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Leader: Rev. David Thomas
Scripture: Psalm 27
Date: Aug 21st, 2016
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I’ve spoken about trust issues here before.  Many of us have trust issues.  We find it hard to trust – usually because our trust has been broken.  We don’t even trust free stuff, very often.  This morning we’re looking at a Psalm of confidence.  A Psalm of trust in God.  Let us look at Psalm 27 this morning and see what God has to say to our hearts as we seek His face.

Many people name these confidence Psalms as their favourite.  Psalms that confidently speak about who God is.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  The Lord is your guard and your shade.  The Lord is my strength and my song.  What beautiful imagery.  They speak about what the Lord does.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble.  He will set me high on a rock.  They don’t speak of the dire situation that faces the psalmist because they apply to any situation in life… or death.  It’s interesting that the two Psalms which Christ prays from the cross are a Psalm of lament – “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” and a Psalm of confidence – “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Psalms of confidence speak to something fundamental about what it means to follow Christ.  They say something fundamental about the nature of faith.  About what it means to believe.  To believe in God, to follow Christ, is to trust.  Following Christ is not just about merely assenting to a set of propositions, though we assent to a set of propositions.  We believe that Christ is the Son of God, we believe that Christ died and rose again and is seated at the right hand of the Father from whence he will come again.  We believe in the Holy Spirit’s presence and guidance.  We believe all those things and they don’t offend our intellects and we never encourage one another to check our intellects at the door when we are led to make a decision to say yes to Christ. 
However, this is no dry intellectual exercise that we are engaged in friends.  It’s not a question of mere belief.  Even the demons believe and shudder right?  It’s a question of “Whom do we trust?”  On what do we base our lives?  To what do we commit ourselves?  What are we committed to?

This is how the song starts.  With the answer.  The LORD.  YAHWEH.  The one who has made himself known as a deliverer.  The LORD is my light and my salvation.  The light.  The one who drives away darkness.  The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.  By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.   The LORD is my salvation.  We need to be careful about making ourselves understood when we talk salvation.  Too often I fear we’ve relegated the idea of salvation to the afterlife.  There is very much a “this life” aspect to salvation.  There is an immediacy to the salvation found in Christ.  The root word is translated help, deliverance, save.  One writer puts it like this – “It covers a wide range of meanings, indicating deliverance, liberation from any kind of restraint or oppression, physical, mental or spiritual.  It points to a life of wholeness and freedom under God, a life in which people have the space to be what God intended them to be.”  Who does God intend us to be?  His beloved children bearing his image and being formed into that image through the life and death and resurrection of his son in the power of his Holy Spirit. 
This is salvation.

Now you may be sitting there saying “This is all very good and true David but you’re not telling us anything we don’t already know or haven’t heard thousands of times.”  Why are we saying all this this morning?  Because we need to be reminded.  Because circumstances arise in our lives that make these truths hard to see sometimes.  We remind one another because confessions of confidence like this are not meant to be done solely on our own.  This is not some sort of self-affirmation project in which we are engaged.  We come together to be reminded that the LORD is our light and salvation and guard and shade and strength and song and to ask – “Of whom shall I be afraid?” in confidence like we’re throwing down a challenge because the answer to this question is nothing and no one. 

We need to be reminded because we will be found by days of trouble.  The first half of this Psalm (vv 1-6) is a profession of confidence in God.  The second half (vv 7-14) is a prayer that contains a lot of lament.  Some people have thought that Psalm 27 was a mash-up of two separate Psalms.  It needn’t be, however.  The Psalm is a recognition that days of trouble find us.  That we don’t always go from strength to strength.  The Psalmist describes these days as evildoers assailing him to devour his flesh, as an army encamping against him and war rising up against him.  The Psalm is a confident assertion that the singer has nothing to fear because as someone would later put it, there is nothing that will separate him from God’s love – not life nor death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation. 

Do you need to hear those words?  I need to hear those words – often and meaningfully.  What might it mean for us to have that kind of confident trust?  The kind that enables us to truthfully say “Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.”

How could we get to such a place?  What would be the one thing needful?  I’m glad you asked “What is that one thing?”  V4 – “One thing I asked of the LORD that I will seek after…”  What a great thing to ask of God.  Teach me to worship.  Give me eyes to see your beauty.  Give me the heart to yearn for you, to inquire of you, to ask for your guidance.  “One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” 

To live in the house of the Lord.  The temple was where the presence of the Lord resided for the ancient Israelite.  I don’t think the Psalmist is taking such a circumscribed view of worship though.  He longs to be in God’s presence every day of his life.  Worship of God is key.  We worship together for a reason.  We worship together because we’re not meant to worship solely on our own.  We worship together so we can hear one another offer shouts of joy, and sing and make melody to the Lord.  We worship together to praise, to give thanks to remember.  Nadia Holz-Webber is a Lutheran pastor in Denver who I’ve quoted before.  She was talking recently about the importance of corporate worship to her congregation:

    We’re not really a social justice church. It just happens that most of the people who come are involved in social justice. Like, I think my congregation staffs half the non-profits in Denver. So they’re holding the world’s most broken realities together with Scotch Tape during the week, you know? Women who experience abuse and homeless teenagers and pregnant teenagers and people who have experienced sexual assault, you know, they’re involved in that part of reality. And when they come to church, they don’t need a preacher saying, we need to fix the world, and you need to do more social justice. When they come to church, they need a place where they can experience… confession and absolution—where they can confess the ways in which they can’t manage to fix everything and they can’t live up to their own values and the ways they’ve failed and hear that sort of ringing word of forgiveness and absolution. They need to hear the Gospel and receive the Eucharist so they can go out there and do it again the next day.

Of course following Christ and being formed in the image of Christ is a process by which we’re coming ever more to know what it means to present our entire lives, our entire selves in worship to God.  To see the beauty of the LORD everywhere, even in the most unlikely places.  Not just seeing the beauty of God in our public worship spaces, though we see it there too.  What does it mean to see God’s beauty if not to see God’s love?  To see a sparrow and have it remind us of God’s provision and care even for the tiny sparrow.  To hear a song that touches us deeply – to sing or play such a song.  To see someone comfort the sorrowing.  I will never forget one of my first experiences of being in a nursing home room after a man died at Sunnybrook Veteran’s and seeing a nurse help his grieving wife to a chair  because she was too overcome to stand and seeing that nurse put her arm around the woman and thinking that this is surely of God.  May God give us eyes to see his beauty expressed in his love all around us every day.  May he give us the wisdom to ask for guidance and the courage to follow where he would lead us.

Why should we be doing this?  It will lead to what the Psalmist describes in v 5.  We will feel like we’re at home.  “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble, he will conceal me under the cover of his tent, he will set me high on a rock.”  Have you known these things?  If you haven’t ask him and you will.  When you’re asking of the Lord and seeking after living in his house and gazing on his beauty and inquiring of him, you’ll know these things.  These words are true.

It might not happen quickly.  It’s a lifetime process.  It’s something we need to persevere in, to hold fast to.  It’s not for the faint of heart, to listen to our hearts when they’re saying “Come, seek his face!” and turning to God and saying yes and praying “Your face, Lord, do I seek.  Do not hide your face from me.”

Because these promises can be hard to see.  Circumstances can make them hard to see.  Things don’t turn out the way we thought they would.  We lose things.  We suffer loss.  I don’t need to paint the picture for you. 

And yet there’s something inside us that says “Seek his face.”  We need to listen to that heart voice.  It’s how God created us.  God has created us in his image.  God created us to bear his image.  It’s been marred.  Christ came to bring us back.  Seek his face.  I ask “How is it going with your seeking of God’s face?”  Good? Bad?  You have no idea.  Great, it’s excellent and God’s changing you in ways you never imagined?  You’re seeing things in ways you never thought possible?  Or maybe it’s terrible and you feel you’re seeking the wrong things – because we’re going to be seeking something.  If you ever want to talk about any of that I’d love to talk about those things.  So would Pastor Abby.  Seeking God’s face should be foundational for us. 

We believe this to be true.  I know we can get distracted.  We start to listen to other voices.  The liar’s voice.  The accuser’s voice.  “Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path.  Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me, and they are breathing out violence.”  In ancient Israel they didn’t have trials with evidence and so on.  A false witness, a liar, could mean bad news.  Who is our enemy?  The liar.  The accuser.  The voices that say “Your worth as a human is in what you earn/produce/consume.”  The voices that say “What makes you think you’re worthy of this kind of love?”  The voices that say “You don’t need God and in fact that’s only for people who are weak or deluded or stupid.”  These voices swirl around us all the time.  Take the time to listen to that heart voice that says “Seek his face.”  That is where salvation and deliverance and healing and life are to be found.

The psalm ends with another great statement of faith in v 13.  “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  We don’t follow Christ simply to hedge our bets for when we die.  We follow Christ because we believe it’s the way to see God’s goodness in the land of the living – right here.  No matter our circumstances.  It may take a while to see.  It doesn’t make the promise any less true.

It may take a while to see.  So.   Wait on the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage.  Wait for the Lord.  He’s near.  He’s promised never to leave us or forsake us.  Thousands of years later we repeat the words – The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?  May the calm confidence of the psalmist be ours friends.  May God grant that this be true for us all.