Lectionary: Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11
Psalm 138 has been put to music on numerous occasions and is a well known part of the liturgy of all three tribes of Christianity as well as Judaism. It is an expression of some of life’s realities.
I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
2 I will bow down toward your holy temple
and will praise your name
for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
that it surpasses your fame.
3 When I called, you answered me;
you greatly emboldened me.
4 May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
when they hear what you have decreed.
5 May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
for the glory of the Lord is great.
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands. (NIV)
My sore ribs are still preventing me from taking unnecessary car rides on those snowy, pot-holed roads so one day last week I was on my own at home while Cheryl went out to pick up some groceries. I wandered gingerly down into our family room and noticed my lonely guitar in the corner so went over to see if it was in tune. It wasn’t. After I tuned it up I searched my mind for something to play and sing. Empty house = loud personal concert.
I’ve never been a good singer but my recent flu attack added even more voice challenges and they conspired to produce some unwelcome vocal gyrations as I sang to the empty room. After whatever the first song was came another unmemorable one. Then I sat, mind blank, waiting for another musical inspiration to seep into it.
Amazing Grace. Good old standby for pretty much everybody who has ever had to sit in or be near a church.
I sang the first verse for my imaginary audience of none. Then … blank. Why can’t I remember another verse of that stupid song? Then it came:
‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Twas grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.’
My eyes brimmed and my unsteady voice choked as the reality of the verse filled me up. These were no longer just theoretical words in another song that Christians sing … now they were experiential, full and precious. They were words from my life. I wanted desperately for our children and their children and future children’s children to know how full and true those words were. I wanted to give them this piece of my heart that was shouting God’s faithfulness and love. I wanted you, my friends to know as well.
The Psalmist was a real person and realized, as wise people do, that he could not manipulate every circumstance of life. Illness, loss, fear, death – unfairnesses that are nothing new to the human experience. We can work hard, eat well, think positively and worship God but still have devastating events fall into our lives.
This has been a theme on my mind for awhile now: God in and through trouble. God’s goodness ultimately emerges from the fog and I simply want you to know it and be sustained by it when you need to be. Some classic responses to God are contained in here:
‘I will praise you with all my heart’;
‘When I called you answered me’;
‘Though the Lord is exalted he looks kindly on the lowly’;
‘Your love Oh Lord, endures forever.’
‘The Lord will vindicate me; your love, Lord, endures forever—’
Repeat verse seven until it is embedded into your mind and soul, then carry it with you this week.
[Lord] though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.