I'm back to focusing on the Psalms today. And in particular, I'm focusing on verse 6 of Psalm 16. When I started studying it, I was reminded of a long-ago conversation with Arlyce Dedrickson. I miss Arlyce, she was a great encourager for me, but she'd also hold my feet to the fire. I couldn't just throw out random thoughts without reason. In the conversation we held, I don't recall details but we were talking about how my life had developed to the point where I was a pastor, a fact that is really quite a surprise to most who know me. All the influences and benefits, my parents and family, being born when and where I was all worked together to bring me to that spot. And she introduced to me a new phrase that has stuck with me: The Luck of the Womb. By that she was pointing out that who we become is so strikingly influenced by the circumstances of our birth and family.
Warren Buffet also had a term for this. Here's his explanation, “Just imagine that it is 24 hours before you are born. A genie comes and says to you in the womb, “just before you emerge you have to go through a huge bucket with 7 billion slips, one for each human. Dip your hand in and that is what you get — you could be born intelligent or not intelligent, born healthy or disabled, born black or white, born in the US or in Bangladesh, etc. I call this the 'Ovarian Lottery.' My sisters didn’t get the same ticket (I did). Expectations for them were that they would marry well, or if they work, would work as a nurse, teacher, etc. You can’t say you do everything yourself. We all have teachers, and people before us who led us to where we are.”
Both these views seem to leave out the place of God in all this, Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your book!” God is in control.
Yet, if you are here watching today, you got a pretty good slip in the birth lottery. You were born free in a country with many freedoms. There are health advantages, opportunities, infrastructures like never before in history. You have a computer that allows you almost infinite resources. On top of all that, I remind you that you have been specially chosen by God as a beloved son or daughter. And so is the Christian in China who is locked in prison for her faith. So is the refugee in the Sudan who has no idea where his next meal is coming from. Our worth is not determined by our possessions or our location or our social standing. Our worth comes because God has chosen us, not the other way around. We are twice blessed because we have recognized God's call. We are indeed fortunate that we are living in a time and place where there are opportunities beyond almost anything known in history. As we thank God for that, give thanks with a humble heart for not every child of God has been blessed with the opportunities we have.
I've talked a lot and haven't given the key verse yet; “My boundaries enclose a pleasant land; indeed, I have a goodly heritage.” The Psalmist wrote of a goodly heritage. That covers many areas of life. For us now, as we celebrate 150 years as a congregation in Litchfield, we recognize the great heritage we have from the generations who have gone before us. As we each consider our own lives and where we are, we recognize as part of who we are the contributions of parents, siblings, grandparents. They are part of what the Psalmist called his goodly heritage. But part of our lives are also made up of boundaries... for the psalmist, his boundary was a pleasant land. But we know that for many of us, those boundaries do not always fall in pleasant places. Right now our boundaries are limited by the stay-at-home orders. And yet we have talked about surprise blessings in the midst of these new boundaries. Consider the extra time we have to just be. The time we have for prayer and meditation and reading. On Good Friday I preached on this and received a note with these words, “I think this has been our best Holy Week and Easter ever. Our whole lives have been focused on these events with lots of time to think about Christ and the church.” That's a surprise blessing found in new boundaries not of our choosing.
This Psalm invites us to find joy and peace and fulfillment in the boundaries of our lives. Not that we simply accept everything as it is, but to know our limitations while doing all we can to improve our lot and the lot of the world in which we live. Part of this living within God's boundaries in life means finding your peace with who God made you to be. Coveting, being jealous of the lives and talents of others can be like trespassing across boundary lines. We are to be aware of the place of God in our lives. Jesus taught us that the treasures of God's kingdom are of more importance than the things of this world. “9 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” This discourse is kind of about boundaries as well. Our treasure must be about God and God's ways rather than the riches of this world. This made me think of the line from “It's a Wonderful Life.” George asks his guardian angel Clarence if he's got the $8000 he needs. Clarence tells him they don't use money in heaven. George says, “It comes in pretty handy down here, Bub.” Of course he's right, but in its proper place, with the proper boundaries.
This is the second Sunday of Easter. Easter was when Jesus broke the boundaries that kept us in slavery to sin and the Old Testament Law. We celebrate this even as we seek to live in proper relationship with God and with each other.
I quoted Psalm 139: 16 earlier about God knowing us before we were born. Each of us is created as unique individuals with gifts and talents that are ours alone. You have a goodly heritage from God and from your specific upbringing. Each day, each moment we decide between things that are eternal, things of God; and things that are temporal, treasures on earth. Rest in who God has made you to be. But be all that God has called you to be. In Romans 12, Paul wrote about our relationship to each other in the body of Christ, “So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” (Romans 12: 5-6 the Message) You have a contribution to make to this world so be the child that God called you to be. Follow that call, reach to the very limits of boundaries so that you are all that God desires for you. Amen.