me defeat

   all of my enemies.

   Then I will celebrate,

   as I enter your tent

   with animal sacrifices

   and songs of praise.


  7Please listen when I pray!

   Have pity. Answer my prayer.

    8My heart tells me to pray.

   I am eager to see your face,

    9so don't hide from me.

  I am your servant,

   and you have helped me.

   Don't turn from me in anger.

   You alone keep me safe.

   Don't reject or desert me.

    10Even if my father and mother

   should desert me,

   you will take care of me.


  11Teach me to follow, LORD,

   and lead me on the right path

   because of my enemies.

    12Don't let them do to me

   what they want.

   People tell lies about me

   and make terrible threats,

    13but I know I will live

   to see how kind you are.

   14Trust the LORD!

   Be brave and strong

   and trust the LORD.


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