Posts Tagged ‘God with us’

God’s p.r. agents: The Psalms in Our Worship 45

by   |  01.12.12  |  Uncategorized

One of the recurring notions of the Bible that seems counter-intuitive to many of us is that God’s reputation among human beings matters and that we religious people have some bearing on it.  It’s not that the Bible thinks that God needs human beings to carry out a given plan (as in the Star Trek film “The Final Frontier,” in which Spock’s half-brother Sybok thinks he’s being called by God, but finds instead a somewhat psychotic being trapped on a planet far from earth — that’s not the biblical picture of Israel’s God!).  But since the plans about which we know — assuming that God is up to many things that do not concern us — involve us and our reformation, what we think about those plans seems to matter.

So what do we think?  Psalm 57 begins with a call for divine graciousness, “for my life has taken refuge in you, yes, I have hidden in your wings’ shadow.”  The psalmist expresses an ongoing state of trust in the Almighty, a bold confidence that all will be well, in spite of the ferocity of opponents (v. 4 [5 in Hebrew]).  The psalmist’s confidence in God’s trustworthiness outweighs his/her awareness of the reality of danger on every hand.  Without denying the reality of evil in the world, the psalmist believes that God’s goodness outweighs evil.

The psalm next turns to a cry for future continuation of God’s past work.  “Let it arise over the heavens, O God, your glory over all the earth.”  The refrain opens and closes a major unit of the psalm, giving a sense of the whole.  In the Hebrew text, the word for “your glory” comes at the very end of the sentence, as if our poet wishes to make us wait to wonder what he or she wishes to extend over the heavens and the earth.  God’s splendor, shown by the willingness to save vulnerable human beings, transcends everything else in the cosmos, making all else pale in importance by comparison.  A world in which a gracious God reigns is a world that human beings can safely inhabit.

If the cosmos somehow reflects God’s care for us, and if the psalm is an example of how human beings testify to that, and if that testimony matters because other human beings can learn from it, then what is the nature of the testimony?  Two things: human beings can join God in the struggle against evil, and this struggle takes place in the context of celebration.  Thus verse 8 (Hebrew 9) calls for a new level of enthusiasm: “rouse up O harp and lyre, rouse up my liver” [emending the text slightly; Israelites often spoke of the “liver” the way we speak of the heart or mind).  The redeemed person has every reason to celebrate because we participate in the overcoming of evil.

A final, perhaps random, thought.  Like many people, I find it pretty easy to get discouraged by events in the world.  Some things just bug me, and you can guess what they are.  Some things should irritate us, because there is such a thing as righteous indignation.  The key is to pick which things.  But, at the same time, there are many things that inspire confidence in the possibilities for goodness in my fellow human beings, and even in myself.  Sometimes, it’s okay to say so.  Someone has said that cynics are just disappointed idealists.  Can we hold onto our idealism just a little longer?  If we do, is there a chance that others might notice and wonder what we found that they can find too?  Psalm 57 thinks so.  Many days — not always — I do too.

ACU Graduate Chapel Sermon (Ben Fike): January 20

by   |  03.17.10  |  Chapel, Church, God with us, Hope, Hospitality, Jesus, Justice, Mission of God, Students

Every Wednesday, we meet for worship together in the Chapel on the Hill. Sometimes students speak. Here is a sermon by one of them, Ben Fike, who is the preacher for the Maryneal, Texas Church of Christ. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Matthew 2:1-12 – Laying our Gifts Before the King

by Ben Fike

“The church has just entered the liturgical season of Epiphany one week ago today. The Feast of Epiphany in the Western tradition is associated with this story of the wise men coming to Jesus, the first gentiles who come to worship the child king. Today we join our sisters and brothers the world over in our hearing and proclaiming of this text in this season.

I can’t read this story without thinking of my mom’s collection of nativity sets. She probably just took them down a week or two ago, but during Christmas they’re all over the house. Just little miniature versions of the birth of Christ spread out all over every bookshelf and table. The raggedy looking shepherds, the docile ox and lamb, the surprisingly calm and serene looking Mary and Joseph, little baby Jesus, no crying he makes, asleep in the manger. Blonde, and looking quite Scandanavian. And of course the wise men, all exotic and strange with enormous headgear and camels and robes and big bushy beards, bearing gifts.

But although this popularized version of the nativity may fly some places, we know better don’t we? We know better than that naive conflation of Matthew and Luke’s gospels bringing together Shepherds and Wise Men and Livestock in an ad hoc, irresponsible kind of way. We know better, that this story of the wise men bowing down to Jesus is not serene and precious and cute. It is, in fact, subversive to the point that it will directly contribute to a vengeful and maniacal king massacring thousands of innocents to squelch the perceived threat of the child born King of the Jews these wise men have come to worship. And we know better homiletically than to cast ourselves as the distant floating observers looking down on the tiny scene as if Jesus were a insect and we were a bear.

No, WE know better than that. This is a story we must enter. This story is in someway our story. More »