a sermon preached on Psalm 27
I asked someone last week – How are you feeling – she said ‘Fine’ , I said Really? She said well in the sense that Fine is an Acronym for Frustrated, Insecure, Nervous, Exhausted – yes I’m F.I.N.E.
So this is a sermon for all those of you who are FINE.
Lucy gave you an excellent sermon, as usual, last week, in which she also touched on the whole book of Psalms. And we’re going through a little bit of a Psalm series.
150 Psalms – you should read one every day, or perhaps a bit of one every day – because they are quite unlike any other genre of scripture – they speak to our emotions in a powerful way.
Some are Happy happy All is good with the world and God is good – sort of Psalms,
Some Psalms are for a particular occasion – Mostly to do with Coronation, there’s quite a few Psalms that ‘praise the King’ and ‘long live the King’ and that sort of stuff. A little closer look and you can see how those Psalms often slip into praising God as well.
Then there are Psalms to be sung as a community as a pilgrimage, for example the Psalms of Ascent – Psalms that you might sing as you and others from your village make the annual pilgrimage up into the city of Jerusalem for Passover or one of the major festivals – there’s quite a few of those and they’re often in the 120 onward sort of psalms.
Then there are Psalms that are quite private and personal and some of these are also quite historical – they speak of David’s reaction to his own sin of adultery post Bathsheba – but the Collector of the book of Psalms said to himself, herself, lets keep this one, on the one hand it is a bit unique but actually it’s a song that resonates with others of us who have felt beyond the reach of God’s goodness and this Psalm calls us back to God.
Then there are Psalms of raw Anger or Lament – Oh dear God what is wrong with the World, where are you, what are you playing at – I’m so angry that – that what I want you to do is to pile up the dead bodies of my enemies, I want you to do things that shouldn’t really be said out loud particularly in Church and yet we have them in print. Its quite astonishing.
But it is honest. The book of Psalms teaches us to pray Honestly.
So I say to you read the Psalms, a little each day – there will be days when you read a Psalm and it will resonate with your soul and either it will lift you up – Praise the Lord – or it will resonate with your sorrow and the darkness you carry and in praying this Psalm you will say – Thank you God because I feel heard, I feel heard through this Psalm.
There will be days when you’ll read a Psalm and you wont get it at all. In which case what you do is you say ‘Please God have mercy upon those people who really need to hear this psalm because this is where they’re at’.
Its worth reading a Psalm a couple of times, and in different voices – try reading it with a prayerful voice – The Lord is my light and my salvation – then try reading it like a creed, defiantly – the Lord IS MY light and MY salvation whom shall I fear?
This Psalm 27 – maybe it was written by David – the shepherd, the king? – There’s a lot going on this person’s life, a lot of trouble – He seems to have plenty of reasons to be afraid.
When, When the wicked advance against me. He’s got enemies, he’s got Foes, they want him to stumble and fall.
There are Oppressors and false witnesses and malicious accusations. There’s a real danger of war breaking out, of the Day of Trouble overwhelming him and all his responsibilities.
That’s quite exhausting
So in his prayer he is honest about the stuff that’s going on in his life, the stress and pressure. God in prayer is a good person to offload that sort of weight.
But David balances this with a remembrance of God’s goodness.
The Lord is my light and my salvation. The Lord is the stronghold of my life, God is my saviour, God has been my helper. These are all good things to remember.
I find it best to remember them in song. (Taize – the Lord is my light, my light and salvation, in Him I trust, in Him I trust)
BUT then the Singer has not only external troubles but also internal troubles – we can be our own worst enemy sometimes – he says ‘Please God don’t be mad at me, don’t hide your face from me, don’t turn your servant away, don’t reject me or forsake me’.
We do not have any context for this Psalm – we do not know if there is some particular, heinous sin that has been committed. But we also know that we don’t always need there to have been a big Sin, there’s always little sins, and there’s often those moments, especially when other things in life are being hard and we’re wondering about giving up and then we wonder maybe God has given up on me?
We all do this, at different times of the day the year for different reasons, we go through these moments – maybe God has given up on me.
Again the solution that this Singer offers up is a Song – One thing I ask, one thing I seek, that I may dwell in your house O Lord – this is actually what he wants – it’s a variant on the old Jewish saying about sitting under your own Vine or Fig tree – it’s a symbol of peace, of good days.
The solution is that the singer remembers that God has been his Helper. We forget this too quickly.
We forget those answered prayers, those weeks when we were just trying to hold it all together and some how God got us through it,
and that thing that we were worried about, God was there and gave us peace, and we came through it. But then we forget.
And we have a new worry and a new nightmare and we wonder if God will do it again.
Remember. God was with you, God is with you, God will be with you again. Remember.
And I love how he sings about this dialogue that the singer has with his heart – My heart says of you ‘Seek His face’ – your face Lord I will seek.
Its like those days when we know what the right answer is but we don’t believe it, or we don’t do it, or something holds us back. His heart is saying – ‘You know what you need to do here, you need to talk to God. Go seek His face’.
So the singer is saying – ‘what I want to do is to Go to Church, because I know that in worship, and helped by having others worshipping around me, that that will lift me up, and hold me, and help me to remember that God has been my helper, that God does love me, is teaching me, holding me, giving me the courage, the strength of heart, that I need to keep going. So I am going to go and be with God’s people’.
So this Psalm closes with a song about Waiting.
There are lots of different ways of reading this word and it comes up a lot in the Psalms so over coffee chew it over with those next to you.
But I’m thinking of this waiting as being about recognising that in this list of woes and worries that this Singer has that some of them he can do something about – he can get himself close to the Lord, he can remember the good things that God has done, he can keep saying to himself that he does know that God does love him, that God will receive him, wont reject him, that God will hear him, will be merciful.
The Singer, the disciple, can do that.
But there are other things that are out of his control – all these foes and woes – there’s too many of them – and they have to be left to God to deal with.
So this is about understanding that in our life we cannot control the foes and the woes – what we can control is how we react to them – we can choose to bring them to God – to say This is too big for me to handle, I’m giving it over to you, and I’m working on the bits that I can work on. We can choose to react in a way that says ‘I can’t fight these Oppressors, but I can draw near to God and receive the strength I need for tomorrow.’
This Wait for the Lord – this is about leaving room for God to do what God does, and about getting on with what you can do.
This is not about being a spiritual couch potato and waiting for life to be all nice and easy – this is about getting on with life – Seeking God’s face – that’s the phrase here – and it’s a phrase that means to live a life that is pleasing to God, a life that is a blessing to others.
So if you’re feeling FINE – in the sense of feeling Frustrated, Insecure, Nervous, Exhausted – then this Psalm will resonate with you. So what you do, is you don’t let that worry drain off your faith, but instead you draw near to God in worship, in song, in community, remembering when God has been your helper, and we wait on the Lord for the Lord to do what God does – and we breathe in again God’s Holy Spirit, we imbibe the blood of Christ! We receive again His strength, His heart, and that way we will remember again that The Lord is my light and my salvation. Amen. //
photo is of Lucy and myself collecting at Seaford’s Bonfire 2023