The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
February 2, 2020
Life tests us. It besets us with challenges and difficulties – so much so, that sometimes it is all we can do not to lose heart and give up.
What can enable us to remain undaunted – resolute and indomitable in our fundamental commitments?
A close connection to God!
And what keeps us connected to God?
Living in line with God’s will, obeying His commandments and doing what pleases Him!
David opens Psalm 15 by posing a question put two ways: “O Lord, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?” He is asking who may experience the living reality of God both in God’s house and in their everyday world – that is, who may walk through each moment of their life and each stretch of their journey through it in contact with the Lord who inhabits each second and square inch of it.
David closes Psalm 15 by asserting that those who do “these things” – “these things” being the actions of love and justice he spells out here – those who do them “shall never be moved”.
Moved from what? From a close, ongoing connection with God! From dwelling with God, whether on His “holy hill” or in the trenches of the everyday challenges of making a living, a home and a life.
Everyone decides how much they relate to, and interact with, God by deciding how much they obey God and practice righteousness, integrity, fairness, kindness and generosity. David illustrates these qualities by examples. Let us consider one from verse four: “standing by” an oath even to our “hurt.”
David is talking about keeping our word even when it costs us and following through on a promise even when it involves taking pains or making sacrifices. He’s talking about our becoming the kind of people others can count on: islands of certainty in a sea of uncertainty.
At Monmouth College one of my fellow departmental chairs had received a verbal commitment from a professor at another school to make the opening remarks at a conference my colleague was putting on. He built the rest of the conference on her sharing the results of her research. But then she called to cancel because another opportunity came along which, she said, she “couldn’t” pass up. She added, “I’m sorry, but I have peace about this.” He later grumbled, “Isn’t that nice? She’s got peace, and I’m left with the pieces of something she’s caused to fall apart.”
To walk with God is to walk through life in the awareness that it’s never all about us.
When we wander off the path of righteousness and head in selfish directions, we walk away from the God of righteousness and loving concern for everyone. We part company with the Lord who never detours from the road of doing right by people.
Let’s be clear, though, about one thing: While we can separate ourselves from God, we cannot stop God from caring about us, not even when we stop caring about others and doing right by them.
What’s at stake in our decisions is not whether God will continue to care about us, but whether we will continue to keep in contact with the One who is always about acting on behalf of the good of all.
God’s love is unconditional. But a friendship with God is very conditional. It hinges on the choices we make. We come close, and stay close, by choosing to do what God loves to do and would love to do with us.
Wayne Cordeiro, a pastor in Honolulu, spoke about his courting of his wife, Anna. Wayne was “taken” with Anna in just about every way a person could be. One of the things he was taken with in Anna was how she loved sports and being physically active. Wayne was just the same. In fact, the only two physical activities he’d ever not liked were bowling and roller-skating.
For their first date, they’d chosen to make no set plans but to figure out on the spur of the moment what fun activity they’d enjoy together. With high excitement, Wayne knocked on Anna’s door. At the sight of her he beamed and blurted out, “What would you like to do?” She replied, “Do you like bowling?”, and she lifted up a bowling ball bag, with her name stitched on it.
Now, Wayne was over the moon in love with Anna. So he immediately replied, “I love bowling.” And they bowled all evening, and had an absolutely great time together. The impromptu surprise was such a blast that they decided to plan their next date also on the spot.
So the following Friday Wayne appeared once more at Anna’s door and asked, “What would you like to do this week?” She – you guessed it – held up her skates, and eagerly asked, “Do you like skating?” And Wayne heard himself reply, “I’ve been waiting for months to find someone to go skating with. I love skating.” And they skated all night, and had the time of their life.
Wayne hadn’t exactly lied to Anna. What he was meaning to say was, “Anna, I love you. I want us to spend time together no matter what we’re doing. I just want to be with you and know you better by sharing in what you love.” (And he did end up appreciating the pleasures of bowling and roller-skating.)
That’s not a bad analogy for a relationship with God. If we come to be taken with God, we want to be with Him and know Him better by sharing in what He loves. And as we spend time with Him by doing what He loves to do, and would love to do with us, the depth of our love for Him grows and we come to love what He loves to do.
If we keep in God’s company, we will be changed. We will catch His passions and take on His devotion to them. We will value and practice righteousness, integrity, fairness, kindness and generosity; and we won’t lose heart in the effort to embody those qualities. Though the effort will cost us and challenge us, we will remain resolute and undaunted in moving forward in life with God – in a close, interactive and transformative relationship of love. Let us pray.