Sermon For Sunday, January 25, 2014

Psalm 27

“Looking For Light In The Land Of The Living”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Cleveland, Ohio ~ http://www.FranklinCircleChurch.org

Rev. Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

Twitter: @FranklinCircle; Blog: https://nearwestclevepastor.wordpress.com

To watch a video of this sermon go online to: http://youtu.be/uHsVdeU4Td8

Dedication of Everett and Wyatt

Dedication of Everett and Wyatt

How does one live “The Good Life?”  I’ve thought a lot about this these past few weeks as we have prepared for Everett & Wyatt’s dedication in worship today.  What advice and counsel would you give to a young person on how to live life to the fullest?  It shouldn’t be hard, for there are as many self-help books, magazines, and apps out there as there are ants on the face of the earth!  There are also enough television programs with commentators and gurus touting everything from financial security, to flab-reducing diets, to spiritual healing to keep one busy from now till forever.  And I suspect these will increase, and not decrease, in Everett and Wyatt’s lifetime.  God help them find the way to a truly “Good Life!”

And God will help them, for God already has!  The Creator of the universe has chosen to place them in the midst of a family and a community of friends who have already begun helping them to discern what a rich, full, abundant life will be like.  An incredible family, a great church, a vibrant city and region… all rich soil in which to raise children.  Of course, the scary part is that it is far more through our actions than our words that they will learn of the Good Life, but that would be enough for another sermon!

KidsClubhouse[Story about trying to “build” a Good Life as a child in my “clubhouse.”]

But there is also the treasury of wisdom and truth that can be found in scripture.  And like family and friends, the learnings that come from the biblical text are often found in the comparison and contrast of how folks lived or did not live a faithful, abundant, good life as it is the words that came from their lips or were printed on its pages.  But today we have an example of some words of wisdom that might prove helpful for Everett, Wyatt, David, Stacey, and in fact all of us to live by in that elusive quest for the Good Life.

Psalm 27 offers us a prayer from a deeply faithful individual or community that is as raw and real as it is lofty and life-giving.  The Psalms are known for that.  Their extravagant language, often putting life into extreme language and off-the-chart possibilities, are offered so that we might more fully and honestly understand and realize its truth, not so that we might take it literally.  To take the Psalms word-for-word literally would be to disrespect, even slander, God’s Holy Word.

Psalm 27 begins with a confident set of metaphors for God.  God is “light” and “salvation.”  God is “the stronghold of my life.”  These images help remind us to “be not afraid,” a constant reminder throughout scripture.  From God calling Moses and Joshua to lead the people of God into the promised land, to the prophet Isaiah’s gentle cooing of the exiled people, to the angels singing above the shepherds in the fields, to the empowering Spirit calling Peter and the Apostles to take Jesus’ message to the ends of the earth, scripture encourages us away from fear and into trust.

And isn’t fear such a primary emotion for all of us, but our children especially.  Psalm 27 sets the tone for a Good Life: one where we do not let our fears get the best of us.  Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “[The one] who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”  And then, just in case we didn’t know what to fear, the Psalmist gives us a few examples: “when evildoers assail me to devour my flesh… though an army encamp against me… though war rise up against me…”  (There’s some of that “over the top” language I was referring to!) But in every case, “my heart shall not fear.”

> Everett and Wyatt, let God be your light, your salvation, your stronghold, and you will conquer your fears.

Then the Psalmist does an amazing thing.  The writer offers language that truly acknowledges the purpose and focus of prayer.  In the first breath the Psalmist says, “One thing I asked of the Lord,” and in the very same breath says, “that I will seek after.”  Immediately this prayer realizes that appealing to the divine is essentially setting priorities for oneself.  This is followed by three of the most exquisite hopes any prayer could offer: “to live in (abide in) the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in God’s temple.”  Abide – Behold – Inquire.  THIS IS THE STUFF of a Good Life!

To abide in the house of God, as I have said many times before, is both about coming to church and about finding church wherever you thrive, whenever you flourish, in whatever place, circumstance, attitude you experience the indwelling of God within you!  >Everett and Wyatt, I hope that you find God’s divine presence in many places and people in your life, even the church!  Abide there!

To behold the beauty of God is to have eyes that see, but far more importantly, hearts that discern what is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, and commendable so that we can ponder and live these things.  To behold God’s beauty is to always have such an open attitude that sooner rather than later one can perceive the divine in almost any circumstance.  > Everett and Wyatt, I hope that you behold divine beauty more and more, so that someday you behold God in everyone and every thing.  Behold it!

To inquire in God’s temple is to always be a student, a lifelong learner.  To inquire is to develop a seekers heart, an explorer’s spirit, a questioning mind.  Far too many people have “seen it, done it, settled it.”  But the Good Life necessitates a hunger that may be satisfied for a while, but is never truly satiated.  > Everett and Wyatt, I hope that you will always seek, knock, wonder, and wander whether it be in God’s temple, or the world over, and may God be your study partner and your guide.  “Teach me your way, O God.”  Inquire always!

Then the Psalmist gives us example after example of this Good Life, and petitions for God to be a fair and just partner in this life-long endeavor.

Finally, the Psalm concludes with yet another exquisite piece of poetry.  If this Good Life is lived… and it shall be for Everett and Wyatt and all of us, I am confident in proclaiming… then “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  Not a far off, beyond this life prophecy, just a simple here and now word of confidence.  This is the land of the living, the place we are in right now.  The Good Life may also be reflected in what happens after our last breath, but it was meant to be begun in the here and now.  Trying our best to not be afraid… Abiding in God’s house… Beholding the beauty of God… Inquiring in God’s temple… Allows one to look for and find the light of God in the land of the living.

And just in case we aren’t sure about that, the Psalmist offers a final piece of advise for Everett and Wyatt, perhaps the hardest thing for two young boys – and the human race – to do.  Wait.  When fear overtakes you… When it is difficult to abide, to behold, to inquire… “Wait for God; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for God.”

Our light, our salvation, our stronghold has shared with us the way to live the Good Life!  It begins with overcoming fear.  It is sustained with lots of patient waiting.  Ultimately, however, the Good Life is activated through Abiding, Beholding, and Inquiring.  May you, Everett and Wyatt, and may all of us, live the Good Life.

Amen.

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