My audio hasn’t recorded for the last few weeks, I think I need a new recorder but here is my most current sermon on the awakening series. Enjoy the text and I hope to get my podcasts back up soon.
Let’s start at the beginning. This is not a happy Psalm. This is not a Psalm to sing on good days, or days when everything is going right.
The other day we were grocery shopping at Giant Eagle and the one stock boy spilled a bag of popcorn kernels all over the floor, then we saw him in another part of the store where he dropped a can of Ragu and cut his hand on the glass and while cleaning it up he was explaining to the manager his bad day where he also dropped a case of soda on the floor and tripped over the power cord to a cash register knocking out power to the guy trying to ring up people’s groceries. This guy was having a bad day and this Psalm is for him.
This is a Psalm for sad people.
This is a Psalm for people who have hit rock bottom
This is a Psalm for people who have gone to the bottom of the bottle and found nothing.
This is a Psalm for People who regularly have a dark day that feel like those storm clouds are always overhead and their parades are always getting rained on.
This is a Psalm for people who feel lost and without passion in their lives.
This is a Psalm for people who just want God to do something!
This is a Psalm for people who call out to God and scream “What am I supposed to do now?”
This psalm is for parents who can’t get the house clean for more than five minutes before it looks like a hurricane went through.
This Psalm is for parents who can’t get the budget to include tee-ball, soccer, and food.
This Psalm is is for parents whose kids are a constant source of disappointment.
This Psalm is for the kids who are constantly reminded they are a constant source of disappointment.
This is a Psalm for people who know that it is impossible to keep track of all their mistakes.
This is a Psalm for people who ache in deepest part of their being.
But the author of this Psalm knows that the key to moving beyond the hurt, getting past the mistakes, and going forward in life is found only in God. And so they hope.
They hope like the night watchman waits for morning or kids on Christmas eve hope for morning. Or a nervous bride waits the night before her wedding. Or a teenage boy about to call a girl for the first time.
It is that nervous, sweaty palms, stuttering, jittery, laughing, hiccups kind of nervousness that comes only from a hope that things might actually be able to be better than they are now but they will only be better if the other side responds!
I think the best way to understand this scripture is to understand the way a marriage proposal works. When I proposed to Amanda I was so nervous, we were both volunteer youth leaders and she and the youth director had taken the youth on a mission trip to New York City and I couldn’t go because I had to work so I stayed back and I planned youth group for the night they got back. I spent that whole week planning just what it would look like and that night I was so nervous, I was jittery, stuttering, and just a wreck. As youth group went on I became more nervous.
I wasn’t nervous because of what I was doing but because the consequences of that question would change everything. I remember as I hit one knee in front of all our youth group kids my hands were shaking and in that split second the whole world faded away as I waited for her answer.
It is those moments between the way things used to be and the new way where there is that intense feeling that everything is about to change. Sometimes they are split seconds and sometimes they are nights or days just waiting.
It is that moment between when your child is born and you hear that first cry. When everything is about to change, one way or another you know everything is about to change, and you don’t know how but you are sort of this hyper-vigilant what’s about to happen and how is it going to change us.
Now imagine if you will that it isn’t just you but it is a whole group, nation, tribe. It is everyone around you who is also hoping that God will show up and redeem us from our sins.
Those feelings you have waiting for redemption to come, for change to happen, and new life to begin. They suddenly aren’t just your feelings they are the feelings of you and everyone around you. That is what this Psalm is screaming out.
I just watched this movie Argo about the Iranian Hostage situation in 1979-1980 and imagine a group of people huddled together wondering, waiting, and hoping that rescue will come. I imagine that feeling is close to what we get in Psalm 130.
Now, imagine that feeling and the waiting and the expectation and then nothing…. nothing happens. You are praying for healing, resurrection, reconciliation, and you are just waiting for God to answer.
That hyper-vigilance waiting for that change and then nothing..
Verse 8 ends and we don’t get a resolution. There is no confirmation that God showed up. That God rescued and redeemed them. There is no happy ending. Only an entire nation waiting for God to show up and then it fades to black, movie over, good night.
I mean this is a Christian story of hope, shouldn’t there be a happy ending where everyone gets married, the kids are happy, the football team wins, and the coach gets a new pick-up truck and everything works out for good?
Instead, we are left with this divine silence where we are hoping for God, screaming out for God to rescue us from the bottom and expecting God to save a whole nation and there is nothing coming back from the other side.
The side with the power to save us appears to be withholding. It appears as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel and we will be stuck in the depths of our despair for an eternity.
So what do we do with this divine silence? That time where we feel like no answer is coming, where we have bet the farm on God and God hasn’t shown up yet.
How are we supposed to live in a time like this?
I think if we are honest with ourselves. Some of us are living in a time like this right now. Where we are waiting for God to just show up and do something because we have arrived at the end of ourselves. We have extended ourselves on behalf of God waiting for God to do something and nothing is happening and it is really frustrating.
St. John of the Cross calls this time the “Dark Night of the Soul” A time when God just seems so distant. Where it feels as if we are waiting on God to just show up and do something and God isn’t.
I think of an event in Jesus’ life in John 11 where a friend of Jesus named Lazarus was sick and dying and his sisters, Mary and Martha, went to get help from Jesus and Jesus didn’t show up. Imagine their feelings, they know Jesus can heal him in verse 21 Martha yells at Jesus and says “If you had been here he wouldn’t have died.” These sisters were waiting and hoping for Jesus to heal their brother. Their family. And he didn’t show up. Jesus didn’t do what they were expecting and they were hurt. Angry. Upset.
They were disappointed in the savior of the universe.
I don’t know your story, the events of your life, or the path you have walked but maybe you know exactly how these sisters felt. If God has the power to end all wrongs, dry every tear, and overcome every evil why didn’t he!?! If God can cure every illness why am I still battling cancer? Why can’t God just fix my addiction? Why is that all-powerful God of the universe not helping me find a new job?
In verse 20 the sisters heard Jesus was coming and Martha went out to see him but Mary stayed inside. She wanted nothing to do with the guy who had the power to save her brother and didn’t use it.
How many people do we know that followed Jesus and when tragedy happened they abandon Church and faith completely, maybe they are like Mary, they don’t want to be smacked in the face with this loving God who didn’t save their brother.
but look at what Martha does. She grabs on to the truth she knows that sometimes she will see her brother again. That at some point in the future she will meet up with her brother again. She knows that right now it hurts but someday there will be a resurrection for her and her brother and they will be together again.
I think that is what we do. We grab on the truths we do know. Sometimes it is hard to believe in God. It is hard to trust that God is up to something but we grab on to the truths we do know.
We can kick and scream or fight and cry out for God or we can simply grab on to what we know about God and continue to hold tight until a time comes when God does show up and redeem us.
We know our past mistakes are great, we know our need is great, and we know our only chance at survival is from God and we sort of live in this time of waiting. Waiting for God to show up. That time in-between the way it was and the way it will be.
It is there, that time in between where we grab on to what we know. That little nugget of truth that we find locked in our brain somewhere and we squeeze and hold on to it so tightly that without it there is nothing.
What do we know about Jesus? What can we hold on to when it feels like God is far away?
- Psalm 46:1 “God is our refuge and strength, a help always near in times of great trouble.
- Jeremiah 29:11 “I know the plans I have in mind for you, declares the Lord; they are plans for peace, not disaster, to give you a future filled with hope.”
- Revelation 22:20 “I am coming soon.”
Those are just three examples but the point is that when God feels far away we need to grab on to the truths we do know.
It is there, in the midst of feeling like God is far away that we grab on to the truths we do know and in that we find that Jesus is right there in those truths. That Jesus is right next to us, walking with us, holding us up, keeping us safe, and reminding us that no matter what Jesus is right there with us and that we will eventually come out on the other side.
It is important to remember the other side. There will come a time where we will emerge from the loneliness we feel and the abandonment we feel. It may be a very long time and it may not even be until the other side of eternity but it will come. Just as Lazarus’ healing didn’t come when his sister’s thought it should it still happened. And it is only when we get to the other side can we look back on that dark time and say “God was with me even then. I didn’t feel it, but God was right there with me.”
Along this journey God has given us reminders that we are never alone.
The laughter of a child, Christmas morning, that feeling on payday, those happy moments that give us the strength to go on just a little longer.
Communion is one of those ways where we can gather together and be reminded that God has joined with us as Jesus and is walking along this journey with us. As we take communion may you be reminded that no matter where you are on this journey, whether you feel alone or you feel close to God this is one of the ways God reminds us we are never alone.
Communion also reminds us that other people who are ragamuffin sinners struggling just like us are on this same journey are here to lift us up and encourage us on this journey.
There are other people with us and God is with us in a real presence here at this table.
So then, when you find yourself in a dark night where it feels like God is far away, may you awaken to a hope that it will end. God will come and redeem you and you will be able to look back and see that God was always with you, even when you couldn’t feel God’s presence.
We, as United Methodists, believe that communion is open to everyone, no matter where you are on this journey of life this table is open for you. We believe God does something here that unites us a family and reminds us of God’s grace in our lives that walks with us even through the darkest times. So we will pray and have communion by intinction and I will invite you to come and to receive the bread and dip it in the cup. You are welcome to kneel at the altar and pray or return to your seat. If you are unable to come forward please let the person next you know and we will bring you communion if you wish.
Close with Prayer.