Lectionary: Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
Introduction: From Psalm 71 (NIV):
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I can’t speak for anyone else but as I look back on my life I realize that God has been with me. I don’t mean I have been a perfect saint (surprise!); quite the opposite. I don’t mean He intervened and manipulated the events of my life to make things easy and certainly He wasn’t always in the front of my thoughts or actions or intentions. But I now understand that He was there: watching, hovering, waiting. Unseen but lovingly present. Molding my character and personhood with a feather touch that I would only sense much later when I took the time to think and feel.
To be sure I was raised in a Christian home with the benefits of a loving, prayerful environment but I have known people from all sorts of backgrounds who later came to the same conclusion: Yes, X happened and Y happened but now I can see that God was quietly with me.
Okay, now let’s look at the entire reading:
O Lord, I have come to you for protection;
don’t let me be disgraced.
Save me and rescue me,
for you do what is right.
Turn your ear to listen to me,
and set me free.
Be my rock of safety
where I can always hide.
Give the order to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
My God, rescue me from the power of the wicked,
from the clutches of cruel oppressors.
O Lord, you alone are my hope.
I’ve trusted you, O Lord, from childhood.
Yes, you have been with me from birth;
from my mother’s womb you have cared for me.
No wonder I am always praising you! – (NIV)
The Psalmist is expressing some important life-lessons in these few verses. First, the Psalmist is someone who seems to have devoted their life to God but their experience is that there have been (and are currently) troubles in life that godliness did not immunize him (or her) from. In fact, it could be that godliness has attracted trouble in some ways.
For some, there can be a temptation to say that God was more present or people were more spiritual in the past, but that’s not what the Scripture’s promote and certainly not what the Psalmist is saying here.
The Psalmist is relying on the same God who has always been present. The writer instinctively turns again to God who is a ‘rock’ and ‘fortress’ and there is a deep, underlying confidence that God is strong and safe Today.
As the last lines come into focus the Psalmist moves from the tyranny of his present circumstances to a more reflective posture. As he pauses momentarily there is an experience of deeper truth: God has been with me, so I know He will be with me.
When we build a history in God, we find a place of rest for today and tomorrow.
Notice that the writer has a history of walking with God and leaning on Him in times of difficulty. My sense is that these were not all miraculous, head-turning experiences but more likely a ragged list of times when God was simply present.
Reflect on your history (long or short) – was God with you? How?
If you have trouble seeing those times, then begin by considering where He is right now. (This will mean setting aside some of the noise and busyness of your life for some quiet, open-mindedness.)
Perhaps you have heard the Serenity Prayer. This is the longer version – pray it thoughtfully, fully, personally.
Can we ask you to take an extra moment to pray for a family we know who is going through an especially difficult circumstance right now? Thank you.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
– Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)