March 7, 2021
"Seeing God … Everywhere"
Pastor Scott Landis
Please join me in prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O God my rock and my redeemer. Amen.”
Psalm 19, a portion of which you just heard sung and the last verse of which I have just used as my opening prayer, is one of those unique and beautiful songs in the Hebrew scriptures that will appeal to almost anyone – whether you are a stargazer and a tree hugger-type, or a more practical “law and order” kind of person. The psalm moves in two distinct directions both pointing toward reverence, humility, and wonder – as it describes the pervasive nature of God.
Old Testament Professor Emeritus Dr. James Limburg tells the story of going to summer camp as a kid and listening to the counselors explain that there are “two books in our lives that talk about God. The one most of us think about, of course, is the Bible. It is our best written attempt that seeks to describe our ideas about God and of God’s manifestation in the world.
But the second book, Dr. Limburg remembers, was described as equally important – it is the book of nature. “Just take a look around you,” the counselors would invite – “without reading a word, you will see God … everywhere.
Like we who find ourselves today in this charming sanctuary by the sea – the psalmist tried to describe what it is like to have a foot in both locations – both books as it were. We can sit here and read God’s word – and those words from ancient texts can speak powerfully to us as we listen and imagine what the original writers wanted to convey. AND we can walk outside and look up at the mountain, or westward to the blue Pacific and read an entirely different kind of book – one that, without words, brings delight and understanding as we see a turtle raise its head for a bite of air or a whale as it breaches in his attempt to impress a mate.
Psalm 19 tells of those two distinct methods of describing the nature of God. One is declared by the heavens themselves. The other is rooted in the law that is sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb, the psalmist writes. [Pause]
The song has been uniquely translated by many authors one of which you have already heard read by Robin a moment ago. Each translation is an attempt to capture this understanding of seeing God … everywhere. While I do want to say a few words of application to our lives today. I really want you to simply hear their words – in a couple of different translations. In lieu of spending all my time today preaching about them, I want to allow the words to speak for themselves.
Eugene Peterson, in his Message translation, says it this way (you may want to close your eyes and allow the words to wash over you – after which I will pause for a few moments of silent reflection).
1-2 God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.
3-4 Their words aren’t heard,
their voices aren’t recorded,
But their silence fills the earth:
unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
4-5 God makes a huge dome
for the sun—a superdome!
The morning sun’s a new husband
leaping from his honeymoon bed,
The daybreaking sun an athlete
racing to the tape.
6 That’s how God’s Word vaults across the skies
from sunrise to sunset,
Melting ice, scorching deserts,
warming hearts to faith.
7-9 The revelation of God is whole
and pulls our lives together.
The signposts of God are clear
and point out the right road.
The life-maps of God are right,
showing the way to joy.
The directions of God are plain
and easy on the eyes.
God’s reputation is twenty-four-carat gold,
with a lifetime guarantee.
The decisions of God are accurate
down to the nth degree.
10 God’s Word is better than a diamond,
better than a diamond set between emeralds.
You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring,
better than red, ripe strawberries.
11-14 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.
Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool?
Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!
Keep me from stupid sins,
from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day sun-washed,
scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.
These are the words in my mouth;
these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock,
[Silence is kept]
Nan Merrill has cast Psalm 19 in a slightly different way. Again, I invite you to listen to her words with imagination and openness:
The heavens declare the glory of the Creator;
The firmament proclaims the handiwork of Love.
Day to day speech pours forth
And night to night knowledge is revealed.
There is no speech nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard;
Yet does their music resound through all the earth,
And their words echo to the ends of the world.
In them is a tent for the sun is set,
Which is like a bride and groom on their wedding night
As they sing love’s song and celebrate the dance of life.
Its rising is in eternity,
And its circuit to infinity;
Nothing is hidden from the sunlight.
The law of the Love is perfect,
Reviving the soul;
The testimony of Love is sure
Making wise the simple;
The precepts of Love are right
Rejoicing the heart;
The authority of Love is pure,
Enlightening the eyes;
The spirit of Love is glorious
The rites of Love are true,
More to be desired are
they than gold
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them are the loving guided;
In keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own weaknesses?
Cleanse me, O Love, from all my hidden faults.
Keep me from boldly acting in error;
Let my fears and illusions not have dominion over me!
Then shall I become a beneficial presence,
Freely and fully surrendered to your love.
Let the words of my mouth
And the meditation of my heart
Find favor in your Heart
O my Beloved, my strength and my joy!
[Silence is kept]
So why, you might ask – do we focus our attention in the middle of Lent – on this lovely Psalm that reminds us that we can see God – and experience God … everywhere? I believe the answer is because we also see God in God’s supreme manifestation – the One who read these very words AND who participated in Creation’s origin. The One who taught of an even greater law – the law of love, as Ann Merrill so beautifully translated. The One who gave his life that we might accept eternity’s invitation – A Savior whom we also see in the “breaking of the bread.”
For many of us, it is difficult to envision this person – Jesus. Oh, we may have a picture that has been imprinted from Sunday school or Vacation Bible school. He may look dark-skinned and with a beard, or more than likely white. But, for most of us, as we age – we tend to look beyond the graphic image and see him in symbol rather than human form. We see him in metaphor – just like the psalmist suggested. In mountain peak, and breaking wave, in red-ripe strawberries, in breaching whale, and in verses of scripture.
As we come to the table today, I invite you to see Jesus in the simplicity of this Holy Meal – this grace meal we call Eucharist or Holy Communion. See him in the inclusiveness that we proclaim in our mission AND in our ministry which reaches far beyond our doors. See him in song AND in our story. See him in bread and cup. See him in the purity of the created order AND in the honeycomb drippings of holy law.
And so, I’d like to close my meditation today in the same way that I began – may our prayer express our desire to see God … everywhere. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O God my rock and my redeemer. Amen.”