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What will your Psalm look like?

My message titles never end up being what they start out as. I began a week ago thinking about God’s protection and our sense of privilege.  We studied, to some degree, Psalm 91.  This is a call for God’s protection from our enemies.

The following is the prose I wrote to prepare for Sunday. (although delivery is somewhat different)

I love the pictures the psalms paint for us. Sometimes they are pastoral and peaceful; sometimes they drum up images of enemies and great battles. Great writing often brings us into these kinds of contradictions. The psalmist do not let us down. There are prayers lifted up to God for protection that often call into play the help of the Messengers and the prophets. There are prayers of lament that leave us wondering why we even bother or care. Then there are great psalms of thanksgiving, of God’s grace, and never-ending love.
Psalm 91 does not let us down. All that I have mentioned comes into play. The psalmist calls out to God, knowing that God is there to protect and care; to help defeat the enemy. Then, at the end God speaks of the loyalty and honor that is given to those who as it says, “call on me”.
I have a problem with much of this. For those who believe in an interventionist being who steps in front of the freight train for us, saving each one for themselves, you may find a true connection with the psalmist. I on the other hand, find this a difficult step to take.
If we call on the angels to save us, the messengers, then who is to say that the enemy is not calling on the same God for their end ? There is an idea that we deserve this life, this country, this land. There are thoughts that because we are privileged, deserving, and even entitled, that we have all of God’s protection. We are the righteous ones. We are right with God. If something bad happens then we are separated from God through our sins as if God is taking sides and today we might not be on the right side; the correct side.
If we live this kind of faith it can put into question how our faith relates to others in our lives. From the beginning of history wars have been fought over who is more right [righteous] than another. The winner must have an in with God.

The early church pitted Roman Catholics against Reformers as if one was more right than the other. That certain rites and rituals would gain you more access to the Holy than others; Protestants against Jews, Christian believers against Muslims, and on and on it goes. Wars, pain, suffering, bombing, murder, separation continue all because of righteousness with God. Politics and power, religion and identity all call on who is more right. Even on our own soil there continues conversations about immigrant Canadians like ourselves, new-comers to this country, and the Indigenous Peoples who lived here long before any of us arrived. Who is right and who is wrong?

The psalmist points to protection from our enemies but the question that arises for me is, “Who is my enemy?” If the hand of God is truly on this chess-board we call life, then why does there need to be a winner and a loser? Can’t there be a draw? Why is there needless suffering and death if God is in control?

Would it be better to ask, “Who is my neighbor?” The protection the psalmist seeks and the protection we all crave is not just for the chosen few but for ALL.

lovethyneighbor

The psalmist wrote and shared what was known and felt at the time; in the context of living in war zones with enemies all around. I would dare to say many of us do not live or have never lived in that kind of fear. I would dare to say that our thankful hearts pray more for our neighbors and not against those who would do us harm.
It’s like the two football teams praying before the game – each for a win. Better to pray for no injuries than a conference title.
If we were writing a psalm today perhaps the words would be poetic and beautiful just as Psalm 91 begins but then perhaps, we would pray for the Holy Spirit to help us open our hearts and minds to new insights; new thoughts about where faith can lead.
Do you feel God’s presence in your life today? Do you call out to God for protection from your enemies? OR do you pray that God’s love that dwells within you will be made known to the world – to all your neighbors?
My prayer is that each of us can be open to the Spirit, to the unconditional love of God – a God that offers such love FOR ALL. We can be lifted up on “eagle’s wings” and soar high above the clouds. We can lie deep in the valleys and find rest. May our openness to God’s love be with us all, always.

What will you psalm look like today?

 

*meme found on pintrest.com

 

 

 

Protection, comfort, and love Psalm 40

Sermon given on Sunday, June 25th, 2017

DMS Pastoral Charge

 

                                                 Protection, Comfort, and Love

Through the Psalms we’ve looked at what brings us comfort. We’ve looked into the beauty of the psalms and how we can relate to the story of our lives.
Through the Psalms we understand that God knows our every need – even before we are aware we have needs. In Psalm 40 we hear words, pleas and cries, for saving and protection. There’s immediacy in the end that says, “Please hurry.” Sometimes we feel like we’re at the end of our rope or even that we’ve run out of rope.
God does not make demands on our lives – there is no need for sacrifice or for rituals. However, today we share at the Table; we break bread, drink of the cup, and we remember.

We remember grace; a gift that is given to all who come.
Grace, our gifts received, the gift of our lives. We know that we can be a reflection of the love God has for each one of us. We know that we offer others opportunities to see that reflection.

“11 Please, Eternal One, don’t hold back your kind ways from me.
I need your strong love and truth”
I need your strong love and truth. This is a pleading, a true desire from the psalmist’s heart.

The psalmist wrote, “Now I have a new song to sing—
A song of praise to the One who saved me.”
Sometimes we need a new song to sing. Sometimes our hearts yearn for the saving help we receive from others who work their ministry gifts; gifts of help, prayer, support, comfort, in so many ways.

We know that Isaiah. 40:31 states, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength”. There was a time that I sang this familiar verse in the form of a hymn. {sing} The psalmists, as well as the prophets seem to wait a lot. They wait for protection, for strength, and for love. They wait to be lifted up, covered under wings, and to find rest.

What are we waiting for?

I remember a time of waiting. My decision to move ahead through discernment into formalized ministry meant that I had to wait. There was paper-work, interviews, new ministry site, education process, courses to take, more paper-work, interviews, another ministry site (where I currently serve) and then more paper-work. Lots and lots of waiting took place over 4 or so years. I waited. Strength was renewed.

What are we/you waiting for?

Are we patient as we watch and wait today? We open our hearts; we open our lives to God. Deep down we need this love and yes, even this protection.

What do we need? Do we come today confessing our short-comings and our separation from the God of love? Perhaps we come today seeking relationships not only with each other but with God through the work of the Spirit.
Throughout the Psalms I sense a true desire for each writer to make a connection, a relationship, with someone more, something more, than just an individual’s need for protection, comfort, and love.
Are we much different? We too seek these things. We reach out to God through our prayers, our actions, and our lives. Quiet prayer time can help us focus on what is truly needed in our lives. I believe God already knows our needs. Our cries for help, protection, and love help us define what is truly needed.

 

What was the Psalm you wrote this week? Did the narrative ocommunion bread and winef your life, the story of your life, include a relationship with God?

We meet each week to celebrate God’s presence in our lives; to participate in worship through prayer and song. We break bread, drink the wine, and we build community.
The psalms help us connect on both spiritual and human levels. We read of the psalmists’ needs, desires, fears, and sorrow. We read of the psalmists’ joy in finding gratitude. This is also about each one of us. Our human responses and requirements are not much different from those of the Hebrew people years before Christ.

As we share at the table today we pray that in sharing in this ritual remembering, in sharing at this feast, we are renewed and inspired (filled with the Spirit) as one with Christ, as one with God. We find healing and connection at the Table. Our relationship with the Creator is renewed and so can our relationships with each other.

Through your healing and/or your relationships will you write a new song or psalm this week? Will you recall your prayers and our communion time together?
I encourage each of us to find ways this week to share our story, our psalm with others. Perhaps someone will find a new connection with God because of your sharing.
May our sharing be a blessing to one another and to the communities we serve. Amen.

 

The 23rd Psalm – Sabbath after Sunday worship

I rest, reflect, and re-connect on Mondays, my Sabbath time.  Below is what I shared during Sunday’s worship, July 11, 2017.

The Narrative – The Story

I invite you, if you are comfortable, to close your eyes.  Picture yourself in a place that brings you comfort.  Feel that comforting love wrapped around you.  Can you sense/feel love’s presence?

Perhaps you are at a family dinner.  There’s chatter all around you.  It’s noisy and yet, you feel at peace.

Maybe you are sitting on the dock.  Still waters mirror the shoreline.  Geese fly over-head announcing their arrival.  A lone loon calls from around the next cove.  You feel safe, loved, and at peace.

As a child you rush home, possibly late for dinner.  The kitchen smells like heaven.  You belong; you are loved.

Now take a deep breath.  Breathe in all that your senses can handle.  take a moment to realize that many times in your life and in the lives of those around you, you have felt this way.

Love is offering comfort.  Love offers peace.  Jesus said, “Come.”

Open your eyes.  Do you see the smiles around you?  See that God is near.  The Good Shepherd is here.


Christ the Good Shepherd*

As we think back to the 23rd Psalm we ask, “Where does the psalmist find comfort?”

  • the psalm is a prayer, engaging God
  • there are pastoral images of still water, green grass, of being fed, protected, and cared for
  • picturing the house of the Lord forever

Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.”

John 10:11 He also said, “I am the good shepherd.”

These are words of comfort.

Where do we find comfort today?

  • family, friends
  • time together in fellowship and in worship
  • warm blankets and wrapped in prayer shawls
  • in our “special” places
  • In our memories

May we all find comfort in this psalm and in God’s love that surrounds us, always.


*from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/349099408587852600/