January 21, 2018

For God Alone My Soul In Silence Waits – January 21, 2018

Passage: Psalm 62 and Mark 1:14-20

“For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly my hope is in him.” That is one of my favorite lines in all of Holy Scriptures. It’s so good that Psalm 62 repeats it twice. The lectionary reading in our scripture insert is shortened and skips verses 1-5. The first verse, like the 6th starts with the refrain. Here are verses 1-5:

For God alone my soul in silence waits;
     from him comes my salvation.

He alone is my rock and my salvation,
     my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

How long will you assail me to crush me, all of you together,
     as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;
     lies are their chief delight.

They bless with their lips,
     but in their hearts they curse.

The Psalmist begins with his profound statement of faith, then states the challenge he is experiencing. People are untrue. He’s being persecuted, hounded. People are gossiping about him. What can he do about his position of anxiety and fear? All he can do is to trust God, for God is his refuge. Anything else he might put his trust in is illusory. Prestige, power, wealth, influence, pride – although they are the very things that people generally desire – will ultimately prove false. God and God’s undying steadfast love are our ultimate hope. These will not prove false, these will not run dry. These alone will always prove true. For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly my hope is in him.

The great Christian theologian Augustine of Hippo said something similar in his Confessions when he declared in his opening paragraph that humans are made for God and, therefore, “our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee.” To put our trust, our hope, our longing, to place our bet on anything else will ultimately prove false. Only God will unlock that door to our hearts that can begin to make us whole.

Looking at today’s disparate scripture lessons it strikes me that Psalm 62 is the glue that holds them together. Jonah, the wayward prophet who needs a whale to swallow him whole and spit him up on the shore God called him to go but from which he fled, (Jonah) finally prophecies to the city of Nineveh as God had called him to do in the first place. And while Jonah prophecies, he certainly doesn’t preach a very positive message. He only declares God’s judgment on the city: “40 Days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown!” he keeps yelling one block of Nineveh after another. He fails to mention God, nor does he invite them to repent. But Nineveh’s King and people hear God’s message almost in spite of Jonah and they repent. They, in the Psalmist’s words, put their trust in God and do not trust to anything else to save them. Jonah, as the story goes on, really doesn’t want the Ninevites to be saved. But God reaches out in love for the people of that ancient city who turn from their sins and put their trust in God. God is steadfast in his love.

In chapter 7 of 1st Corinthians Paul has been answering the Christian community of Corinth’s questions about marriage and societal status. He weighs that status in relationship to our ultimate hope in God. Paul trusts that all forms and status of society – marriage, rank, prestige, property, slave or free, citizen or alien, etc. – were ultimately unessential. The only thing that really matters is God in Christ. That is the joy we should hang on to. Everything else is passing away. Paul’s timing may be off – Christ didn’t return as Paul expected in his lifetime – but his hope in Christ is not misplaced.

In the Gospel of Mark today we see the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He goes all around the towns and villages of Galilee proclaiming that the time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God has come near and people should repent and believe in the good news. Jesus himself embodies that Good news. Jesus – his message and ministry – are one and the same with the good news of God. Next, Jesus invites some fisherman to follow him. Andrew and Simon Peter, James and John, discover in Jesus’ call for them to leave everything and follow, that he is the hope that their hearts most desire. They leave everything and they follow Jesus as his first disciples. He is the foundation stone, the rock in whom they put their trust.

What about us? When Jesus proclaims the good news that the Kingdom of God comes near in him, do we recognize that in Jesus’ love, in Jesus’ power to heal, in his words, in his call to follow him into a life of service, and in the very nearness, God’s Kingdom flows from him like an ever flowing stream? What in Jesus’ life and message do we need to embrace anew? What, in Jesus’ message of repentance do we need to turn away from? Ask yourself, “What am I clinging to that looks and feels important but ultimately is undependable, is as insubstantial as a mirage? How can God and God’s steadfast love in Jesus be my rock? How can God’s call to me to follow in Jesus’ way as his disciple be my true life, my true goal, my true heart’s desire?

For God alone my soul in silence waits; truly my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken. Sometimes life and life’s circumstances are like a tempest that blows so strongly and buffets our life, that we need a refuge, a shelter, a place of stillness from the storm. The steadfast love of God for you and me in Jesus is that refuge. He is our rock, our salvation, our stronghold, so that we shall not be shaken. At the heart of the Psalm is a call to place one’s trust in “God alone, to whom alone we must cleave, whom alone we must serve, whom alone we must worship, and in whom alone we put our trust.” Nothing else can secure our lives without enslaving us to our would-be-liberators. (Homiletics, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 1, “Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Pastoral Perspective,” Allen C. McSween, Jr., pg. 275)

The Church as a community is subject to many of the same temptations as we are as individuals. We’re tempted to trust in successes, in a strong balance sheet, in 275 years of history, in our in the next new program, in our numbers, or simply trying to survive as an institution, all as cheap substitutes for life in Christ. Our life in Christ is the main thing. Do we trust God above all else? How can we realize as a community that God alone is worthy of our trust? What change might that prompt in us? As we head into our Annual Meeting today let us focus on what it means to live the love of God with hearts open to all – in our worship, in our fellowship, in sharing and learning together how to live out our mission, in our outreach to those in need, in our love for one another, in our organizational structure, and in all that we do. Trusting fully in God might take us out of our comfort zone, might bring us to take more risks, to venture something greater than just trying to “do church well.” In God alone our souls in silence wait, for all our hope is from him. He alone is our rock and our salvation, our fortress so we shall not be shaken. Amen.

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