Psalm 130; 1 John 1: 1-5; John 8: 12
March 29, 2020 Zoom
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, an the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 8: 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I've been drawn to the Psalms as we face the fear and uncertainty and threats of the corona virus. According to the Cliffs Notes website, “The Book of Psalms is a collection of poems, hymns, and prayers that express the religious feelings of Jews throughout the various periods of their national history. Here, we find a revelation of the hopes, the joys, the sorrows, the loyalties, the doubts, and the aspirations of the human heart.” This range of emotion is why it makes such a connection to people of faith, even today. And today's Psalm starts in such a way that we understand that the writer—we don't know who that was—the writer was expressing despair and doubts. “Out of the depths have I called to you, O Lord.” This does not mean that he is standing in deep water in the sea or a pool. It is an emotional pit or valley in which he finds himself. He cries out to the Lord in his despair and fear.
Can't we relate? There is a lot of that going on these days. The sense of the unknown we face is unique; or it feels unique. We have never known what is coming day to day. The future has always been unknown. But Covid-19 is new, the professionals are still learning its traits, its life cycle, its weaknesses; we in the pews...well your chairs at home... understand even less than the pros. We listen to them, follow the protocol, keep our social distancing, meet via Zoom, stay at home... but it still can feel like we too are in the depths of the despair
Yet, even in the depths, the Psalmist called upon the Lord. “Lord, hear my voice;
let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.” And so we call upon the Lord as well, “Lord hear our prayers.”
A characteristic of the depths is generally darkness. In the bible, the writers often contrast the light and darkness. Light is good, darkness is not. One of the claims of Jesus we read this morning, “I am the light of the world.” That's from John's gospel, the beginning of which we read. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Jesus came bringing light to the darkness.
There have been a lot of facebook quizzes and such going on with everybody stuck at home. One that our family did had several choices for us to choose from; cats or dogs, chocolate or vanilla ice cream, steak or seafood, Pepsi or Coke. One was sunrise or sunset. I chose sunrise but I was far, far in the minority. That interests me. I'm sure the beauty of the sunset was the reason for choosing sunset. But for me, the hope, the new beginning of another day is such a strong element of the sunrise. And it seems the psalmist would agree. He wrote, “4 I wait for the Lord; my soul waits for him; in his word is my hope.” And I've written and spoken about hope quite a bit in the last weeks. But how and when does the psalmist wait? “My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” The dark of night is often when our fears are the worse. The psalmist compares that waiting in despair with a watchman at the gate, a sentry if you will, waiting for the morning light. He stresses this desire for the Lord, repeating the phrase, “more that watchman waiting for the morning. A sentry puts in long nights, they wait anxiously for morning and the end of their long, dark duty.
The psalmist compares this longing to our longing for the word of the Lord. When we are in a dark place, a pit, a valley, we long for the light. When we are in a spiritual darkness, we long for the Lord. We wait for the sunrise. By the way, while I was working on this sermon I wanted to lookup the psalm in a different translation. I accidentally entered Psalm 30, and that Psalm says, “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” That's a picture of the hope of the sunrise, the hope of joy. Here's another word-picture of the desire and hope the sunrise brings. It comes from the devotional 100 Days of Praise, but no author is listed, “Waking up to a beautiful sunrise is so promising. The air is quiet. Birds are beginning to stir in their nests. The moon is fading away as the sun’s rays quietly take over the sky. It’s as if God hit the restart button and we are powering up for a new day, a new beginning. Our batteries are charged, the things of yesterday are gone, and God is unveiling a chance to start anew. Today is a blank page in a journal— crisp, clean, and ready for a beautiful story to unfold. (This next part seems especially appropriate as we are home bound, living in close quarters with our loved ones) Every day, we have the chance to be more patient, more forgiving, more kind, more understanding, and more generous. We can right our wrongs, learn from yesterday’s mistakes, listen more, argue less, put down our phones, look at our family, and start over. We will still make mistakes; (another insert from me, remember what the Psalm says, “For there is forgiveness with (the Lord)”; but God gives us grace, again and again, until we are finally made new.”
Jesus is the light of the world, the Sun of Righteousness, the bright and morning star. We find our hope in him even in the depths of a pandemic, the depths of fear and worry, the depths of wondering where the Lord is. The Lord is with us. Jesus brings us light in our darkness. He brings us hope in despair. He brings us forgiveness in our failings. He brings us community in our loneliness. He brings us grace that makes us new, and grace to face these days with compassion and hope. Amen.