FROM THE HEART - FED UP OR FIRED UP
Dear friends in Christ,
I have been preaching sermons since my Seminary Days. That goes back to 1973-1977. I have a quite a collection. I always write them out. I have them filed by book of the Bible. The shortest book of the Bible is III John. It has one chapter, fourteen verses just 299 words. I have never written a sermon based on words from III John.
The longest book of the Bible is Psalms. It has 150 chapters, 2,461 verses, 43,743 words. The second longest is Jeremiah. If Psalms is the longest book it would seem logical that my Psalm file of sermons should be the largest. I admit it is not. There are quite a few but for forty years of preaching one would expect more. Why aren’t there more?
We follow a ‘pericope’ which comes from a Greek word that means to “cut around.” We cut sections from the Scriptures and read them in the worship service every Sunday. We have an Old Testament reading, an Epistle Lesson and a Gospel lesson. Actually prior to 1992 the year we started to use this hymnal, the psalms were not used much for some reason. They are used in the liturgy and to connect parts of our service, but we didn’t read them regularly on Sunday. When this hymnal was published one of the big changes was that we began to sing them just like they were in Bible times. I like that. I like David intended them to be. I like the fact that we are singing them as they did in Jesus’ time.
For the next few weeks I intend to make my Psalm file bigger. They are great to study. Martin Luther said, “The Psalms ought to be a dear and beloved book, if only because it promises Christ’s death and resurrection so clearly and depicts his kingdom and the condition and nature of all Christendom that we may call (Psalms) a little Bible. Most beautifully and briefly it embraces everything in the entire Bible.” He said it was an enchiridion or an instruction book about teachings God’s people need to know.
Today we start a new series based on the book of Psalms. The overall theme is “From the Heart.” In the psalms I chose the psalmist who express what is in the heart. That is true of Psalm 100. Today I ask this question: are you “Fed Up or Fired Up?”
The caustic comedienne Joan Rivers passed away recently. Lots of platitudes were paid to her. As a Christian I found those platitudes hard to understand. If words flowed out of my mouth like some of the words flowed out of her mouth, I sure wouldn’t be a pastor any more. I doubt my wife would be married to me. My parents would have washed my mouth out with soap. But people said that Ms Rivers said things that were on people’s minds. She just said them.
Some of the psalms are like that. They express the doubts and the fears and the misgivings that all people have. They also cover the feelings of comfort and joy that a Christian has as a child of God.
We find psalms that express joy and thanksgiving. Sometimes the psalms seem you are traveling through a mountain valley meadow filled with flowers and incredible scenery. Other times the psalmist expresses just the opposite. Luther said it like this, “Where do you find more sorrowful, more pitiful words of sadness than in the psalms of lamentation. There again you look into the hearts of all saints as into death, as into hell. How dark and gloomy it is there with all kinds of depressing views of the wrath of God!” That’s why the psalms are so good for us. They apply to the multitude of situations we find ourselves in – when things are good or when they are not so good - when we are fed up!
A pair of newlyweds had their first big fight. The new wife called her parents. Her father answered the phone. After just a few moments, the father hung up the phone. The man’s wife asked, “Who was that?” “Our daughter,” he said, “She said she was fed up and wanted to come home, but I told her she was home.” Someone once said, “Marriage teaches you loyalty, forbearance, self-restraint and a lot of other qualities you wouldn't need if you'd stayed single.” Marriage can bring people to that point. But people say that about the single life too. I am fed up!”
A despairing and disparaging young man wrote this “I'm a 23 year old guy, I am 4 out of 10 on looks and my job pays slightly above minimum wage and I only get 20 hours a week. I dropped out of high school and got a GED. I don't really get along with my brother, and women avoid me. I generally have nothing going for me. In all honesty I only have an IQ of 89 and while that is barely below average I lack any real motivation as well. The best possible outcome for my life is that I either win the Powerball or a rich older woman takes a liking to me. The most likely outcome for my life is that I end up working my entire life for below average wage and never retire. I hope that after I die everything just ends. I don't want a heaven or a hell, I'm sick of it all and living forever sounds horrible. I’m fed up on life!
Fed up? Sound familiar? Have you been there? Have you done that? Fed up with politics? Fed up with taxes? Fed up with government? Fed up with your boss? Fed up with the terrorism? Fed up with the salary? Fed up with others? Fed up with life?
The psalm that I chose to study today isn’t anything like that. While we don’t know who wrote it, I am certain that in spite of what he says here he has been down the path of being fed up! His world is no more utopian than ours. He was a sinner like we are; he lived in a sinful world as we do. Doesn’t everyone have a time when pessimism and cynicism seem to reign?
But he learned to look up. That fired him up. “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God.”
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.” The Hebrew word for “shout” is the word that was connected when soldiers would run into battle. I never served in the military, but I did play a few football games in high school and college. When we hit the field from the locker room, we didn’t run onto the field shushing each other. While our football team didn’t scare anyone, maybe our shouting did. They at last knew there was excitement and energy.
People who are fed up with life have their eyes either parallel to the ground or looking lower. The psalmist says “shout for joy to the Lord.” His attention is heavenward. It is directed toward the LORD.
The psalmist is not patting himself on the back for personal accomplishments or giving himself self-congratulations. He is shouting to the LORD. If you are following the verse from your pew Bibles, he is shouting to the LORD – all capital letters. That’s the Jehovah. This is the covenant God who promises to be compassionate and gracious. He is slow to anger and abounds in love and faithfulness. He maintains love to thousands and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin.
All the earth is exhorted to shout to the LORD. He has shown and shows his love and will show his love to all. That is his desire. He gives evidence. Another psalm makes that clear. “The eyes of all look to you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” The sun that warms the earth and the rain that the earth so badly needs is given to believer and unbeliever alike. Remember, most of all, God so loved the world so that he gave his one and only Son. He came to die for all. Shout the LORD all the earth!
“Worship the Lord with gladness.” One Hebrew word for worship emphasizes humility. You lie down and prostrate yourself with your nose to the ground. The other emphasizes service. You worship the Lord when you serve. That is the one used here. Paul says, “Therefore I urge you brothers in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual worship.” Let your life be one of sacrifice. That’s worship.
Notice all the verbs. He says shout for joy. Worship the LORD. Come before him with joyful songs.
He continues, “Know that the Lord is God.” There is so much to learn from original languages of the Bible. That’s the case in this verse. There are different meanings for the word “know.” You can know the Lord intellectually which is one word, and you can know the Lord by experience. If you know the Lord intellectually, you get to know him by reading about him or having someone tell you about him. To know him by experience is to learn from experience. Look at the heavens. Look at the earth. Look at yourself and how God created you.
“It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” First look and see how fearfully and wonderfully you were made. Your body has an incredible architect and engineer. Your brain contains 100 billion nerve cells. It is packed inside a bone called the cranium that was designed to protect it. For every word you and I say seventy two muscles are used. This is a guy thing. If you cough, the stuff in your throat flies out at 60 miles per hour. That's pretty remarkable. No wonder why we need to cover and no wonder why a Kleenix isn’t always strong enough. Your thigh bone is stronger than concrete. Your heart creates enough pressure that it can shoot blood thirty feet in the air. Pretty spectacular creation you are. It’s your body. You experience its incredible design every day.
Yet the creator wants us to know how personal he is to each of us. We are his. As people whom he has drawn to himself by the Holy Spirit’s power, we are his. Isaiah says “he has redeemed us, he has called us by name; we are his.” Every child of God knows that we are not Satan’s child but God’s child. We are not destined for hell but to heaven. He is the shepherd and we are his sheep under his care and protection. As our shepherd he did the most self-sacrificing act that any shepherd could do. He sacrificed his life so we his sheep could live…fully and forever. There is no better place to be while we live in this sinful world than to be in his care.
One place where we can know we are safe is right here right now doing what we are doing - listening to his promises, getting strengthened with his promises and the spiritual food he supplies. We look to the other side of the altar and remember the day we were baptized and made a member of his church and God made his covenant that our sins were washed away and received the robes of Christ’s righteousness. What a blessed place to be in his house with brothers and sisters in Christ who share the same confident hope and faith on knowing Jesus as our Savior. I have the hope that when Jesus returns he times it just right so that we are all here in his house worshipping him. Wouldn’t that be great to appear before Jesus together to live with him forever?
No wonder the psalmist says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” The gates are to his house. The courts are to the house of prayer. The praise is the praise of us all. What a privilege to be here! How foolish and selfish and disrespectful it is when we choose to be elsewhere when the gates are so open and so welcoming us. This is the place where the Lord fires us up.