The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
March 24, 2019
Four decades ago NASA launched twin spacecrafts, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, to explore the galaxy. Just in case there might be someone out there in the far reaches of the starry expanse who’d be curious about who sent the craft and who’d listen to figure out who they are, NASA attached to each spacecraft a broadcasting instrument to send out the sound of the human heartbeat and various musical pieces.
One selected piece was the Cavatina Movement from Beethoven’s Opus 130. Annie Druyan, a director of the Voyager Interstellar Message Project, said they picked that great, beautiful and sad piece of music, on whose score Beethoven had handwritten with large letters the word “longing”, to show that our species is one that longs for more than what is right before it and that reaches out beyond what it presently knows. In other words, NASA had the wisdom to understand that our longings show who we are. We are in our essence that for which we long.
We long to appreciate the wonders and glories of nature as much as possible; but many of us sense that, even if we satisfied that longing perfectly and grasped the material world completely, we’d still be missing the full picture. Many of us can’t shake the feeling there’d still be something else, around the corner, out of our line of vision, something suggested but as of yet undiscovered.
N.T. Wright tells of a collector finding in a dusty old attic in Austria a faded manuscript of music written for the piano. The music is exquisitely gorgeous, but no one had heard it before. Upon further inspection, it came to light that it was written in the hand of Mozart.
Everyone who reads the manuscript is struck by its incompleteness. There are gaps. Just where the music builds to a climax, it stops, only to be picked up again later. Scholars have concluded that it is not the full score, but only the sheet music for a piano that’s to be accompanied by at least one other instrument. The magnificent music they have is only one part of a larger whole, and a signpost of something still greater.
When we take in a stunning sunset or when we see the beauty of an aged face, we are both enthralled…and haunted by the thought that that there is more there than meets the eyes, that we are looking at an incomplete picture, that what is before us is but a signpost of a reality eluding our grasp. It is like hearing the echo of a voice at song…and aching to know the singer and the story in the song.
Often in life, we are surrounded by beauty and catch ourselves looking around to see an Artist; surrounded by wisdom and truth, and longing for deeper wisdom and larger truth; surrounded by loved ones, and yet feeling lonely for Someone we may not quite know.
Perhaps we are not just what we long for; but Whom we long for. As Augustine prayed to God, “You have made us for yourself; and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
King David was far from perfect. In fact, he had done some terrible things. Yet, he was head over heels in love with God. He knew God and he yearned to know God still better.
He had experienced the riches of God’s love, grace and companionship; and because he had, he could not stop seeking to know God and experience His blessings. Being in contact with God meant more to David than life itself. It was his strongest desire and his fullest delight.
David relished being in relationship with God even when he was struggling through dark and dreadful days. Here he was, disconsolate of heart, hiding in a desolate desert from a beloved son who meant to steal his throne and would kill his father for it if he had to.
Yet, David’s devotion to God trumped his desolation of spirit. His love and longing for God rallied his soul. Because David had sought the Lord – he had looked upon Him in the sanctuary and beheld His glory, blessed His name and praised Him with joyful lips, lifted up his hands and called on Him, and thought of Him both day and night – David found the God who satisfied his soul’s deep thirst, who lavished upon him His steadfast love, who had been his help and who had upheld his life. Then after finding Him, David clung to his hope of finding Him again and kept seeking God like a desert traveler seeks water at every turn.
The practice of faith is not the practice of self-help or willpower. It is a kind of falling in love and staying in love. It is seeking One you’ve already found; and, having found Him, seeking Him all the more.
We seek God by coming to church week in and week out, by saying our prayers day after day, by regularly studying the Bible and by faithfully carrying out acts of love and justice. We do that, like David, as if our life depends on it.
Tim Keller invites us to imagine something. Suppose your doctor tells you you have a terminal illness, but by doing one thing you can beat it and live a long while yet.
“Without doing this one thing,” she says, “it’s over. But if you do this one thing, you will be completely healed and live to a ripe old age. But let me perfectly clear: Without doing this one thing, you will die in short order.”
Would you say, “Sounds interesting, Doc, but my favorite sitcom starts in a few minutes and I’ve got to get home to watch it. Maybe you can tell me about it later!”
Would you say, “Doc, I know that’s your sincere opinion, and I respect everyone’s opinion. But I resent your attempt to impose your opinion on me. I don’t have to put up with this medical fascism. See you later, Doc!”
No, you’d say, “What is that one thing? Tell me! I have to know. I’ll do whatever it is. My life depends on it.”
The Bible tells us our life depends on the touch of God’s love, on our experiencing His saving grace in personal contact with Him.
Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge tells how once his young son awoke in the night and called for his mother. He pleaded, “Touch me, if only with your finger.” His mother was astonished and asked, “Why?” “I’m not here,“ the boy cried, “unless I know you’re here. Touch me so I can be here.”
Every moment we need the touch of God to be here and be our best selves. Let us then continually seek God’s presence, and keep in touch with Him. Let us love Him and let Him love us, that He might become our strongest desire and fullest delight, and that we might become His strongest and fullest children.
Let us pray.