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The Nourishing Place
The Educational Support Organization, Inc.
Sermon, July 12, 2020
Note to the readers: the sermon will be enhanced if you will get your Bible and turn to the Psalms. There are 2 places in the sermon where you might want to read the verses: Psalm 77:1-15a, and Psalm 83:1-8. 15-18. Those passages are marked in the sermon. Enjoy and be stronger! Jane
All through our Bible, we read stories of men and women who were everyday. ordinary people, yet each one made an impact on their friends and neighbors by being obedient to the words of their Lord. These people often made an important impact on their families, clans, and even on the nation of Israel in spite of their lives being difficult, harsh, cruel, and oppressive.
One man stands out among many, and you may not have heard of him before. He lived 3000 years ago at the time of King David. His name is Asaph. Asaph was a Levite, meaning he belonged to the tribe of Levi. Levites were the people designated by God to care for the temple, to direct worship, celebrations, rites, and rituals. Asaph was King David’s chief musician. He also wrote the lyrics to 12 hymns, that we know of as Psalms. Asaph wrote Psalm 50 and Psalms 73 through 83. In the time of David, before and after, people sang, chanted, their problems, their concerns, their fears. They also sang, chanted, the devotion to God. It was a unifying process to share the words of anguish as well as joy and hope with all the people of Israel. Hopefully, we can read the Psalms with a better understanding that they are the backbone of Israel’s history. They are the way people were counseled and guided. They were what kept God’s chosen people together when everything else was trying to tear them apart and destroy them and their entire community of faith. It might behoove us to find a collective way to express our current concerns, and then find solace in the Psalms as well.
In our earlier reading we got the sense that music was important...and indeed it always has been. Early on in human life, when words failed to express a person’s or a tribe’s deepest feelings, then music was chosen as the way to express joy and sorrow, exultation, and fear. As a musician, Asaph was to express the emotions of the tribes of Israel. He was to display for all to hear the distresses, the disappointment, the terror. Yet he was to end the song or the psalm on an encouraging word.
Let’s just look at Psalm 77 (1-15a) Many of us may have felt this way...and this is the way the Israelites felt because of being oppressed for so many years. The lyrics are all too real and profoundly deep. Yet, Asaph ended the expression of loss with remembering all the good God has done. Can’t we do the same and rediscover true faith and trust?
In today’s world, where human life seems to have little meaning for many people, we must be the people who courageously counteract the negativity that is hurting all of us. When we don’t know how to express our deepest fears and concerns, we need to look again at some of the Psalms that express clearly what we feel today and what we must do. Listen to some of the verses of Psalm 83:1-8, 15-18.
In our own prayers, our conversations with God, we might say “God, we don’t understand the countries like North Korea, China, and sometimes Russia who seem to want to destroy all that makes America a caring, loving, creative country.” We might also say to God, “Lord, let all of those who are against you be ashamed and in disgraced. Let them know you, whose name is the Lord, that you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
Many of today’s young people seem towant everything given to them so they won’t have to work to earn a living. We need to find ways to help them understand that labor is who we are and what we do. We need to illustrate the joy of earning our own way in the world. We need to encourage schools and universities to re-open dialogue so that our children will know how to speak their opinions as well as listen to others’ opinions and knowledge so growth can occur. We need to tell our young people, even our little children, our true history, warts and all, so that the generations to come will learn the good our America has done for the world. Yes, we are imperfect, but we can improve if we know where we have been and what we have done, and what we want our future to be. We must not be idle and leave those essential elements of society to others who may not be quite as interested in truth as we are.
Like Asaph, we as believers need to be honest with God, admit aloud our sins and wrongdoings to him so that we can be redeemed and forgiven. Let us go to God first with our concerns about our loved ones, our communities, our nation, and sing for joy to the God who is our strength. “Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre, sound the Ram’s horn and know your God is Good, 81; 1-3. Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever, from generation to generation, we will recount your praise.” 79:13
If we read the scriptures we will see and hopefully acknowledge that whatever befalls us, whatever challenges we face, if we stay connected to our God, live in our faith, then we too can sing praises of trust, joy, and love. Now listen to this: if you are angry about what is happening tell God. He can handle it! God would much rather you express any feeling to him, than to have none.
Whether you think God hears you or not, be assured God does hear and in his own way he will respond. Trust, trust, and in that trust sing, rejoice, believe, and love yourself and others.
Isn’t that what we all want?