The Sunday Sermon: February 7, 2021 – 5th Sunday after Epiphany
Scripture: Psalm 62:1-7
Our Hope is From God
This morning, we begin not in scripture, but with another familiar set of words written by Emily Dickinson in a poem entitled Hope.
Hope, by Emily Dickinson
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Let’s pray together …
In our journey with Jesus since his baptism this year, we have discovered a few things. Surely things we’ve known for a long time, but maybe become even more acutely aware of this year. More than “belief,” our Christian faith requires us to put profound trust in the reality we call God. Faith as trust casts out anxiety and fear – fear of requirements, of the kingdoms of this world, of the possessions that own us, of the loyalties to others that will never give us true peace. And when we are free of anxiety and fear, and full of trust, we can live as Jesus lived – fully.
To live fully means to give primacy, or priority to “today,” to the day we are living in, each day. We are empowered by a life lived two thousand years ago to imitate the presence of God in him .. in us. “Today” the scripture is fulfilled in our hearing.
And just last week we explored, perhaps for the first time, that we are asked Jesus in his teaching and in the way he lived, not only to pray, but to be prayer, to live our lives as statements, acknowledgments of God in our life, leading and guiding, teaching and healing and empowering us to do the same for others.
This morning, we re-discover another need for our Christian life. I trust by the name of the poem we opened with you have figured it out: Hope. Let’s turn to our scripture reading now. Listen for the Word of God …
Read Psalm 62:1-7 … The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Psalm 62 is eschatological. That is, it speaks of end times, of final things, of ultimate realities. When all is said and done, it affirms, God’s justice and love will reign. But it affirms this in the midst of circumstances that seem to deny it. The psalmist sings verses one and two in the midst of troubles that are real and that are happening even as the song is sung. Did you hear it?
How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you? Your only plan is to bring down a person … and take pleasure in falsehood; you bless with your mouths but inwardly you curse.
As usual, we don’t know the exact source of the threat or identity of the those who “assail” the Psalmist, but the threat is serious, it is happening now, and it is ongoing – “How long … ?”
Now because this singer’s song of God’s final justice and love is sung in the midst of his current violence and hatred, it calls for a decision. As we read on, it is clear which path the Psalmist chooses. What about us? Where do we set our heart? Where is our ultimate loyalty? In whom or in what do we trust? In whom or in what do we seek security?
“…We are in the midst of crisis … at war, against a far reaching network of violence and hatred … badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some (others), but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare … for a new age … each day brings further evidence that … we … strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.” (from President Barak Obama’s Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009)
“How long will we as a people be assailed and battered, how long will we as a nation assail and batter others, like a leaning wall or tottering fence?”
By most measures, this continues to be our worldly reality at present: strife and discord – economically, politically, racially. But is it our destiny?
Since Christmas ended this year we have been calling ourselves to choose the better history of our nation and the better angel of our nature: To trust in God and live as prayer, to proclaim release, recovery, freedom and favor. We have been issuing this call in the midst of circumstances that seem to deny their possibility. As such, our life, like our Psalm, is a call to decision. Will we continue to separate ourselves from others, protect narrow interests, and put off unpleasant decisions? Or will we live in such a way as to restore trust, to work for mutual justice, and to engage in the hard conversations and actions needed to change our lives, our communities, and the world?
Here are our alternatives as the people of God laid out by our Psalmist: Will we live assailing and battering, as if our only plan is the destruction of other people? Or, will we live by doing justice and loving kindness, and trusting God and the Way of Christ?
The latter alternatives in either case are, I would hope, our desire if not our practice. They both require a move away from the individualism that is so much a part of our human choices. As Christians we are called away from individualism and into community. We do not “batter and assail and bring down” to further our own self-interests. We do not trust in our own resources, our own buying power, and whatever we can get our hands on. We follow the way of Christ. Jesus’ response was a perfect embodiment of our psalmist’s call, who we are called to be as members of the church, followers of the Way.
Our Psalm offers one last and lasting declaration: Verse one and five are almost identical but there is a subtle difference. Salvation in verse one is replaced by hope in verse five. The Psalmist reminds us in verse one of God’s gift of salvation that is ours as we seek refuge in God, yielding all fears and anxieties and insecurities to God in an act of trust. Verse five, instructs us that this gift, our gift of salvation, is and must be maintained in life through the practice of hope.
We are called to Hope. We are called to “the thing with wings that perches in the soul and sings the tune – without the words and never stops at all.”
As children of God and disciples of Christ we must chose hope, difficult as it may be. And as we hope, as we reaffirm our own enduring spirit and that of all others, as we love without cause following the Way of Christ, we live salvation.
“For God alone our soul patiently waits. Our hope is from God.” Amen.
Reverend Joel Weible, Pastor
Pewee Valley Presbyterian Church / February 7, 2021