Monday, 13 October 2014

Waiting patiently

The following is a transcript of the sermon I gave last Sunday (Trinity 17 for you Anglicans) at the 9.00 Holy Communion service. It is based on the first few verses of Psalm 40:

Psalm 40:1-3

1. I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
3. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

In one of Jesus' final addresses to his disciples in John 14 he says to them:

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me." (John 14:1)

The word "troubled" refers to water that is boiling and turbulent. The disciples knew something was up with all of Jesus' talk about being arrested etc and so their minds are in a whirl with a sense of impending disaster. Jesus' antidote to hearts that are restless and troubled is to ask them to trust in him. In the days that follow, he is saying, don't look at the circumstances, look at me and remember my words to you now. Put your faith in my promises and in me as a person.

In Psalm 40 David is speaking from the opposite end of an event that saw him submerged in what he refers to as "a miry pit" full of "slime and clay" (verse 2). Whether this is real or metaphorical we don't know, but in those circumstances he tells us that he "waited patiently for the Lord" who he says "inclined unto me and heard my calling". The effect was that God "brought (him) out of the miry pit" and "set (his) upon a rock". God then ordered "all his goings" (1984 Prayerbook) which is a quaint way of saying that He put him on a firm and safe path (see above "making my steps secure).

In addition, he adds that God also set "a new song in his mouth" - one of gratitude and thanksgiving, (verse 3) transforming him to such an extent that "many shall see it and fear and shall put their trust in the Lord (verse 4).

Trust is catching! I was visiting a member of the congregation the other day and they had had a wretched time with a plumber who had really messed up a job big time causing all kinds of problems and setbacks. They promptly sacked the man and having been recommended another plumber who was, they were told, completely trustworthy and efficient, they employed him and he did the job quickly, professionally and with the minimum fuss and mess. Everyone who meets the couple will tell you how happy and grateful they are, speaking of them in terms of looking like thy have had an enormous burden lifted off their backs. All who know them have seen the change! 

And that is just putting your trust in a plumber! But what about the challenges of life and the burden of guilt, sin and shame? What about a lack of self-worth and self-hatred and a feeling of being unloved and unwanted? What about the load we carry as we stare into the dark abyss of the future and what it will hold? When we hear of the relentless march of religious extremism and the equally relentless march of Ebola or the crumbling of financial institutions how quickly despondency sets in and hope drains out.

It is into all that that the psalmist sheds such wonderful light: "I waited patiently for the Lord and he inclined unto me - he leant closer to me - and heard my calling." "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me."

In the dark days leading up to the start of the Second World War king George VI quoted the following words in his 1939 Christmas broadcast to the British Empire.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.” And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.” So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

Every age has its dark days and it's challenges. Every individual and every family too have to face times of trial and trouble. To them and to us God says: "Turn to me and trust me. Let me lead and guide you. Put your hand in mine and let me show you the way."

David did. "I waited patiently for the Lord and he inclined unto me and heard my calling. He brought me also out of the miry pit, out of the slime and clay, and set my feet upon a rock no ordered my goings."

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