First and Foremost

Psalm 27:1-6, Mathew 6:25-34

Last week we talked about how the Psalms are pretty good at accurately capturing what it means to be a human being and the importance of working on our connection to God.  Because God is the one who truly matters to us. This morning’s Psalm underscores that theme with a more pointed approach to highlighting our connection to God, particularly in times of trouble.

The most well known Psalm for times of trouble and hopelessness is no doubt Psalm 23.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want… That Psalm 23.  It’s certainly a very good and comforting Psalm and I use it a great deal but if you look in my Occasional Services Book that I carry in the glove compartment of my truck, the book that has the prayers and readings for times of emergency and death, it is Psalm 27 that I have bookmarked.  Psalm 23 is comforting indeed and I certainly use it when the time is right but Psalm 27 packs a powerful punch in its own right.

Mostly because of the literary style here.  We could have an ongoing buildup of challenges upon challenges with a few crises thrown in to make things seem really bad.  Then we could be told to stay tuned until next week for the exciting conclusion to our story.  Just imagine the buildup of anticipation available to us!  Instead, the psalmist gives us the exciting conclusion and then proceeds to tell us about all the challenges and crises.  Instead of buildup, buildup, buildup, BOOM! We get BOOM, example, example, example. We get the exciting conclusion first.

It’s easy to assume that ancient writers are less sophisticated than we are today.  They wouldn’t even recognize the purpose of a smartphone much less how to operate one.  They couldn’t even use a rotary dial phone!  But what they lacked in sophistication with today’s technology they more than make up for with their own sophisticated kind of wisdom.  Some in journalism would call it burying the lead but the wisdom of the ancient writers told them to occasionally lead with the good news and then give the examples of the good news.

It’s like the Psalmist is telling us, I’m going to tell you a story and it has some bad parts to it.  Evil doers will assail you.  Armies will come after you.  Wars will rise up against you.  This is sounding good right?  Kind of a fun little tale of life, right? And if written in the conventional style we’d probably stop reading right after evil doers.  I mean, if the story of our lives is going downhill, do we really want to keep reading until the exciting conclusion?  Not so much.

But with the assurance of God’s presence with us first and foremost, we are equipped and prepared to hear the rest of the story.  That’s the key piece here.  We know things will be rough at some points.  Relationships can be hard.  Jobs can be a hassle.  Health issues can be scary.  All of the above and then some.  But the Psalmist makes no room for niceties or ambiguity right out of the gate writing in v1, “1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  In and amongst trial and tribulation, the Lord your God has your back. We’re told that no matter what happens, God will be with us.

It’s a good thing to think about.  God will be with us.  And with God with us, whom shall we fear?  It’s a good thing to think about AND practice now so that when we need God we know what to do.  So that when we need God we know our best approach to connecting with God.  So that turning to God becomes an automatic response.  And parents know this, your kids learn to trust God from you trusting God.  They don’t know how until they have someone to give them the example of what it looks like to trust God.

It’s all about mindset and practice.  When I was a firefighter and a house was on fire, I put on the bunker gear, grabbed a hose and ran into the house.  I put the fire out.  If someone in my sphere of influence gets sick with a life threatening disease, I research the scholarly articles (not WebMD, WebMD always tell you cancer, right?) research the scholarly articles and be informed to work with the medical folks at coming up with a plan that makes sense and gets us through the night.  Somebody we’re close to dies, we grab up our… we look up our… we… we…  And here we see the ultimate fallacy of thinking we have the ability to “fix” all the problems that crop up in our lives.

We can fix some things but we can’t fix everything and we certainly can’t ‘fix’ death.  Our initial response might be to try to figure out a solution on our own.  Get the game plan working and work the plan.  An understandable response and one that has a time and place in our lives but not when it comes to death.  Death is not something for us to fix.

The good news is that in Christ Jesus, God already has ‘fixed’ death.  In Christ we have the hope of forgiveness and the promise of resurrection.  Death is not the end!  If death is not the end, what else is so important to worry about?

Not much.  Not much at all.  Think of all the things you want to worry about and think about how many of those worries are just feeding our addiction to adrenaline.  There are things we must attend to and take care of but there are also times we like to get wound up about things.  Maybe not like exactly but we enjoy the feeling it creates.  The truth is we can’t be freed from our fears unless we trust God and put into practice turning to God first in times of trouble.  If we give our attention to God first and foremost through our prayer and worship life then when we find ourselves up against it, however that looks, it is to God we’ll turn.  First and foremost.

That’s what Jesus is getting at in our Gospel reading.  He lays it all out and then closes with the hard hitting punch line, “34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Jesus is telling us to stay in the moment and don’t lose today over worrying about tomorrow.  Whatever we go through, God will be there with us!  First and foremost.

 

Brian and Jaclynn Geidner (Brilynn and Brexton) – wants to join

Steve and Coleda Schwaller – I think they’re planning on joining

Anna Wigtil – she hasn’t indicated but is here a fair amount

Chris and Amanda Kenney (Nicole, Sam, Tim)

Kevin Brack

John and Jan – Campaway

Scott and Daisy Shada – plus kids (Hattie baptized 5/19)

Cheryl (?) – Jonahtan Brown’s sister

Ginger Langenmeir – tough schedule but we need to find ways to get her involved in some way.

Jamie and Stephanie Lierman Brennan and River

Emma Brandt & Joel Wilken

Jerry & Virginia Brase

Scott & Andrea Inglasbe (Camille, Spencer, & Graham)

Liane & Jay Connely

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