Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
February 25, 2018 Scout Sunday
We’re studying the Book of Psalms this Lent, the prayer book & hymnal of the ancient Israelites. Today we’ll begin with Psalm 8. I chose this psalm because “A Scout is Reverent.” This was written by someone who also was reverent.
Psalm 8 – Good News Translation
O Lord, our Lord,
your greatness is seen in all the world!
Your praise reaches up to the heavens;
2 it is sung by children and babies.
You are safe and secure from all your enemies;
you stop anyone who opposes you.
3 When I look at the sky, which you have made,
at the moon and the stars, which you set in their places—
4 what are human beings, that you think of them;
mere mortals, that you care for them?
5 Yet you made them inferior only to yourself;
you crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You appointed them rulers over everything you made;
you placed them over all creation:
7 sheep and cattle, and the wild animals too;
8 the birds and the fish
and the creatures in the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
your greatness is seen in all the world!
Reverence is living your life in relationship with God.
- Not just believing in God, but acknowledging God, honoring God, walking with God
Reverence has awe & wonder in it.
“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name!”
O Lord, our Lord, everywhere I look I see your greatness – if I look to the heavens – to the moon, the stars & the galaxies you have created – I see your greatness.
And yet, even though you’re the awesome Creator of all that is, you still care for each one of us.
What are human beings, that you think of them;
mere mortals, that you care for us?
And yet you do! You welcome my prayers. You guide me through your teachings and your promptings. You are an amazing God!!!
Illustration. Imagine you’re on a class trip to an art museum. You didn’t want to go, but the bus ride down was fun. Now imagine you come across a very large painting. And it is captivating. You’re in awe of it. You stand & stare at it, trying to take it all in. There’s a stranger next to you, and you can’t help yourself, you simply say,
“That’s the most amazing painting I’ve ever seen.”
And the stranger says, “Thank You.”
“You did that?”
“Yes, I’m glad you like it. I’d hoped people would be captivated by it.”
Imagine how that experience of taking in that painting would change, standing next to the artist and carrying on a conversation with the Creator of the painting.
To be reverent is to take in life with the Creator of Life. It’s to honor and celebrate the gift of life – in conversation, in relationship with the Giver of life. And just like the artists want onlookers to fully experience the work of art, so too God wants us to fully experience the wonder and beauty and awesomeness of life. And just like that artist at the museum, God likes our company and our conversation.
But here’s a question?
What do you say to your Creator?
What do you say to God?
Have you ever met someone famous and not known what to say? It happened to me that day I met Mark Howard. Do you know who Mark Howard is? Of course you don’t. He’s not famous outside of the Philadelphia area. When I was a kid Mark Howard was the co-anchor of the 5:00 pm news! That’s big! In middle school we had current events competitions and even a current events team to represent our school. And I was on it, so we all had to watch the news.
Well, one day I was at the mall with a friend, and my friend says, “There’s Mark Howard!!!!!” Now I had never met anyone famous, and so I just had to meet him. In the decent walk from where I was standing to where Mark Howard was standing, you’d think it would have crossed my mind what to say. But it didn’t. So I walked up to, and my mind went blank. I held out my hand to shake his, and said, “I just wanted to shake your hand.” And I walked away. It wasn’t one of my better moments, but what do you say to someone who’s great and famous and awesome?
What do you say to God?
The ancient Israelites spoke these psalms. They prayed these prayers. They sang them to God. And they collected them and recorded them for our benefit. Rabbi Harold Kushner says that Jews believe that the first 5 books of the Bible are a “love letter” from God to them. The first 5 books are called The Books of Moses, or the Torah. The Law of Moses. Ancient Jews & Jews to this day love these books because they record God, the Almighty Creator, befriending them, entering into a partnership with them, making a covenant with them. God had reached out to them, chosen them to reveal the character and teachings of the invisible God.
God spoke. And God spoke to them. For five long books of the Bible, God spoke. What we have in the 5 books of the Psalms is their response – their reply, their part of the dialogue. In fact, in very ancient Hebrew Bibles, the Book of Psalms came right after the 5 Books of Moses. It was their response to what God had said to them.
So what do you say to the Holy God, your Creator?
Well, you sing psalms of Thanksgiving!
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Come into his presence with singing. Enter his gates with thanksgiving in your hearts.” (Ps. 100)
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his blessings.” (Ps. 96)
You sing psalms of praise!
“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name.” (Ps. 96:1)
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Ps. 150)
We sing praise to God because praise opens our hearts to God.
The Bible says, “God is magnified in our praise.”
God’s presence grows as we open our hearts in love to God.
“O magnify the Lord with me. Let’s worship God together.” (Ps. 34:3)
The Psalms help us praise. They help us express gratitude to God and love to God.
Psalm 18:1 – “I love you, O Lord, my strength.”
Psalm 116:1 – “I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my prayers.”
The Psalms help us love God. – “The Lord IS my shepherd.”
The Psalms also help us when we mess up. They give us words of confession.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God. Put a new and right spirit within me . . . Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love . . . blot out my sins. Wash me thoroughly and cleanse me from my sin.” (Ps. 51)
“Happy are those whose sin is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Ps.32)
The Psalms help us experience God’s forgiveness.
They also help us stick close to God when life is hard and unfair.
“O Long, O Lord, how long? (Ps. 13)
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. (Ps. 42)
The Psalms give us words to cry out to God in anger and outrage, and they give us words to build up our faith in a God who is our Rock, our Refuge, our Strength, our Shield, our Shepherd, our Fortress.
There’s a hymn we sing during Holy Week, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” The third verse says, “What language shall I borrow to thank thee, Dearest Friend.” The psalms give us language – words, phrases, tone – to borrow to speak to our God.
Now you might be thinking, aren’t we supposed to talk to God like we’re talking to a friend? Absolutely. But the psalms can help us expand and deepen the conversation. They’re tried and true. Like the Lord’s Prayer.
And, A little like the wedding vows. Sometimes couples have some things they want to say to each other in their own words during their wedding ceremony. Occasionally they’re write their own vows. And that can be touching. But most of the time couples prefer the words that are tried and true – “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as we both shall live.”
That’s the way the Psalms are.
Tried & true words to say to our Beloved.
Think about it.
Let’s pray about it.
Thank you, Loving God, for inspiring the psalms. Thank you for the faith, the passion, the wisdom, the reverence in these prayers. Help us to utilize them in our walk with you, that our ongoing conversations with you might be enriched and deepened. Amen.