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PSALM 27 | AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL?

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL?
PSALM 27
FEBRUARY 21, 2016

HAVE YOU EVER READ SOMETHING AND THOUGHT, “I COULD HAVE WRITTEN THAT”?

NOT IN THE SENSE OF, I COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB OF WRITING THAT THAN THE AUTHOR, THE JOURNALIST, THE BLOGGER, ETC.;

BUT RATHER, IN THE SENSE, “I’VE SAID THAT VERY SAME THING HUNDREDS OF TIMES;” “I HAD THAT EXACT SAME EXPERIENCE;” “THAT IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE.”

SOMEONE ONCE SAID THAT EVERYONE’S LIFE IS WORTHY OF A NOVEL, AND IT’S PROBABLY TRUE, AND WHILE NOT ALL OF OUR STORIES WILL BE PUBLISHED ONE DAY;

THE FACT IS, THERE IS A GREAT COMMONALITY AMONG PEOPLE, THAT MAKES THEIR STORY – OUR STORY AND EVERYONE ELSE’S STORY.

I’M NOT SURE WHY, BUT EVERY SO OFTEN, WHEN I SEE SOMEONE LAUGHING OR CRYING, SOMEONE SMILING OR DEEP IN THOUGHT WHOM I DON’T KNOW, AND OFTEN, IT IS SOMEONE OF A DIFFERENT RACE, NATIONALITY, BACKGROUND, ETC. THEN MINE;

IT STRIKES ME – THE UNIVERSALITY OF LAUGHTER, OF CRYING, OF LIVING, AND OF DYING.

THIS IS WHY I BELIEVE THE BOOK OF PSALMS SPEAKS TO US SO WELL.

WHENEVER SOMEONE TELLS ME THEY WANT TO GET BACK INTO READING THE BIBLE – I OFTEN TELL THEM TO START WITH THE PSALMS.

AND IF SOMEONE IN A PARTICULARLY DIFFICULT PLACE IN LIFE ASKS ME WHAT THEY MIGHT READ FROM THE BIBLE TO HELP THEM, I USUALLY POINT THEM TO THE PSALMS.

THE BOOK OF PSALMS HAS IT ALL – FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE; FEAR, WORRY, AND DEPRESSION; PRAISE, PRAYER, AND PROMISE; BUT ALSO DESPAIR, DISAPPOINTMENT, AND THE FEELING OF BEING ABANDONED.

AND SOMETIMES, ALL OF THEM IN THE SAME PSALM!

I THINK I LIKE THE PSALMS AND RECOMMEND THEM TO OTHERS BECAUSE IT JUST MAY BE THE MOST REAL BOOK IN ALL OF SCRIPTURE.
IT COVERS A WIDE RANGE OF TOPICS, EMOTIONS, AND HUMAN EXPERIENCES. IT DEMONSTRATES, AT ONCE, BOTH GREAT FAITH, AND UTTER DESPAIR.

OFTEN, IN A SINGLE PSALM, THE WRITER WILL PRAISE GOD, CURSE GOD, AND COME FULL CIRCLE, ONCE AGAIN PRAISING GOD.

IF YOU’VE EVER ASKED, “WHY ME?” YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE PSALMS.

IF YOU’VE EVER RAISED YOUR HANDS TO THE HEAVENS, AND CURSED GOD FOR YOUR MISERY, YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE PSALMS.

IF YOU’VE EVER FALLEN ON YOUR KNEES IN THANKSGIVING AND IN PRAISE TO GOD FOR WHAT HAS JUST HAPPENED FOR YOU, OR FOR SOMEONE YOU LOVE, YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE PSALMS.

IF YOU’VE EVER FELT LIKE YOU WERE ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD; THAT NOBODY CARES; NOT EVEN GOD; YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE PSALMS.

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN SO ECSTATICALLY HAPPY, SO CAUGHT UP IN THE JOY OF THE MOMENT, SO OVERWHELMED BY THE POIGNANCY OF SOMETHING, YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE PSALMS.

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN ABSOLUTELY BESIDE YOURSELF, COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED WITH NO WHERE TO TURN TO;

IF YOU’VE EVER FELT LIKE YOUR PRAYERS WEREN’T GETTING ANY HIGHER THAN THE CEILING OF YOUR ROOM; YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THE PSALMS.

THE PSALMS ARE OPERA AND THE BLUES; THE GREATEST CHURCH MUSIC EVER WRITTEN, AND THE MOST SOULFUL FUNK YOU CAN IMAGINE; THEY ARE SOARING PRAISES AND MOURNFUL MOANS.

THEY ARE OUR LIFE!

JESUS QUOTES THEM OFTEN, INCLUDING FROM THE CROSS OF HIS CRUCIFIXION.

“MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME…” PSALM 22;
BUT THE PSALM ONLY BEGINS THAT WAY, IT DOESN’T END THERE.

I THINK ONE OF THE GREATEST TESTIMONIES OF THE PSALMS IS THAT GOD IS WITH US – WHETHER WE ARE PRAYING AND PRAISING, OR CURSING AND CATERWAULING.

AS SOMEONE HAS SAID, YOU CAN’T BE ANGRY WITH GOD, AND NOT BELIEVE THAT GOD EXISTS!

WHICH BRINGS US TO THE 27TH PSALM FOR THIS MORNING; TODAY’S PSALTER LESSON FROM THE LECTIONARY.

THE PSALM BEGINS WITH PRAISE AND ADORATION; WITH THE FULL ASSURANCE THAT GOD WILL PROVIDE AND PROTECT.

“THE LORD IS MY LIGHT AND MY SALVATION; WHOM SHALL I FEAR? THE LORD IS THE STRONGHOLD OF MY LIFE; OF WHOM SHALL I BE AFRAID?”

AND FOR THE NEXT FIVE OR SIX VERSES THE AUTHOR OF THIS PARTICULAR PSALM (ATTRIBUTED TO KING DAVID) REAFFIRMS HIS FAITH IN GOD TO PROTECT HIM FROM ALL SORTS OF ENEMIES, FEARS, AND FAILURES.

BUT THEN, FOR THE NEXT SIX VERSES, THE PSALMIST MAKES HIS PETITIONS TO GOD; ASKING FOR THINGS FOR HIMSELF:

– HEAR ME WHEN I CRY, BE GRACIOUS, AND ANSWER ME;
– SHOW ME YOUR FACE, O GOD; YOUR FACE DO I SEEK;
– DO NOT HIDE YOUR FACE FROM ME; DO NOT TURN AWAY IN ANGER; DO NOT CAST ME OFF; DO NOT FORSAKE ME; O GOD OF MY SALVATION;
– EVEN IF MY OWN FATHER AND MOTHER FORSAKE ME, GOD WILL NOT;
– TEACH ME YOUR WAYS, O GOD, LEAD ME ON A LEVEL PATH;
– DO NOT GIVE ME UP TO MY ENEMIES, FOR THEY HAVE RISEN UP AGAINST ME, AND THEY ARE BREATHING OUT VIOLENCE.

PRAISE AND ADORATION FOR SIX VERSES; PRAYERS AND PETITIONS FOR THE NEXT SIX VERSES; AND THEN THE PSALMIST ENDS HIS SONG WITH MORE WORDS OF PRAISE:

“I BELIEVE THAT I SHALL SEE THE GOODNESS OF THE LORD IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING;”

AND THEN WHAT SEEMS TO BE WORDS OF ADVICE TO HIMSELF AND OTHERS:

“WAIT FOR THE LORD; BE STRONG, AND LET YOUR HEART TAKE COURAGE; WAIT FOR THE LORD!”

PSALM 27 IS WHAT IS KNOWN AS A COMPOSITE PSALM BECAUSE IT CONTAINS BOTH HIGH PRAISE FOR GOD, AND MOURNFUL WORRY ABOUT THE REALITY OF LIFE.

THINK OF A BATTLE FOUGHT, A WAR WON; – THERE IS GREAT JOY AND CELEBRATION THAT VICTORY IS OURS; BUT THERE’S THAT MOMENT WHEN WE LOOK AROUND AND COUNT THE COST – YOUNG LIVES LOST; THE MAIMED AND WOUNDED; COMBATANTS WHO WILL LIVE THE REST OF THEIR LIVES WITH PTSD.
AND IT IS NOT JUST THE DRASTIC, WINNER-TAKE-ALL SORTS OF THINGS OF LIFE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT, BUT THE EVERYDAY BATTLES OF LIFE AS WELL.

DO YOU SEE HOW WE MIGHT HAVE WRITTEN THIS PSALM? WHY I AM SAYING IT MIGHT BE AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL?

THE 27TH PSALM BEGINS WITH PRAISE AND AFFIRMATION OF FAITH; WITH TRUST IN THE LORD;

THEN THE PSALMIST PRAYS FOR ALL THE THINGS HE NEEDS, ABOUT EVERYTHING THAT IS GOING WRONG IN AND AROUND HIS LIFE; AND FINISHES IT OFF WITH MORE PRAISE AND ADORATION, COMMENDING SUCH FAITH AND HOPE TO OTHERS.

BY THE WAY – THIS PSALM SHOULD BE PROOF TO US THAT FAITH AND TRUST IN GOD DOES NOT NECESSARILY PREVENT BAD THINGS FROM HAPPENING TO US.

SOMETIMES I THINK PEOPLE THINK THAT IF THEY’LL JUST HAVE FAITH, OR ENOUGH FAITH, OR MORE FAITH NOTHING BAD WILL HAPPEN TO THEM;

IF THEY’LL JUST PRAY, OR PRAY HARDER, OR PRAY MORE, OR GET MORE PEOPLE PRAYING FOR THEM, EVERYTHING WILL BE ALL RIGHT.

BUT THE PSALMISTS ARE REALISTS.

THEY UNDERSTAND THAT WHILE WE MAY SHOW GREAT FAITH, THAT WE MAY TRUST AND BELIEVE IN GOD, LIFE STILL HAS A WAY OF HAPPENING AS IT WILL – THE GOOD AND THE NOT-SO-GOOD.

AND PSALM 27 SHOWS US THAT EVEN WHEN WE HAVE GREAT FAITH, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE GREAT NEED, IN OUR LIVES AND IN THE LIFE OF THE WORLD;

AND ASKING GOD TO HELP US, AND HELP THE WORLD, AND BELIEVING THAT GOD WILL, IS ALL PART OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A BELIEVER.

IN AN EPISODE OF MADAME SECRETARY THIS PAST SUNDAY, AFTER ONE OF THEIR CHILDREN HAS DONE SOMETHING WRONG, THE WIFE ASKS HER HUSBAND HOW THEIR CHILD’S DOING AFTER HAVING HAD A TALKING TO…

THE HUSBAND/FATHER (WHO HAPPENS TO BE A PROFESSOR OF RELIGION) TELLS HIS WIFE THEIR DAUGHTER IS DOING OKAY, THAT SHE IS “A FLAWED MORTAL FUMBLING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT.”

AREN’T WE ALL?

YOU SEE THE PSALMISTS, AND IN PARTICULAR, FOR THIS MORNING, THE AUTHOR OF THE 27TH PSALM UNDERSTANDS THAT FAITH DOES NOT PREVENT PROBLEMS;

THAT BELIEVING IN GOD, AND PRAYING TO GOD, WHILE WHAT WE ARE MOST CERTAINLY SUPPOSED TO DO IN TIMES OF TROUBLE, FULLY BELIEVING THAT INDEED, GOD WILL HELP;

WE WILL, AT LEAST THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN, ALWAYS BE “FLAWED MORTALS FUMBLING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT.”

AS I’VE SAID SEVERAL TIMES ALREADY THIS MORNING, PSALMS IS A GREAT PLACE TO FIND ALL OF THE ABOVE – THE FLAWED MORTALS – THE FUMBLING ALONG – AND THE ENLIGHTENMENT;

IT IS, IN FACT, WHERE THE 27TH PSALM BEGINS – “THE LORD IS MY LIGHT AND SALVATION;” AND ENDS – “WAIT FOR THE LORD; BE STRONG, AND LET YOUR HEART TAKE COURAGE; WAIT FOR THE LORD.”

ISN’T THIS WHERE WE ARE? ISN’T THIS THE STORY OF OUR LIVES? OUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY?

A LIFE OF FAITH AND FEAR? A LIFE OF BELIEVING, YET WORRYING ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING TO US, AND AROUND US?

A LIFE OF BELIEVING AND TRUSTING, YET ALSO PRAYING AND PETITIONING THE LORD FOR OUR NEEDS AND THE NEEDS OF THE WORLD?

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, BUT THIS IS HOW THIS PARTICULARLY FLAWED MORTAL IS FUMBLING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT.

WE ALL EXPERIENCE HARDSHIPS, AND SOME OF THEM MIGHT SEEM KIND OF MUNDANE AT THE TIME, BUT STING NONETHELESS.

PARENTS HEAR THEIR CHILDREN MUTTERING THAT OTHER PARENTS ARE MORE LENIENT AND REASONABLE.

FRIENDSHIPS ARE TESTED WHEN ANOTHER SEEKS TO MANIPULATE US FOR SELFISH PURPOSES.

PEOPLE TALK ABOUT US BEHIND OUR BACKS THINKING THAT WHAT THEY’VE SAID WILL NEVER GET BACK TO US, BUT IT OFTEN DOES, BECAUSE THOSE WHO WILLINGLY LISTEN TO SUCH, OFTEN TALK ABOUT OTHERS BEHIND THEIR BACKS AS WELL.

COLLEAGUES IN THE WORKPLACE BETRAY US IF BETRAYAL ADVANCES THEM IN THE ORGANIZATION.

OF COURSE, THESE ARE REALLY RATHER MINOR INSTANCES, BUT THE SAME THING IS TRUE ABOUT THE GREATER TROUBLES OF OUR LIVES, AND IN THE LIFE OF THE WORLD;

TERMINAL ILLNESSES, TERRIBLE SETBACKS, THE THREAT AND FEAR OF TERRORISM, SENDING OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS OFF TO WAR, ACCIDENTS THAT HAPPEN, BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS, LOSING THOSE WE LOVE…

NOT ONE OF US IS A STRANGER TO “ALL KINDS OF TROUBLE”.

THE GOOD NEWS IS, AS THE PSALMISTS AFFIRM FOR US, WE ARE NOT ALONE –GOD IS WITH US, EVEN WHEN IT MIGHT NOT ALWAYS FEEL THAT WAY.

GOD IS THE REASON THAT WHEN TROUBLE PRESSES, WE AREN’T CRUSHED.
WHEN WE ARE CONFUSED, WE ARE NOT DESPONDENT.
WHEN WE ARE HARASSED, WE ARE NOT ABANDONED.
WHEN WE ARE KNOCKED DOWN, WE ARE NOT KNOCKED OUT.

BUT THE PSALMISTS ARE REALISTS, AND SO ARE WE.

WE KNOW THAT THINGS WILL NOT ALWAYS GO OUR WAY, BUT WE KNOW ALSO THAT GOD GOES WITH US.

WE KNOW THAT LIFE WILL NOT ALWAYS TURN OUT AS PLANNED, BUT GOD WILL STILL BE AVAILABLE TO US WHEN OUR BEST LAID PLANS GO AWRY, AND WHEN NEW PLANS MUST BE MADE.

WE KNOW THAT HEARTACHE, HARDSHIP, AND TROUBLE WILL COME OUR WAY, AND GOD WILL BE THERE TO MEET IT WITH US EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN AFFIRM OUR FAITH IN ONE BREATH, AND PRAY LIKE CRAZY IN THE NEXT.

IT’S WHY WE TRUST AND BELIEVE, YET ASK AND PETITION THE LORD FOR HELP.

IT’S WHY WE CELEBRATE THE GOODNESS OF GOD, THE STEADFASTNESS OF GOD’S LOVE, THE CERTAINTY OF GOD’S PRESENCE, THE REALITY OF GOD’S GRACE, AND YET, STILL ASK FOR THEM JUST THE SAME.

IT’S WHY WE SING PRAISES, AND THE BLUES, KNOWING FULL WELL THAT THIS IS THE REALITY OF LIFE AND FAITH; OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “FLAWED MORTALS FUMBLING FOR ENLIGHTENMENT;” AND WHAT IT MEANS TO TRUST AND BELIEVE IN GOD.

 

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