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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising, Michigan

Gods Instruction For Times Such As These - 09/26/2021

The Psalm that is appointed for today is an excellent example of how there is always more to learn about these poetic, prayerful and ancient songs to God. For a long time, it was thought that Psalm 19 was a mash up of three different songs.

But one thing we can say and know about God and these sacred texts, even 3,000 years after we think this Psalm was written, even after all of time so far since God created the heavens and the earth … one thing we can say and know is that we will continue to learn more, connect more and experience a-ha moments in our lives with these texts, in our lives with God.

These days, many scholars say the three parts do go together – the first about God the Creator, the second about God the Lawgiver and the third about us, God’s servants who receive life from that Creation and Law.

Psalm 19 can be understood as an instruction psalm … instruction for us life who worship the one-true God and care for and respect the neighbor in radical ways … like in the way Jesus teaches us today when the disciples see and take offense at people they saw as outsiders speaking the name of Jesus to cast out demons. Jesus responds “… no one who does a deed in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9: 39-40)

So, before I go much further, let’s hear Psalm 19 in its entirety.

ELW Psalm 19

1The heavens declare the glo- | ry of God,

and the sky proclaims its | maker’s handiwork.

2One day tells its tale | to another,

and one night imparts knowledge | to another.

3Although they have no | words or language,

and their voices | are not heard,

4their sound has gone out into all lands, and their message to the ends | of the world,

where God has pitched a tent | for the sun.

5It comes forth like a bridegroom out | of (their) chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to | run its course.

6It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens and runs about to the end of | it again;

nothing is hidden from its | burning heat.

7The teaching of the Lord is perfect and re- | vives the soul;

the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom | to the simple.

8The statutes of the Lord are just and re- | joice the heart;

the commandment of the Lord is clear and gives light | to the eyes.

9The fear of the Lord is clean and en- | dures forever;

the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous | altogether.

10More to be desired are they than gold, more than | much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey | in the comb.

11By them also is your ser- | vant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is | great reward.

12Who can detect one’s | own offenses?

Cleanse me from my | secret faults.

13Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion | over me;

then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a | great offense.

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable | in your sight,

O Lord, my strength and | my redeemer. (Copyright © 2021 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved.)

 

I hear this psalm this week as an instruction text God means for our ears, the assembly of Eden right here and now, today. It contains expressions of God’s truth and promise that we can take with us into the change ahead … change as I step away from my role as pastor here; change as this body of Christ begins the holy work of discerning how God is working through you.

The first part of the Psalm is about God the Creator. The psalm reminds us of God’s omnipotent nature – God is in everything … all that we can see and the vastness of what we cannot see. God is in all time ... all the time that came before us, the time of now that envelops us like the air we breathe, and all time to come. Everything exists because God spoke it into life. And even though we cannot hear this God speech like we can hear human speech, our faith remembers … God’s “sound has gone out into all lands … (God’s) message to the ends of the earth where God has pitched a tent for the sun.” (Ps 19.4)

This first beautiful setting of God’s joyful, steadfast presence in Creation is good instruction for us as we deal with change … the change that we know is coming and the change we experience every morning when we greet the sun coming out of its chamber like a glorious bridegroom on their wedding day.

When we step back and consider God in this timeless way, stretching faithfully from beginning to end, day to night, present in every molecule of Creation, I think it’s easier for us to remember and trust that what God is working through change is life for us.

The second part of the Psalm is instruction that can boost our confidence and give us structure to build and grow upon, even when were not quite sure of how God is leading us. It is sung to God the Lawgiver.

One of the reasons we thought Psalm 19 was a mash up for so long was because the style of the language changes here. You can see it even in the English translation. It moves from this flowing narrative of “The heavens declare the glory of the God and the sky proclaims it’s maker’s handiwork,” (19.1) to this very structured pattern. In six separate ways we are instructed that God’s Law is sure and by keeping that law we benefit. We come away with something we can depend on even on our worst days, even when the path ahead is cloudy. The teaching, the testimony, the statutes, the commandment, the fear and the judgements of God are perfect, sure, just, clear and true. And through them we have life and promise that God is conspiring for our great good. Through this life-giving Law our souls are revived, we gain wisdom, our hearts rejoice, we gain clarity of sight.

Eventually, each of us discovers this Law is treasure beyond anything else we can imagine … more valuable than money, status and power, more praiseworthy than flags and politicians, more powerful than even sin and death. Ultimately, the psalmist reminds us, God’s Law is “more to be desired than gold,” than a whole lot of fine gold even, and that is sweeter than honey, than even honey in the comb.

Friends, I suggest this is exactly the instruction we need today. Because what God the Creator, God the Lawgiver promises, is that while we all may be stepping into territory unknown (which truthfully, we do each and every day), while we might be going into this time of change unsure, nervous, reluctantly, even doubting God’s providence, the instruction reminds us that God has been present and active in creation since the beginning of time. That God’s law is reward for us. And we have no reason to believe that will change.

God has been preparing all of you, others no one even knows about yet, and a pastoral leader for what is to come next in the ministry and outreach of this faith community. In these last few weeks, many of you have very graciously and lovingly said things like that to me about my ministry in the days, weeks and years to come. It is no different for any of you. Priesthood of All Believers, right? All of us who help put faces, hands and feet, and breath of life into Christ’s Church today.

Which brings us to the final part of Psalm 19, the part about us, God’s servants who receive life from God’s Creation and Law.

It is the part of the psalm where we might find needed relief and more confidence, I think. Because, let’s face it, God, in all God’s brightness and enormity and power working through us can be intimidating – make us question our worthiness. The psalmist says it quite clearly. “Who can detect one’s own offenses?” How can we understand and live up to the burden of God’s law perfectly? We can’t. The psalmist knows this, as does our God who knows everything about everything.

 So, our instruction psalm also gives us words to pray as we dare to live as enlightened servants’, eyes and hearts wide open in this God-given Creation as we dare even to understand and uphold God’s Law as well as we can. A prayer that hopefully reminds us of God’s eternal and sure presence throughout our lives, throughout the lives of our faith communities, throughout all of time. A prayer that reminds us also that in this God – and for us, particularly in the Risen Christ – we are freed to courageously love and serve this world in the grace and power of a God who can “pitch a tent for the sun.”

And so, we pray, as we head into all the changes tomorrow brings,

Lord, “cleanse me from my secret faults. Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over me; then shall I be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”

Amen.

Pastor Ann Gonyea

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Eden Evangelical Lutheran Church ~ Munising Michigan ~ An ELCA, Northern Great Lakes Synod Congregation
P.O. Box 360 ~ 1150 West M-28 ~ Munising, MI 49862 ~ 1-906-387-2520 ~ contact@edenonthebay.org

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