“Loving your Neighbor”

James 2:1-10 & 14-17, September 9th, 2018

Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard


 

 

“Hear now these ancient words recorded in the New Testament, the letter of James, chapter two, verses one thru ten and fourteen thru seventeen.”

James 2:1-17

1 My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ?  2 For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, 3 and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?  5 Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters.  Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?  6 But you have dishonored the poor.  Is it not the rich who oppress you?  Is it not they who drag you into court?  7 Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you?

8 You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  9 But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.  10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?  17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

“Let us now open our hearts to the words of this letter and their intended meaning.  Let us listen with our hearts as to what this letter, attributed to James, is trying to say to us here in the Twenty-First Century.”

 

“Loving your Neighbor”

I live in a neighborhood that is quiet and friendly.  The neighbors across the street wave to me and occasionally we stand in the yard and chat about our lawns or when the trash guy is going to swing by.  The guy to the south of me gives me advice on how often to have someone mow my lawn.  I didn’t take his advice.  He only gets his lawn mowed once a month.  Everyone else gets theirs done every week.  The family to the north of us, well, I try to mind my own business.  But, we are cordial to each other.  They were the only ones who knocked on our door to welcome us to the neighborhood.  The family down the street welcomed us as well when they were walking their dog in front of our new home.  That was nice, and I learned later that he is a police office.  Really good to have him living in the neighborhood!  Judging one’s neighbors is something most of us do at some level or another.  Of course, they have their opinions of me and my wife as well.  Wonder how they are judging us?

The challenge today, from our scripture lesson is not about judging others, that’s God’s business; rather, the topic is loving our neighbors.  Specifically, it says, loving our neighbors as ourselves!  Of course, our writing, attributed to James, is quoting what we are told Jesus said to the first disciples when questioned by a religious leader, whom was trying to entrap him when he asked what is the greatest commandment?  Of course, we know Jesus said: “we are to first love God and secondly to love our neighbor as ourselves.” /Matthew 29:37-39/ Many have played with this powerful message.  It is not that complicated to understand.  Jesus said to love God as our first-priority; or put God first in one’s life.  Love God; turn to God first for everything.  If you love God, you will be able to trust God with your life, all of it.  Then we must love our neighbor like we love ourselves.  These are not two separate thoughts.  We don’t love ourselves first and our neighbors second.  No, we are to do this all in the same sphere, not separately, thereby making Jesus’ simple reference to two commandments into three.  Bearing this in mind let us move on.

Let us start with talking about what it takes to love God first!  It takes genuine faith.  It is one thing to say we have faith, yet another to ‘actually’ trust in God with complete faith.  Faith is something that needs to go deep down into your being, your very soul.  You wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is… what is the first thing you do in the morning?  OK, after you use the bathroom, what is the ‘next’ first thing you do?  If you said you fix breakfast or you take a shower… then you have not made a choice which puts God first in your life!  Yes, I am pushing this point!  Yet, somewhere in the beginning of or at the start of one’s day, we need to be reminded to acknowledge God’s presence in our life.  Some of us have ‘really’ busy schedules and we are in a hurry when we get up.  OK, I get that.  Yet, the truth is, if we truly are trusting God with ‘all of’ our life, every element in it, at some point we need to invite God into our busy schedule.  If you and I, if we are this busy, then we surely need to bring God into our day.  A moment ago, we recounted how Jesus said God needs to be number one, the first commandment, loving God with all our heart, soul and minds!  How can we do this if we do not stop for a moment and invite God into our day!  Are we so busy, we think there is not enough time to invite God into our consciousness?!  The truth is, when we are at our busiest, we shall need God more then ever!

Walking humbly with our God is a statement that we Christians need to know.  Look around you, watch others as you proceed forward in your journey.  Does it appear that the people you encounter are keeping God first in their lives?  Does it appear that they are keeping the teachings of Jesus in their hearts?  Are they showing signs of following in the examples set by Jesus?  How can you tell?  Well ask yourself a simple question: are they showing genuine compassion, as they interact with those around them or upon the lives they influence?  When you study the gospel accounts of Jesus was he not genuinely compassionate with the people he interacted with?  Hot and tired he stops by a well to get a drink of water!  Out of simple compassion he talks with a Semaritan woman there and in the moments of their discourse he shows her compassion.  This account is found in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John.  Through the example Jesus set we are taught that being kind to others comes naturally, when we are following in the pathways of a loving God.  We love our neighbors when we show genuine kindness to them.  We love God when we follow the examples of Jesus.  We love ourselves by loving God and by loving our neighbors along our pathways in life.  It is that simple.  One is not separate from the other.  Just remember God first – you and your neighbor come after God.

Do we love our neighbors because it is the right thing to do?  Have we finally come into sync with Jesus and are seeking to follow his example?  Having learned to love our neighbors simply because we see them as our equals in the eyes of God, it is then that we can begin to love them just as God loves us.  Having done this, we can now look at today’s lesson from the Letter of James and we can see how foolish it would be to not take heed of his suggestions.   Surely, we must realize by this stage of our life’s journey that we are not meant to judge our neighbors, surely not at the level of scorn or disgust.  Mild musing is one thing, yet, judgment is not ours but the right of our Creator alone to make!  Loving a neighbor is not the same as making them your best friend.  But it is something we need to bear in mind as life unfolds for us.  They may need the kindness of their neighbor if they are to move forward with their lives.  Remember always, the best way to love yourself is to love God and to show compassion and kindness for those around you… as you continue to grow as followers of the one we call Jesus.

When people lift-up Jesus they often speak of his examples of social justice.  Social Justice, what is social justice?  Is it just a fade or a symbol we display now and then to present ourselves as true followers of Jesus?  When I ask this question, I am looking at the letter of James and examining what he is trying to say to us, today.  As a church, we have been good stewards of social justice issues.  This church has gone to great lengths to welcome everyone to journey with us, without judgement or distain for how they live their lives.  As a church, we have gone way beyond just talking the talk of social justice.  Yes, this church walks the walk.  Because of this, we are a diverse group of folks.  And yes, we can take pride in this.  However, we must not get too smug and full of ourselves.  There is plenty left to do.  The battle for the needs and the rights of others continues ever onward, at a very slow pace.  James was striving to clear the air with those he was speaking with.  Letting them know they had a few more hills to get over before they reach perfection!

I think we all know we are not perfect.  Only the Holy One of long ago has been judged to be faultless in the eyes of God Almighty!  Therefore, we come together every week to worship collectively.  We need each other to remind one another about the teachings and examples given to us by Jesus.  Hence, we are working hard to be sure we can offer a Christian Education program to those whom join with us in this journey.  As we live in the ebb and flow within the life of a living, breathing church, we continue to look for new avenues to serve the needs of others.  When one endeavor stops being what we had hoped it would be – we strive to get clarity on yet another new vision of our mission together.  Such is the journey of faith and trusting in God.  We may find we need to readjust our relationship with God… when it has slipped from its rightful place in our lives.  Therefore, let us be open to the critical self-appraisal of our ways, as this writing from James offers to us.  When we find, that we have strayed from the true pathway which is laid out for us, let us come together to make any needed adjustments or realignments.

We are always looking for a few good volunteers to keep our commitments as we strive to do what is right and just in the community we seek to serve.  Our life line as a small aging church is the new friends and members whom join us along the journey.  We unit with them as we pray that this is the church community they have been seeking.  We pray that they will see us for who we are and will not shy away from pointing out any flaws or weaknesses they see here.  As they join with us on this adventure, this journey of faith, we celebrate as we will welcome them and their new talents and their new insights and suggestions.  Together, we shall seek to do God’s will for this our church.  Collectively, may we be good followers of Jesus and his teachings and good neighbors to those we interact with.  May they be blessed as they bless us with their presence among us.

Amen.

“Listen, Listen, Listen”

James 1: 17-27, September 2nd

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


 

 

“Hear now these ancient words recorded in the New Testament, the letter of James, chapter one, verses seventeen thru twenty-seven

James 1:17-27

17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.  21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.  22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.  23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.  25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing.  26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.  27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

“Let us now open our hearts to the words of this letter and their intended meaning.  Let us listen with our hearts as to what this letter, attributed to James, is trying to say to us here in the Twenty-First Century.”

 

“Listen, Listen, Listen”

The art of listening is an attribute that brings with it a lot of benefits.  If you are told how to get from your current location to the destination you have in mind, especially, when you are traveling in a far away location which is new to you, hearing the directions clearly the first time you ask, may save you a considerable amount of time and frustration.  This is of course true only if the directions were accurate and were to the location you were seeking to find.  This points out one true flaw to this whole concept of listening; especially, if you only listen with your ears.  The one to whom you are listening needs to be someone you can count on to give you competent and accurate information.  This is very, very important!  It is quite evident that a great many of our youth as-well-as adults and even people whom seem to be very competent and successful are not listening to the right people.  Saddly, some are listening to their own distorted inner voices.  Others are listening to con artists that are preying on their naiveite.  It is abundantly clear that many are lacking in experience, wisdom and judgement when it comes to worldly matters.  Therefore, we need to pay careful attention to today’s teaching from the letter of James, in hopes that we will hear and learn more about how to be good listeners and good communicators.

Our writer this morning begins by telling us that recognition of generosity is the watch word when examining the many gifts which we all possess!  James refers to God as the “Father of lights.”  Many compare this imagery with Christmas lights or illuminations or the radiance of the gift of the Christ Child, Jesus.  How-ever we grasp this, James is seeking to point out and remind us of the ‘word of truth’ which came through the gift of the Living God in the form of the man Jesus.  He further infers and assumes we shall understand that in our baptism, into the realm of Christendom, we have been bathed in the Living and Holy Spirit of God.  Thereby, it is an expectation that we shall bear the fruit of the living God.  Essentially, it is our responsibility, to be careful as we move through our journey’s, to be diligent in our everyday jobs, our errands and our tasks, as-well-as our duties to be true to our calling.  Having been baptized into the faith, the body of the Living Christ… we are charged with the task of passing on the love of God; being generous in our sharing of the ‘words of truth’, which Jesus has passed on to us.  With these thoughts in mind let us examine the importance of our listening skills.

Again, our writer is pushing us, the listeners, to be aware there are many modes of listening.  Quick is a key word in this.  We are being told to listen quickly, meaning, don’t allow our biases or negative emotions to close the avenues of our listening skills.  The word ‘profiling’ has become all to common a word used to describe how some are trained to be biased toward another, by the color of their skin or the slant of their eyes or the brogue or accent of their voice.  These and other types of prejudice or narrow-mindedness can cause us to stop listening with an open heart to those we encounter along the way.  When this happens, we are no longer listening with an ability to fully appreciate what is being shared with us.  This is not the model of listening which Jesus taught nor is it the mode of listening which move forward the Christian message and movement!  Rather, James is saying to us, slow down, slow way down before making quick judgements of others.  He even interjects the word anger inferring that we may allow ourselves to prejudge another… based on intolerance and anger!  This will negatively influence how we hear the opinions of those we have the opportunity to hear and witness to!

As Christians we are called to produce the fruits of righteousness as we interact with others, as we speak with our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in every setting in life.  Virtue, honesty, and decency are characteristics of the righteous, not disrespect, insolence and rudeness.  Opportunities present themselves every day.  It is up to us to be open to each moment as it comes.

I was dropping off a shirt at the cleaners the other day.  The woman waiting on me happened to be Hispanic.  She has been working there for years as I have been going to the same cleaners for over twelve years now.  She was polite as usual.  We discussed the weather for a bit.  There was a lull in the flow of customers and I took a moment to chat with her.  She was listening to me and me to her.  We started chatting about farm workers as I shared how I foolishly dressed like a northerner while putting down new sod on my lawn instead of like a field worker who understood the foolishness of sandals and short sleeve shirts and short pants, when doing such work.  Before we finished chatting we had openly discussed bigotry, mine when I was younger!  And how I had come to see my upbringing was wrong and how I had changed.  I shared with her the diversity of this our congregation.  She was truly in awe and grateful for the time we openly listened to each other with our hearts. 

Our scripture lesson tells us “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” /James 1:22/ Every week, I find myself involved in writing another sermon and trying to find practical ways to live into the teaching.  It is not always easy.  Sometimes, God puts something on my plate of life, to cause me to pause and reflect.  My encounter with the charming young woman at the cleaners was such a moment.  It was a simple moment, nothing profound.  But, yet, it punctuated my day and it felt that it uplifted hers in some way.  The stories of Jesus, many of which are indeed profound and yes, even dramatic.  Yet, somehow, I see Jesus more as a gently, loving man who went about his daily life in a more simplistic way.  His humble acts of kindness as he encountered people along the journey of his short life were meant to be just that.  It is only when his disciples tried to share those moments with others after his execution and resurrection that they become more closely scrutinized and ultimately dramatized to some degree or another.  As we live out our days, let us practice the simple lessons and teachings of Jesus.  Let us pay attention to those low-keyed opportunities to share our truths without dramatizing them and correspondingly to listen with our hearts to everyone we interact with when the opportunity arises.

Listening continues to be an action word.  We have spoken of this in the past and this still applies in the present.  When we do the will of God, when we are doers of the teachings of Christ, we shall be blessed in our doing.  If we forget or neglect to open our hearts when we hear others, we shall fail to be good listeners and thus we will not be able to do as Jesus so simply taught us to do.

In recent conversations I have become more aware of how others see the church universal.  Just let me pause for a moment and remind us of a truth.  When I was young my mother taught me that when buying things like a bag of tomatoes, potatoes or even a basket of apples, it is important to sort them out and remove any that are over ripe or show signs of rot.  She said, that one rotten one will spoil them all!  In the same way if someone does or portrays an act of hypocrisy in the church universal, it affects individual churches locally, even if they are without blemish.  With this thought in mind, we need to be conscious of how we walk the talk.  If we say one thing and do another, we have become untrue to the words we speak.  If we teach the unconditional love of God, and we do, then we need to carry that love to others, without reservation.  I was so pleased to read this Sunday’s thank you notes on the back of our bulletin.  Five members and friends of this congregation went to serve a hot meal this past Monday at the Dailey Bread.  The call from Mary Beth for more volunteers was heard.  Thank you, one and all!  This is a sign that you listened and then responded through your action.  Our lesson ends with these written words: “Faith that is strong and vibrant before God, is this: to care for All of God’s Children in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” /James 1:27/

Amen.

 

 

“Joyful Prayer!”

Psalm 84, August 26th, 2018

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


 

 

“Sit back, relax and allow these ancient words from the book of Psalms, Psalm eighty-four, to fill your heart and soothe your soul.”

Psalm 84

  1. How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
  2. My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
  3. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
  4. Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah
  5. Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
  6. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.
  7. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
  8. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
  9. Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed.
  10. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.
  11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold from those who walk uprightly.
  12. O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.

“Having heard this ancient writing allow your mind as well as your heart to stay open to their meaning and implications to each one of us in this current place and time.”

 

“Joyful Prayer!”

Today is Rally Day, the day we celebrate the restart of all our regular post summer activities – after the summer break.  Prayerfully, we can all smile at this, for we live here in Florida.  Summer is far from over, yet it is time to gather the children back together and dust off the text books and get back to the task of educating our youth.  Schools are either already open or shall soon be.  With this fact in mind, it is time for us, as a church, to rally together and consider how we can breathe some new life back into our Christian Education program.  We live in a community with lots of children.  We know this to be true based on the response we got this past October when we offered a ‘trunk or treat’ open to the public.  An hour after we started the event it started to rain and within ten to fifteen minutes the cars had stopped coming and the children had left.  I may not have the number correct, exactly, but we had at least eighty children stop by.  The year before, without the rain, we saw well over a hundred or so.  Now, I am not suggesting they all ought to come to our church; many of them are perhaps enrolled in other churches Christian Education programs.  Yet, it does suggest that perhaps we could do more to attract a few more families with children to our church.

So, how do we strengthen our Christian Education program?  Currently, we have some very competent volunteers working diligently to organize a schedule for our Sunday School teachers and they have picked out a solid curriculum packet that will be used this season.  If you are interested in being part of this important ministry, and have some background in working with children, please let me or a member of our Christian Education Committee know.  There are however, some things that everyone here gathered can do for our children’s program starting right now, today.  Pray, pray for the children that we now serve, and offer up a prayer for the children that live in this local community and are in need of a good Christian education program.  Pray that they and their parents find their way into this sanctuary, that we might be able to offer them a meaningful opportunity to learn more about our faith and how it was passed to us.  Most children are exposed to the story of Jesus at Christmas and at Easter.  It’s a beginning, yet there is so much more to be learned.  Pray with me over the coming weeks and months that we can effectively teach those who come to us, about the many stories of a faithful people as contained in the Bible.  Pray we can instill in them how Jesus was a man of compassion and love and strived to reach all within his ministry with the unconditional love of God.  Prayer, on this topic, by each and everyone of us here this morning, will change how we think of children and families who live in this community.  Prayer will open up our hearts to a new level of acceptance to the children whom are brought to this church.

The Psalmist of old proclaims to the people about opening their hearts to God’s creation and become willing to turn to God, recognizing the beauty of creation!  “How lovely is your dwelling place!  My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.  Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young.” /Psalm 84:1-3/ It is hard to read this Psalm without feeling uplifted and stimulated to see the beauty of Creation through the eyes of this poetic and joyful Psalm.  Surely, we need to strive to see the world around us in this way.  It is so easy to become jaded and soured as humankind struggles in the midst all the perils of human nature.  Yet, we must not forget that God’s creation came first and from within we humans were created and have come to flourish.  Therefore, we, like the Psalmist need to keep our hearts in touch with the splendor of nature all around us.  When we are able to see God’s love in the midst the hustle and ‘busyness’ of life, we will be able to share God’s ever-present Love with the families whom come to join us in worship on Sunday morning.  When we are able to see others connect with and celebrate with us, during our times of worship, we shall feel an overwhelming sense of joy!  Joy that once again God’s grace has done for another what we alone are not able to accomplish!

Is today truly Rally Day?  Yes, yes, it is!  Together, we are called to come together and rally, rally around our common need to see the youth supported and cared for in Christian love; just as Jesus would want.  This means we need to be open and tolerant to the struggles of young parents.  We need to be willing to see through their eyes what coming to church on Sunday morning’s means to them.  Some will feel stretched to have made the commitment to get the children up, dressed and fed before they get here.  For some this may be their only day off; perhaps only one parent accompanies the child or the children to church as the other is working.  Or possibly, there is only one parent.  What ever their situation in life, it is our responsibility as Christians, to welcome them with open arms and open hearts.  We need to understand how difficult it may be for them to have found the energy to simply be with us.  Honor this and respect them with dignity and grace.  Take time to talk with them and to learn their names and the names of their children.  It is a big step for them to have come to visit us.  Let us be sure we make them feel welcomed here!

This morning I would ask that we ‘stop and listen’ as the word ‘Selah’ may suggest.  Listen to your own heartbeat.  Pay attention to your own breathing.  Allow your mind to rest quietly.  If you struggle doing this then reflect on the message which our preacher strived to instill in us last Sunday.  Look and examine your own thoughts and see what is hidden there.  Uncover them and discard those of no use and work with what is right in the eyes of God.  The psalmist, this morning, is raising up for us the joy which can be had by each one of us here today, if we simply follow the teachings of the Loving God which is spoken of.  The same loving God whom those who came before us grew to know.  And the same God whom worked with our ancestors to be all that they were able to be, passing on to us their understanding of the Holy One as best they could.  Just as it is now our turn to pass on this narrative of God to the next generations, so also it was theirs!  Let us be grateful for all that has been passed forward to us.  And where there was discord or a disconnect in this process let us become willing to forgive those whom failed us and now turn our attention to righting their shortcomings through our renewed efforts to not drop the message of God into the darkness of night.  Rather let us put a spotlight on the message of ‘hope and salvation’ that has been made visible and clear to us in our journeys of faith and prayerfully, here in this our place of worship, our place of gathering together in fellowship.

As we extend our prayers for the children let us expand our prayers to include our own wellbeing and our choices which we make every day.  Let us choose to fill our lives with the tools of our faith.  Let us turn to beautiful prayers that have been written for our use.  Take for example the prayer of Saint Francis: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let me bring love.  Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.  Where there is discord, let me bring union.  Where there is error, let me bring truth.  Where there is doubt, let me bring faith.  Where there is despair, let me bring hope.  Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.  Where there is sadness, let me bring joy.”  The prayer goes on to suggest to us that we need to become less centered on ourselves and more focused on the needs of others.  Just imagine if everyone took a minute, an hour or a day to reach out to someone, to do for them rather than to do for ourselves alone.  “O Master, let me not seek as much to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love, for it is in giving that one receives, it is in self-forgetting that one finds, it is in pardoning that one is pardoned, it is in dying that one is raised to eternal life.”  The Psalmist was offering up his poetic words, just as modern theologians have offered up wonderfully inspiring prayers, as words of encouragement, hope and with the desire to point us in the right direction as we move through the maze and oftentimes struggles of life!

“Happy are those who live in God’s home, ever singing God’s praise.”  Let us ‘stop and listen’ hearing the rallying cry of the Psalmist… to come together… as a faith filled people… to live in the teachings of God, made known to us in the writings of Moses, Elijah, and so many others.  “Happy are those whose strength is in God, in whose heart are the highways to the holiest of places.” /Psalm 84:4-5 adapted/ The Psalmist wanted his listeners to know, he wants us to know, it is better to live within the realm of God, for even a moment, then to dwell in the ways of wickedness.  Be mindful that mischief behavior, and tomfoolery leads to our failing.  A great many of us were brought up in the teachings of the Bible.  Because of this many have lived with the fellowship of God’s love along this journey of life.  What a blessing!  Others of us have had to struggle to learn of God’s love, having stumbled and fallen along the way; yet, by God’s grace we have found our way and have been nourished with the love and the fellowship of those before us.  Praise be to God!  With the help of God, we can now come together, collectively pulling to do what is right, in the name of righteousness for the sake of those whom follow behind us.  Following this teaching, contained in the ancient writing we have examined this day, let us Rally together, to trust in the Living Spirit of God in our efforts to show, lead and teach, the children whom God has sent and shall send to us; thereby, passing to them our understanding of whom God is and what God has promised to us.

Let all here gathered say Amen!  Amen!

 

“Clear Me from Hidden Faults”

Psalm 19: 7-14, August 19, 2018

Sermon by Margot Celeste Bennett


 

 

Psalm 19

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;

8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;

9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

 

Prayer

Search me, O God, and know my heart today;
I praise you, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Try me, my Redeemer, know my thoughts, I pray.
Fulfill your promise and make me pure within.
See if there is some unclean way in me;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Cleanse me from my sin and set me free. In Jesus name I pray.

Amen!

 

“Clear Me from Hidden Faults”

Anyone know someone who is unhappy or even miserable all the time? Of course, you do. I think we all could name at least one person who seems to be dissatisfied all the time. What if that person you know is you?

The answer is: Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night (Psalm 1:1–3). So, for the sake of your joy and your prayers I want to encourage you develop an unshakable commitment to being in the Word of God every day. To encourage and inspire you to do that, I want to look at verses 7–14 of Psalm 19. The point of this text as I see it is this: Because the Scriptures open us the Word of the Lord – the communication of the living God – they have effects on us that are better than the effects of anything else we can read or study or watch or listen to.

David’s Six-fold Repetition

In verse 7 we hear “The law of the Lord is perfect, …the testimony of the lord is sure…” Verse 8 goes on to state, “The statutes of the Lord are right, … The commandment of the Lord is pure…” and finally in Verse 9 we hear “The fear of the lord is clean, … The judgements of the Lord are true…” Six times David uses the phrase “of the Lord,” that is, God who says, “I am who I am” and there is no other. The God who created all that is and holds it in being, and who understands everything in the universe from galaxies to the Higgs Boson is our God and The God we love and trust.

 The New Testament Teaching

The New Testament confirms David’s teaching. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and is profitable . . . ” “Inspired by God!” Peter says in 2 Peter 1:20–21, “No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit. Jesus himself said in John 10:35, “The word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken.” The Scriptures are here to teach us the Word of God.

God understands us better than anyone else. He knows how we get to be the way we are and how we are affected by our surroundings. God knows the future and how everything will come out in the end. God is more caring than any counselor. God is more creative than any poet or artist. 

The Good Effects of Meditating on the Word of God

A general statement is found in the first part of verse 10 and the last part of verse 11. David says first in verse 10 that the words of God are “more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold.” And then at the end of verse 11, “In keeping of them there is great reward.”

If you have a choice between God and GOLD, choose God. The point is clear. The benefits of knowing and doing what God expects of us are greater than all that money can buy. 

The Specific Benefits of the Word of God

So, what are some these benefits? What is this “great reward” that verse 11 is talking about that makes meditating on the Word of God so much better than much fine gold?

It seems to me that what David says can be boiled down to three benefits: life, wisdom, and happiness. Miserable people don’t prevail in the right spirit, but that God is the key to prevailing in prayer for the right things in the right spirit because it makes foolish people wise, and miserable people happy. Let’s look at these one at a time. 

The Benefit of Life

Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but [shall LIVE] by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). This is why he was fasting for 40 days—to learn as a man the radical need for God and the only relative need for food by man. Food can only give physical life. But God gives spiritual life, life that never ends, life which is life indeed.

You cannot maintain dynamic, powerful, vibrant life in God if you neglect God, because “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

Our life begins with God and we stay alive by God. If we abandon God, we will die spiritually. And this dying is very devious because its chief symptom is the denial that it is happening. Only God gives the life which matters in the end. The law of the Lord revives the soul. God has made it the means of life. Without it we perish. 

The Benefit of Wisdom

We see this in the second half of verse 7: “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple”; and the second half of verse 8: “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”

A wise person is a person whose life makes sense in the enlightenment of reality. So for example, self-denial will look foolish and collecting “stuff” on earth will look wise only if you are in the dark about the reality of heaven (Luke 12:33) and the danger of riches (Mark 10:25) and the rewards of sacrifice (Matthew 19:29). But if you live in the light of the reality of heaven and the staggering rewards of sacrifice, then it makes sense to obey the command of the Lord to deny yourself for His sake. It is the path of wisdom.

And where is the light of reality shining? Where do we go to get out of the darkness? God is the Essential Reality. Everything disconnected from God is unreal in the way it was meant to function. Therefore, a life without God is an unreal life.

How do you escape the darkness? The commandment of the Lord gives light to the eyes. The testimony of the Lord makes wise the simple. Wisdom is a life that makes sense in the light of reality. And the light of reality shines from the Holy Spirit. 

The Benefit of Joy

But who can discern his errors? Clear thou me from hidden faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

What are these errors and hidden faults?  Most of us are reticent to admit our errors and faults especially hidden faults?  Not me!!!!  Sure, people will admit to minor errors and simple faults.  Often making a joke out of them as if they’re unimportant.   No one is blameless.

One huge error we often make several times a day are the sins of presumption.  What does that mean?  It means that we will make judgements about people, things, places or situations where we have no basis in truth, yet we know for a fact that we are right.  I’ll give you a personal example:  I have an antler from a mule deer I picked up in Jackson Hole Wyoming in 1997. I have been dragging the huge antler with me everywhere I have been since.  One day very recently I found a use for it and went out to the garage to look for it because that’s where it always was.  I couldn’t find it after looking everywhere.  Then I thought, maybe it was stolen.  The maybe turned into a fact it was stolen.  Who would be so low as to steal my antler?  The Water heater guy! I left him alone for ten minutes or so and that was plenty of time for him to grab it and toss it in his truck.  By the time I was finished I knew for a fact that the magnificent antler was stolen and who the likely culprit was.  I presumed quite a bit didn’t I. I made up an entire history and became angry, and then I thought, maybe he needed it more that I did.  After a few days I let it go and used some cedar driftwood for my project instead.  For those few days though, I remained angry and allowed it to get to me. Can anyone relate?

A few weeks later Connie and I were looking for a specific box.  After searching the house, I decided to go check the attic because you never know.  Upon climbing half way up the ladder guess what was sitting right in front of me on the ledge.  A mule deer antler.  Boy did I feel dumb. I put it there and forgot all about doing so. Romans 8:28 – “God works all things together for good for those who love him and who are called according to his purpose.” Oh, I found the box we were looking for too.

Hidden faults.  Most of those aren’t really hidden.  They’re ignored as faults.  Most of those aren’t really hidden. They’re just ignored as faults. When I first read this Psalm, I was struck by the: “Clear thou me my hidden faults.”  My first thought was, I didn’t have any hidden faults. My ego is as large as the Grand Canyon.  I know what my faults are. But the more I thought about it the more it came clear that my hidden faults are obvious if I just open my eyes and admit them to myself. Since then I’ve tried to identify them as they have come up and work through my faults.  It is slow and very hard work.  Very often I find myself praying, asking The Lord to “Help me with this!”

Hidden faults are sneaky and insidious. Does anyone know a person who always must be right no matter what, and never once considers the possibility of giving the other person or persons the right to be wrong? These people never seem to be very happy, do they? There’s a thought, Give the other person the right to be wrong.

How many of us know that person that everything happens to? “Why does this always happen to me?”  I find these people to be miserable all the time. The truth is bad or inconvenient things happen to people for two reasons.  One reason is they just make bad decisions and must suffer the consequences of those decisions.  They want to do things their way and ignore God and the good the God has in mind for them. The other reason is, and I’m sorry to say this because you don’t want to hear it, but it’s just your turn.  “Stuff” just happens.  It happens to everyone.  It’s not what happens to us, but how we deal with it that makes all the difference in a happy, hope filled and faithful life, or a miserable life.

I hope I’ve given you a few things to think about and I wish you nothing but peace, happiness and joy.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Amen.