Built on a Rock

Sunday, August 13, 2023
Deacon Stephanie Anderson

Psalm 62

We’re moving through our sermon series Psalms for Sojourners this Sunday morning, steeped in this book of scripture that has been a guide for God’s people for millennia. The psalms are ancient poetry and song, containing within these pages the entire swath of human experience – joy and celebration; uncertainty and questions; deep longing and pain and lament; anger at God and God’s people; gratitude and overflowing thankfulness at being a creature on God’s good earth.

To sojourn (as the series title says) is to partake in a particular type of travel. The early Israelites fundamentally understood themselves to be sojourners – a traveling people who viewed every place they stayed as a temporary residence. And while today many of us might find ourselves more anchored in one particular place, as people of God and followers of Jesus, we do sojourn in a place that is not our eternal home. As we move through life, we glimpse heaven in our midst, but trust in the “not yet”; the kingdom come; the home to which we have yet to travel. We understand all of this to be a temporary residence. A favorite quote of mine says, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

And so, as we sojourn, we can look to these psalms to learn the ways that God’s people have navigated their own lives, reminded that we are not the first of God’s people to experience the things we do.

We sojourn this morning in Psalm 62, an instructional psalm about trust in God in the face of threat and deceit. This one is quite clearly a song; if you listen closely, you’ll hear a refrain that breaks up the text. The psalmist (or author) is singing – singing into the dark of despair and broken relationships – a song of trust and assurance in God’s unwavering presence. The psalmist says, “Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Truly God is my rock.”

And then, quite quickly, we start to get a sense for why this trust is so crucial or urgent enough for the psalmist to sing about it. They sing:

How long will you assault me?

Would all of you throw me down – this leaning wall, this tottering fence?

Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place;

they take delight in lies.

With their mouths they bless,

But in their hearts they curse.

We don’t know what happened between the Psalmist and their family or friends, but whatever it was, it was incredibly devastating and likely pretty blindsiding. The people in their life were once trusted companions, but something happened that caused a rupture. They’re sort of reeling from whatever happened and in processing the devastation of those broken relationships, they’ve come to some clarity that the only thing in which they can put their trust is God.

In addition to the personal relationships that can be broken in our lives, I’d offer that, especially in the wake of the past few years, each of us also knows the disappointment of life in community. I went to a crowded outdoor concert recently and a friend of mine said, “Can we just stay on the periphery; on the outside of the crowd?” She explained that in the wake of these last few years, she just does not trust the general public. She said, “If there was an incident – an active shooter or an emergency or a stampede – I don’t believe any more that a cross-section of the general public would act in a safe or communal way.”

I think we’ve had a collective experience of broken trust in one another. You can’t browse the internet without seeing an inflammatory new story or a horrific encounter on an airplane or an argument that went too far in a grocery store somewhere or a fear-mongering news report about some incident that entices fear and skepticism about one another. We live in an age of inflammatory storytelling; heightened and polarized reactions; and an epidemic of misinformation that pulls us apart.

 

We have hurt one another in our social and political and familial and institutional spheres. Maybe the rupture or mistrust that the psalmist is expressing, for us today could be about personal, individual relationships, or, for some, a reflection on how fragile our communities seem. Right now, faith in our institutions is at an all-time low. And I mean all institutions – our trust in the Supreme Court, the public school system, the government, our economic system, the church – research shows that as a society, more than ever, we’re more skeptical and uncertain of the social institutions in which we used to place our trust. Trust has been broken. Sometimes due to misinformation and sometimes very rightfully. But the point is, people have behaved in ways that are incredibly shocking, even blindsiding and have eroded our trust.

And yet, the psalmist – in their healing and processing of this brokenness – ultimately proclaims that their hope is in God and that they are confident in God’s protection. They not only proclaim it, but it’s also not lost of me that they sing it. They write their proclamation into song; a song that is meant for others to hear. It’s not just a private assurance in God’s protection, it’s a public witness (back to the community). Verses 8-9 say, “trust in him at all times, O people”. The psalmist pauses in the midst of their own deep crisis to instruct others to trust God.

I wonder if they’ve experienced what so many of us do: that crisis will often give us fresh insight into God’s faithfulness. And I don’t mean this in a platitude kind of way. I’m not for a moment going to tell you that pain is required to know God or that God makes bad things happen so that God can teach us a lesson or bring about goodness. No. God doesn’t make our suffering happen to us; God walks with us in the midst of our suffering the is inevitable in this life. Trusting God doesn’t mean that bad or painful things won’t happen; trusting God is an assurance that God will be with us amidst of those things. And in walking with us, God’s healing presence in our lives often does lead us to deepened empathy and new perspective.

One of my favorite singers is Brandi Carlile. She was interviewed about one of her albums a few years ago and she used a phrase when describing her music that has stuck with me. She talked about creating art that calls us to a place of debilitating empathy. I think it stuck with me because it’s a picture of Christian faith; it’s an orientation to each other that is so deeply counter to a world that pulls us apart.

This text is not telling us to be afraid of each other. We are called – over and over again throughout scripture – to turn toward God and toward one another. God calls us to a re-orientation away from self-delusion and self-protection, giving us courage – together – over the brokenness that fear creates.

Because this psalm is ultimately about trusting God’s power in the face of betrayal and hurt. The Psalmist ends by saying that “power belongs to God.”

But we know that sometimes power doesn’t look like might. It doesn’t look like the assertion of strength or authority.

And in fact, Christ crucified is about as counter-cultural of an understanding of power as we can imagine. It’s never been about might as the world knows it; the story of Jesus offers us something new. It claims abundance for the poor; blessedness for the meek; the last shall be first and the first shall be last; it presents a God who suffers alongside us; and it claims new, abundant life in the midst of death. Our faith in Jesus reminds us of a different expression of power; a love for the world and for each other that transcends the lies we’re told about one another.

So rest in this promise of God’s presence today, beloveds. The psalmist trusted in this power of God. And we can trust this promise, too.

Thanks be to God. Amen

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