Psalm 111
MARK 1: 21-34

January 31, 2021

My friend from my teenage years Michael Cryst called me from Ohio last Sunday afternoon and it had nothing to do with the Buffalo Bills’ game that night … he was frantic with fear of the surgery that he was going to be having on Tuesday.   His voice was wrought with fear of all the things that could go wrong.  He kept saying ‘David … people have told me about their bad experiences.’  He kept giving me the worst possible ‘what if’s’ and so we talked and we prayed because Michael not that long ago became a man of faith.  When we hung up the phone I didn’t feel like I had accomplished a darn thing with Michael but about 15 minutes later he did text me to say thank you.

Friends, have you ever known individuals amongst your collective of contacts that have had illnesses that were overwhelming their realities?  Have you ever walked amongst people who had little or no food?  Clean water didn’t matter to them because it was just having something to quench the thirst?  Does your life’s journey include moments with people who call a rain drenched door opening their bed or live in squalor filled with scents you can’t quite decipher? Have you ever become aware of individuals who were being treated unfairly just because of who they were, what they looked like, or the accents that came through the words they spoke?   Did you keep on moving …

In our Psalm today we heard the psalmist celebrating God …   It’s a Psalm that is filled with insightful joy and recognition of God’s grace and love.  It’s a Psalm friends that I hope mirrors the words that you declare to our God each and every day … when you pause in your overwhelming all too busy daily schedule filled with importance … I know you do pause every single day to look skyward or perhaps if your knees allow it … you get down on them, right?  The measure of your day is not complete I am sure without your voice … your personal voice sharing the words of the Scriptures …  PRAISE THE LORD!!! Praise You God …   I thank You … the Lord of all existence … with all my heart … with all of my love!  Loving God first and then of course, loving all of your neighbors as you love yourself … as Jesus loved all. You do that too, right?

I know that you are thinking why is the pastor spending time repeating words I say each day.  Why is Pastor Dave stating the obvious? Brothers and Sisters in Christ, I do know that as we live out our lives as people of faith … I can call you my brothers and sisters in Christ can’t I?  Fellow believers? Neighbors on the journey to glory because we have discovered God’s reality … God’s power … God’s love and we have incorporated that knowledge into the lives we lead …. Oh, I know I can.

When we hear or read this Psalm we get a list of those special things reflective of God’s reality.  I think it should be reassuring to each of us who are believers … those of us who get that God is to be loved above all of our loves and that we should have no other gods who we raise up to be greater than the Creator or even greater than any other human; we love and treat all others equally … it’s our faith’s call.  God’s awesomeness should strengthen our resolve to live as people of faith because when you take a good look at who you are and then examine God … we surely fall short; actually we do not deserve to be in a conversation of comparison with the Almighty.

So, listen again to the psalmist … consider God’s works … THE WORKS of the LORD are magnificent! They certainly are … we might get some beautiful snow today but Don, Norm and I have started walking together up at Riverwinds and every time I look out at the Delaware I realize how incredibly magnificent the works of the Lord are!  PRAISE THE LORD!!!  They are truly treasured by all who desire them.

Oh … the Psalm tosses a caveat into the mix.  Darn, I missed that before … did you miss it too?   Did you miss that we have to be involved to get the blessings that God has to offer; we have to be activists?  Even here in this calming uplifting Psalm … darn darn darn … the psalmist up and ruined it.  WE HAVE TO DESIRE the works of God … funny in James and yes, we are going to get to James today probably more than once but James writes about faith and he begins by saying faith is “PURE JOY” now that sounds good doesn’t it.  PURE JOY.  Paul writes to both the Philippians and Thessalonians that he, Paul … formerly Saul … is REJOICING in the LORD! 

Now, that’s what I call really good news … JOY and REJOICING … next thing we will discover is King David went out dancing in the streets with wild abandon because of God … oh wait, he did do that didn’t he.   And, David also shared that he [1]exalted God who David calls his King … every single day.  He actually wrote, “I will praise your name for ever and ever.  Every day I will praise you and exalt your name for ever and ever.  Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; God’s greatness no one can fathom.  One generation will commend Your works (And, he is referring to God here friends.) to another they will tell of Your mighty acts.  They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty and I will meditate on Your wonderful works.  THEY will celebrate Your abundant goodness and JOYFULLY SING of Your righteousness.”

YIKES … triple YIKES … that James fellow is going to remind us that faith without works is just dead.  DO YOU REALIZE … have you ever paused to really consider your relationship with GOD … and that believers in GOD … CHRIST followers can’t sit back … Jesus exact words are ‘pick up your cross and follow me” and that was before He was taken to THE CROSS.  FAITH requires WORK requires our involvement … faith is about actions not about sitting aside and being a different person except o occasion. Not a lazy man’s vocation … faith requires sharing it … and doing it … people won’t discover Jesus Christ nor will they discover God if people who claim to believe do absolutely nothing but hide away to quietly say they believe during their church hours but rush out into the world to mock those who want to protect us through masking and vaccines … or who actively bow down to human leaders who are brash and loud as if they are the superheroes whose words and actions should be repeated more frequently than any verse from God’s Word … friends until our focus and our reputations are connected with God the real question will persist as to whether or not we treasure being God’s children at all.

Are you known as the voice of the world … do you get all excited when you can share your worldly point of view while putting down another person’s views?  Do you show your love for all of your neighbors by denying care to others?

GODS WORK cannot be revealed in today’s world without OUR HANDS and OUR VOICES.   Hear what James has to say about it, “GET RID of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and HUMBLY ACCEPT the WORD of GOD that was planted in you, that can save you.”  Now, I do like to remind myself and all of you what the prophet … Micah, his stuff is in the Bible too … what Micah says the Lord EXPECTS from us because James is tying that message together in telling us to reject the moral filth and evil that is so prevalent out in the world and it is … HUMBLY ACCEPT the WORD of GOD … Micah uses that same phrasing hundreds of years before James when he wrote, ‘WHAT DOES THE LORD require of you … To ACT with JUSTICE … LOVE ALL WITH MERCY and WALK HUMBLY with YOUR GOD.”

Now, that’s the God we were praising in our Psalm today …. “Whose works are magnificent, deeds are majestic and glorious, a God of righteousness with mercy and compassion … handiwork is HONESTY and JUSTICE.”  Just think about that for a moment … are you standing up for honesty and justice?  God’s RULES we heard … the rules of God … you remember God and Jesus right?  Of course, you are in church this morning … did you shout PRAISE YOU GOD … LOVE YOU GOD … THANK YOU GOD?  Anyhow, I digress …. “ALL GOD’s RULES are trustworthy and established always and forever they are filled with truth and RIGHT DOING.”

That brings me back to who is doing the right doing?  Who is taking on God’s mission and message in the world today?  Are you part of the new generation that David refers to as having taken on the challenge of commending God’s works to others?   Are you one who understands that loving your neighbors means crossing the road and caring for the ones who are beaten and battered and ignored by the powerful and yes, by the ratings seeking religious leaders associated with power and politics rather than in following God’s Word?  When people see you … do they see GOD’S WORK through your hands?

James continues, and by the way… do you desire the blessings of God … we sure don’t deserve them but God loves us anyhow but puts these requirements on us … if we truly believe we will take that cross and follow Jesus.

James, yes James again … “Do not merely listen to the word and SO DECEIVE YOURSELVES. DO WHAT IT SAYS … anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.  SPEAK and ACT as those who are to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.  MERCY triumphs over judgment.  FAITH if not accompanied by actions, is dead.”

We heard about Jesus healing this morning … we heard about praising this morning.

And, once again … we arrive at this moment in time when you and I need to consider our words and our actions.  Are you going to call someone to complain about someone else today?  Or are you going to call someone to suggest a way you can help someone?

Our tradition on these fifth Sunday’s is to hold a healing service and I so want each of you to be healed of the world’s torments … I want you to take off the chains that have led you to mock and condemn others including focusing your energy and words and social media postings on those whose politics you disagree with … you need to be healed to go forward as God’s children demonstrating to others what it means to be a Christian and it is not as easy as I am implying today … you have to work at it … you have to want it … as the psalmist wrote you have to desire to be one of God’s because the world makes it so easy to be one of theirs.

Helen Rulli almost 100 years old would be sitting right over there in our overflow.  We have continued to allow a minimum number of individuals in worship because I looked at Helen knowing she lacked internet service and that she wanted to worship God …. She came to most outdoor services … she came to most indoor services until she fell and broke her leg.  She is in a rehab facility right now and today we are asking that you send her a card out of love even if you don’t know her.  But, friends …. Can you do something more as you begin to change from being the world’s to being God’s … can you call a friend or two and ask them to send Helen a card … a get well card?  A thinking of you card? An ‘I love you” because God loves you card?  Can we overwhelm that rehab facility’s mailbox with cards so that the staff there starts to wonder what’s so special about this tiny old lady … that she is loved by so many?

James writes, “If any of you are suffering, they should pray. If any of you are happy, they should sing. If any of you are sick, they should call for the elders of the church, and the elders should pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. Prayer that comes from faith will heal the sick, for the Lord will restore them to health. Pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve.”

I spoke with my friend Michael on Friday morning … surgery was a total success and he is resting an recuperating.  His voice was so much different than last week’s voice.  His first words … THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS and YOUR CHURCH’s PRAYERS … I felt them and they carried me through thanks to God.

GODS WORKS … OUR HANDS … OUR WORDS … OUR POSTED MESSAGES … OUR LOVE FOR ALL and OUR WILLINGNESS to CARE FOR ALL when the world says only care for the ones like you.

BE A DIFFERENCE MAKER in the world today and restore yo faith so that each day you are healed through your praise of God, your reading of the Scripture and your prayer. AMEN


[1] Psalm 145

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