The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn
A Homily for Trinity IX
July 29, 2018
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Psalm 121
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
We are on to the second to the last of our sermons having to do with God’s attributes, as we have explored the psalms we have seen the depth and breadth of who God is and how we come to know Him, and even who we are in Him. We have seen that at the center God’s nature is His glory. That all that He does and all that we do in His will is there to glorify Him. Even his creation, the heavens and the earth display His glory vibrantly.
It may seem that by bring this up we are over emphasizing and perhaps some are growing weary of hearing about the glory of God. May this not be the case! If our hearts are healthy in the Lord, we can never drink too deeply of His glory. So, may we drink it richly in.
The reason for starting, yet again, in the glory of God, is because at the center of His providence is His glory. We must remember that the purpose of God’s will isn’t to give us our best life now, nor is it to give us all our earthly desires but to usher in His kingdom where He is glorified and we get to bask and delight for all of eternity in His glory. If we long for this glory, we do a good thing and we find the deepest of joy.
With all of this in mind, we turn to today’s Psalm, number 121.
We start with a proclamation of fear. There are a few hypothesis as to what the hills the Psalmist are referring to, however it would seem that there is some fear and trembling in this verse. Do they fear the mightiness of nature or the threats of war that could come rolling over the hills next to Jerusalem? We do not know. However, we do know that there is much that can make us fear and tremble in our lives. We can fear the way in which the nations rage against each other, we can fear political turmoil, or we may even fear the stranger who comes among us.
It is natural to wonder where our help will come from when we are afraid. We have talked a great deal about trusting in the Lord. Trusting that he will provide, that he will support us, yet we know all of this can be talk. Altogether too often we put our trust in our own ability, in worldly powers, or in other people. But this Psalmist this morning reminds us:
Our help comes from the Lord! Our lord who is the creator of all of this.
The Psalmist reminds us again of this simple fact that we have repeated again and again this summer. That the Lord, the creator of heaven and earth is sovereign over all of creation. We can take this principle and extend it beyond simply the rocks, and the rivers, and the sea, but we are reminded that the Lord is sovereign over not only creation but over governments, and societies. There is no arena that the Lord does not have authority over.
So we are reminded that though the nations may roar, the Lord is mightier. This is why we so often refer to him as the Lord of lords, because at the end of time, every king and president will have to give account for their actions.
The next verse reminds us that if we place our trust in Him, we will not slip or stumble. What does this mean for a Christian living in exile, exile from the promised land of the Kingdom of heaven? It means that in living in Christ our souls are secure. Our souls belong to him. There is no power in the world that can shake the love that Christ has for us.
The remainder of the Psalm describes Him who we place our trust in. He is the keeper of Israel and by extension the Church, He does not slumber, he is our keeper, our shade from that which would exhaust us, He keeps us from evil, preserves our eternal life, watching over all that we do, now and forever.
Now, let us think about these six promises. The Lord is the keeper of Israel and by extension the church. We are reminder that the ultimate authority in the church is not a priest or pastor, is not a vestry, standing committee, or synod, not even a bishop. The ultimate authority in the church is the Lord Himself. He watches over the church, he keeps her safe, he kindles in her a love for Him that grows and blossoms. We are reminded of that great hymn: the church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord.
While it is good for the church to have temporal or earthly guides, in ordained and lay leaders – we all must be aware that they are under the authority of the Lord. If we are leaders, ordained or lay, we must keep in mind that we lead not out of our own authority, but out of authority borrowed from Christ. Those who are not currently in leadership, remember that the leader of the church is Christ our Lord. Take care to not idolize your leaders and pray that they would be finding their strength in the Lord, staying ever humble.
The Lord does not slumber – although we grow tired and weary both in our daily life and our eternal pursuit of God. The Lord does not grow weary, rather in His perfection he never sleeps, but always watches over the world, always seeing its coming and its going. We can take a great deal of comfort in this fact, for we know that even when we are asleep the Lord is watching over us. Our souls are secure in his protective gaze.
He is also our keeper. It is interesting how this is put in our Psalter. It is almost as if the Psalmist is surprised “The Lord himself is our keeper!” he exclaims with excitement. The Lord the creator of heavens and earth, the Lord the redeemer, the Lord, the judge, is also the keeper of the faithful. Though He is stronger than the boiling rivers, mightier than the raging storms, more powerful than the glaring sun, He is our keeper! He tenderly watches over us. What a good promise this is!
We should note here – that the Lord keeps both the church and the individual. He cares for the community He calls His own found in the church, and the Christian belongs to that community. At the same time He cares for each of those individuals and knows them deeply and fully. We are reminded that both our life in community and our individual spiritual life is of importance.
He is also our defense and our shade. He protects us from all that would harm our souls. It is important that we remember that when we put our trust in Him we may be asked to give up our earthly existence that he would be glorified, that others would know Him. We may be asked to give up all our earthly possessions that we might draw nearer to Him. But He will not forsake our souls. In fact in all of this he will draw us nearer to Him.
Persecution and suffering has this way of building up our faith, of reorienting our affections. When we travel through suffering we are given the opportunity to forsake the things that have, up until then distracted us from God. In the same way – we are given the chance to pour our trust deeper and deeper into the Lord.
We learn in these times of suffering to trust more firmly in the Lord. Not that he would give us all of our earthly desires, but again – our affection for Him would grow more deeply. In our times of suffering we are given the opportunity to trust in ways we may never have had to in the past.
And our reward for suffering? It is to walk with the Lord. An Anglican theologian talking about some of the travail the American church has gone through in the past 50 years or so put it this way: “you might think that God should reward you for your faithfulness, but you’ll find that the reward that you’ll get is a normal Christian life.” But stop, and think about that for a moment – a normal Christian life is this – that we get to know God! How good is that? Can you think of any suffering that is greater than that?
We may be called to great things in this life, or we may be called to a quiet simple life. There is a goodness in any of these – so long as we burn brightly for Christ. We might be reminded of C.S. Lewis’s descriptions of a simple house wife, who loved all whom she interacted with well, in his book “The Great Divorce.” The traveler confuses this woman for the Virgin Mary, her entrance being so grant. Yet, it was kindly Sarah from down the street, who loved very well. If we live our life in the love we know in Christ to the glory of God, it will be a very good life indeed.
Now, what does it mean to dwell in the providence of God? We have established that He is our protector and overseer. We have established that in Him is our strength and that in Him nothing can happen to us that is not good for our soul. So, we learn to trust deeply in this.
We can learn a lot about the trusting that God is providential from Joseph from Exodus. Joseph who was sold into slavery, Joseph who was lied about and imprison, Joseph who was forgotten by one he gave hope to. Joseph who when given the opportunity to return the cruelty that his brothers showed him chose to show them a secret grace. Joseph who, when finally talking to his brothers about all that transpired told them – what they had meant for evil, God meant for good.
When we pass through travail, we remember that God will use that for the good of our soul. There is no evil that can befall us that God cannot use to bring glory to Himself and sanctify us to Him. This is a hard thing to grasp, but it is in these times of travail that we grow in our trust in Him, in our peaceful dwelling in His mercy and goodness.
Let us therefore be learning to trust that His providence will guide us and bring us into a deeper and deeper relationship with Him. Let us be trusting that he is watching over us in all things, and in that let us rejoice in all things.