First Lesson: Genesis 15: 1-12, 17-18
Responsive Reading: Psalm 27
Second Lesson: Philippians 3: 17 - 4:1
Gospel Lesson: Luke 13: 31-35
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid? –Psalm 27:1
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
King David was at the lowest point of his existence. David’s son had died. David had been rebuked by the prophet Nathan for his great sin. David had indeed committed adultery with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. David had sent Uriah to die on the front lines of battle. Now word had begun to leak out to the people of Israel. David was unsure of what the next step forward in his life could be. David dreaded facing the public because of all the shame over what had happened. David couldn’t help but think: What will they say? Can I ever recover from my mistakes? From where might grace and mercy come?
We might not be King David, but we can probably relate to his shame. You were maybe picked on as a child and dreaded going to school. Perhaps as an adult, you regret certain decisions that you made and how your life could have turned out differently. As you get into your elder years, you worry about the next steps as you gradually lose control of your independence. There’s truth in the saying that seeing and hearing one word of criticism consumes our mind way more than hearing ten words of praise.
Last Sunday night, I received a phone call from a friend of mine that I’ll call Ed. Ed would seem to have an excellent life. Ed’s a doctor making a fine living. Ed’s personable and in-shape. Ed was struggling with life. Ed was struggling with not having his dad around anymore to give him advice. Ed was struggling with always having to meet other’s expectations. Ed was struggling with always having to escape the judgments of others. Ed was struggling with what might be the next step for his soul. Ed was afraid to fail, even though he seemed to be having all sorts of success.
King David’s story, our story, and Ed’s story are all unique. The common theme within them all is trying to find a word of light in the midst of darkness.
Today we reflect on one of King David’s psalms that seek to engage us in the midst of this human struggle. The Psalm on which we reflect through takes a slightly different course than the 23rd Psalm leading us through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. The 27th Psalm instead deals with the day to day hardships of this life as faced by King David and my friend Ed.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid-Psalm 27:1
Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid? People ask how David can speak words of praise if his life is down in the dumps as we can imagine. The truth is that we often get praise wrong as people.
Occasionally, when watching football on TV, you will see a player get down on his knees and point his finger at the sky upon scoring a touchdown. We intrinsically think these are the times that we need to give God thanks. Let me suggest something that might seem counter-intuitive. The times that we need to give praise are when life is the darkest. Moments like David was probably going through as he was wondering how might he ever recover from the loss of a child and exposure of his sin.
The truth is that praise centers are not of what’s taking place at the present, so much as praise centers on “what will happen in the future?” The problem with how we often view the world is that we often only see crosses, failing to remember that a cross needs to come before one’s resurrection. Perhaps, David needed to fall before everyone around him before God could ultimately build him back up.
Many people in these days almost speak of sin as a swear word that we cannot mention. The thing is though that confession of sin is rather an admission of imperfection. Confession is what we need in life before moving forward.
My friend Ed who I was talking about earlier, he decided to attend church last Sunday for the first time since college nearly fifteen years ago. Ed needed the opportunity to stand before God and his neighbor to speak the harsh truth that my life isn’t together. Ed needed to proclaim his need for forgiveness and resurrection and see others stand alongside him while he does so.
When we admit the imperfection of the world and ourselves; it is only then that we may begin to point to the unconditional nature of God’s love poured out upon us.
Whereas David begins the Psalm with a word of praise for what is to come. The second part of the Psalm takes a different tact. David speaks of the realities of the present. David begins to speak to the depth of his struggle. David talks about being lost in the wilderness. David talks about relating to God, who seems distant to his concerns at the present moment of his life. David talks about the need to turn his whole life over to prayer. Prayer for David is his means of connecting to God as a means of trust no matter what additional trials that the future should bring.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight- Proverbs 3:5-6.
Brene Brown says it best for too many people “Religion has gone from a belief in faith and mystery to certainty. “I’m right, you’re wrong, shut up. That’s it.”
Brown’s critique serves a purpose to remind us that the greatest of spiritual truths is to be thankful that we are not God. God’s grace and mercy goes way beyond, what we would ever provide to those around us. We need to leave ourselves room to let God provide for us the answers that we might not necessarily provide for ourselves.
I almost don’t wonder if we often get what the Church is supposed to be wrong. We often go through life only viewing the words regarding extremes success or failure, Democrat or Republican, Saint or Sinner. When in reality it is the times when the world breaks us in nearly every single direction that the Gospel comes to us with a way forward. The truth for today is that our way forward in this life goes through a cross.
I was reading a fascinating reflection this week by a guy named Brian Zahnd. Brian Zanhd seemed to have all this Jesus stuff figured out. Zahnd was the pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in the country. Zahnd soon realized that something was missing from his life. Zanhd came to realize that his faith lacked a serious contemplation about the meaning of life itself. Too often when we pray, it’s all about us. I want to win the lottery. I want a new wife. I want a different job. I want some grand, spiritual purpose. The reality is that these are merely just our thoughts being confused with God’s will. When in reality what prayer should ultimately do is break down that the universe doesn’t run itself according to our reality.
What if we were to propose a new way of thinking about prayer as a faith community today? What if people above all else knew us whenever they see the cross that hangs outside our building as a sign of grace and humility in a broken world. Let Sychar be the place for people trying to be a sense of an embarrassing, uncomfortable, or even weird happening in their life. Let it be a place where people can dance without being embarrassed, where people can sing their hearts out with their non-angelic voices and a place that finds human connection in the midst of our imperfection. Let Sychar be the place that is always asking God for direction in prayer to respond to the world around us.
David’s Psalm closes with a final word of praise. A word that hopefully gives hope heading into David’s future. A word of conviction that the Lord will never leave him nor forsake him. David wanted to say now is not the time to give up, surely hope will soon come on the horizon. This word of praise reminds us that we don’t need to be anybody other than the person that Jesus sees to receive God’s grace and mercy.
Let me close with the words of Pastor Jane Strohl today. “In his description of Eden, Luther emphasized that it was a place where there was no fear, no fear of dying, no fear of other living beings, no fear of nature. It is a wonderful vision, for we live in a world fraught with fear. However, there is a bold word to throw in its face again and again and in God’s “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Then we wait.”
Perhaps today we can merely see a flicker of light. For some this flicker might burn brighter than for others. But rest assured this flicker is there. It is there this morning when we here the declaration that “we are indeed worthy” as our sins are forgiven with the preaching of the Gospel. The flicker is there as we soon partake in the foretaste of the feast to come. The flicker is present when a friend or a neighbor builds you up in your faith even when those around you might be tearing you down. This flicker will soon be a flash. The flash will blind you so that you may be able to see again. See a world filled with hope. See a world filled with Resurrection. Amen
 2 Samuel 2:18
 2 Samuel 12
 2 Samuel 11
 McLarty, Phillip. “Psalm 27:1-14”. Lectionary.org. 2007. Web. Feb.16.2016.
 Brown, Brene. “The Power of Vulernability”. TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. June 2010. Web. Feb.16.2016.
 Guyton, Morgan. “Water To Wine: the salvation of a megachurch pastor”. Patheos: Mercy Not Sacrifice. 5. Feb.2016. Web. Feb.16.2016.
 Guyton, Morgan. “Water To Wine: the salvation of a megachurch pastor”.
 Tanner, Beth. “Commentary on Psalm 27.” Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 21.Feb.2016.Web. Feb.16.2016.
 Strohl, Jane. “Psalm 27 Commentary”. Working Preacher. Luther Seminary. Saint Paul, MN. 28.Feb.2010. Web. Feb.16.2016.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.