Tuesday, November 22, 2011

my sermon from the service tonight: psalm 34

Apparently I preached for 15 minutes instead of 5. Oops.


This psalm, psalm 34, is attributed to David and we have an interesting little note at the top, just before verse one. The ESV says, "of David, when he changed his behavior before Abimalech, so that he drove him out, and he went away." Some Bible's say, "when he feigned madness", when he acted crazy. And then, if you glance at the text, we have a perfectly reasonable and seemingly ordinary psalm. One might say, and many have, that David played the fool to get out of a tight spot, but then was no fool at all because he turned directly to praise God for his salvation.
There are some great big pits that we can fall into at this time of year, from Thanksgiving onwards toward Christmas--almost like falling into the hands of Abimalech, our enemy, as we might say. They are the wells, or the enemies of pride, anxiety, gluttony, showyness, covetousness, and of other people's expectations. I tie these enemies around me, as I tie my apron, and wallow in them, gazing enviously at other people's Christmas lights, or trying to win the acclaim of the gathered throngs with my fancy perfectly formed dinner rolls.
But David feigns insanity to escape his enemies and runs to the praise of God. 
1I will bless the LORD at all times;
Says David
Not because the LORD needs to be blessed by me, he is blessed, he is perfectly content and happy in himself. I bless him because it is only in him that I can be content and happy. All the time.
   his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
Even as I fuss over my lists and worry about giving the right present to the right person and fret about my oven being too small to cook everything that I want to cook, my mouth will always be praising him. My mouth will always be saying lovely thing about God and how he has given me life and hope and food and warmth and family and a table and all the cookies downstairs. Continually, not just once in the morning and once in the evening--all the time.
2My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
   let the humble hear and be glad.
Because if I boast in myself, everything will shift into the shadows of poverty. If I boast in myself, if I organize everything so that everyone will know it was me that pulled this off, me that made Christmas beautiful, me that bought the turkey, me that cooked it to perfection, me that holds the family together, my inadequacy will shine forth like those cheep neon lights that you don't want to look at but you can't avoid. But if my boast is in the LORD, who made heaven and earth, whose foot is never moved, whose love is as big as the ocean, the beauty of that boast will sustain and strengthen those I love. The humble hear this boast and are glad.
3Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
   and let us exalt his name together!
My boast, my gladness, my joy spreads over the whole table as we magnify the Lord together. We magnify, we examine, we mull it over, we look at his Name from every angle, adding layer upon layer of praise.
How would I do that? You cry. My turkey is still frozen. My sister always says she'll host Thanksgiving but never does. How can I magnify the Lord and boast in him?
How? 
 4I sought the LORD, and he answered me
   and delivered me from all my fears.
I ASKED for help. I prayed, in helplessness I gave every worry and anxiety and trouble to him and he delivered me. You have to Ask. You have to cry out. He will hear your cry and come to help you.
What happens when you cry out to God?5Those who look to him are radiant,
   and their faces shall never be ashamed.
Radiant, full of light. When you cry out to God and he hears you he gives you himself, he fills you with himself, he gives you his light, he gives you enough. No longer a blinking ghastly neon sign, no, the Lord of light, who created light, lives in you, and lifts your face into the light, out of shame, into beauty.6This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
   and saved him out of all his troubles.
This poor man, that's you, you cried out and the Lord heard you and saved you. Have you cried out? Have you asked for help from the Lord?7 The angel of the LORD encamps
   around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Even an angel was sent to encamp to surround David in the time of his distress. Is God too busy to hear your cry? Is God not big enough? Is God too lofty to trouble himself over the troubles of your life? Test him out. Carry out an experiment.
 8Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Spend some time with him. Read some of his special book. Spend some time in quiet with the Lord. Taste, and see if the Lord isn't good. You can't taste something just by looking at it. It doesn't say, 'Look, see, the Lord is good." No, you have to make the commitment of a mouthful. If you put something in your mouth, you really commit to it. One of my children really knows this. He is really careful not ever to put anything into his mouth that he doesn't know. He hates thanksgiving and restaurants and almost every meal at our house. It can be scary to Taste. Back in the old old days of the Bible, when it was time for little six year olds to begin to learn the Torah, the Law of the Lord, they would get a little taste of honey on the tongue. The Law of the Lord is perfect, the teacher would say, it is sweeter than honey. Open your mouth. Don't sit at your table and say, well, I looked around at my life and I didn't see anything that God has done. No, test the Lord. Open your mouth to cry out to him for help, see if his help isn't sweeter than honey. Then you can see that the Lord is good.
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Happy, content, taken care of is the man and the woman who goes for safety into the presence of Jesus.
9Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
   for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
   but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Not because you perfectly acquire everything on your list. It might be that you don't get the perfect gift for everyone, that you don't have all three kinds of pie, that your bank account is slimmer than you would like it to be. The good thing you won't lack will be the Lord. If you seek him, you will find him, and he will give you enough of what you need and all of himself. You won't lack, your soul will not be in poverty, if you seek him. 
 11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the LORD. 
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, the kind of wisdom that teaches you to praise the Lord. The kind of wisdom that lightens you out of the difficult darkness of trying to please other people when really the most pleasing thing is to look to Jesus. The kind of wisdom that brings everyone together to magnify the Lord and rejoice in his Name and his great love. It is kind of crazy. At this time of year, the most mad insane thing might be to say, 'Come, taste and see that the Lord is good.' What's the worst that could happen? That God would hear the sound of your voice and come to be with you in the midst of your enemies? Take courage, play the fool!

1 comment:

The Underground Pewster said...

Thanks for posting this.