February 10, 2013
Sermon Preached at Prestbury Methodist Church.
Psa 138:1-8 Of David. I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything. On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Text :For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away. (Psalm 138:6)
I spent yesterday preparing for this morning: and discovered myself really struggling with this one question:“Does God really care about the things that happen to us?”
Now I know that our immediate reaction is probably “Of course God cares” – mostly because we are taught to believe this!But before we rush into a quick answer – hear where my question comes from:
Ø Anene Booysen, a 17 year old girl from Bredasdorp, was gang-raped this week, and died from her injuries.Does God care about this?
Let me try this differently:
Ø Yesterday Dianne, Mark Duncan and myself were running down Alexander Road extension, when we came across an accident: a drunk driver had driven into a runner out training in the early morning and killed him.Does God care about this?
I really struggle with this, because it seems like we send our prayers up to heaven and God is just too far away to do anything: you know those lines we read from the prophet Isaiah?Isa 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple
So God sits high and lofty while some really awful things happen to us here in South Africa.
Let me give us some statistics:
· In 2010, more than 56,000 rapes were recorded in South Africa, an average of 154 a day
· Around 18,000 murders were also reported in the same period.... 49 murders a day.
We certainly live in a country that behaves as if God if far away, and so we can “play God” with one another’s lives.As I struggled with the question of “where is God” – I was led to our text for today:
Psa 138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.Here is a timeless truth that has been handed down from generation to generation: God may be high and lifted up – but he is fully aware of all that takes place in our lives. In fact the writer of this Psalm is quite specific:
Not only is God aware of what is going on – but God exercises preference:
“he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away”.
To re-translate this: God sees the little people / the unnoticed/ the marginalized. But those who arrogantly believe that they are superior human beings will discover that they are far away from God.
Ø Those who behave as if they have a god-like power to rape and murder will discover that they are far away from God.... because God is comforting their victims.
Ø Those who think that they have a god-like freedom to drive drunk will discover that God climbs out of their car to sit alongside the victim of their actions.
But there is more to this.While it is true that God sees what happens – God also asks if we see what is happening. But this is not the kind of question that allows us to feel outraged, and ask what God is doing about it. This is the kind of question that asks what we are doing about it.The other two passages we read today help us hear God’s question to us;
Isaiah emerges at the moment when King Uzziah has died. He had been king for fifty two years – and now there is a power vacuum (2 Kings 15:2). Jotham takes over as King, and we are told that he does not do what was pleasing in God’s sight” (2 Kings 16:2). He even offered his own son as a burned offering to idols. We are told that not only does God see this – God asks Isaiah if he sees it:
Isa 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I; send me!"
In our New Testament passage we have Jesus teaching crowds of people at the Sea of Galilee. These are poor peasant people who believe that God lives in the temple in Jerusalem – and they are abandoned to their miserable lives: they are oppressed by Roman taxes, struggling to make ends meet, and generally ignored by God. Jesus sees their need, and turns to Peter, James and John and asks them to leave their fishing, and join him in caring for these people.
Here is the truth of our faith: We believe that God sees everything that happens in human life.We also believe that God notices those who are the least, and the most distressed. But even more crucially – we discover that God asks us to become partners in responding to those who are in need. To take us back to the psalm we read:
Our text says:Psa 138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.
The very next verse tells us that the writer of the Psalm has heard the voice of God – and is part of the solution:Psa 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.
The writer walks where there is trouble – a better translation suggests that he is not walking, but “marching” in the midst of trouble. He is not just praying for God to do something – but has responded to God’s call and is doing battle against trouble. Then the next verse:
Psa 138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
Here is someone who is ready to fulfil whatever purpose God has for him....So let me come a full circle: I began with the question: Does God care about human sinfulness? Does God see the drunk drivers, and the rapes, and the murders?
Yes – God does...The real question is – do we?
And are we willing to work to create a world where rape is not tolerated.
Will we work to build a world where murder is not an option?
Let me try an even easier question: Will you and I decide that we will not drive if we have had something to drink – and will stop our guests/friends from driving if they have had something to drink?
Isa 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" And I said.....?