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Sermon Preached at Trinity School for Ministry’s Chapel April 2, 2009

April 2, 2009

Psalm 131:1-3 O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3 O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

This Psalm speaks to me because I happen to have a weaned child, and it also illustrates exactly what I need to be doing at this time in my life.

My son Jack will be two yrs old in June. If you have seen him running around you know he is all boy. He throws anything he can get his hands on and kicks anything in his path. We daily have to pull him off of his 6 yr old sister whom he climbs on, bear hugs and sooner or later starts doing the windmill on, all because he loves her. Jack loves balls and trucks. This morning was his highlight of the week, b/c the trash truck came and he got to watch his heroes throw stuff in the truck and throw our trash cans all over the yard and then drive off in the big truck.

Even with Jack, when he is scared, tired, hurt or disoriented, he cries out for Mommy. If he awakens during the night and in the morning he cries out for Mommy. And when she holds him, he quiets down and is comforted. If he was scared or hurt, soon after being held by her he will be back at his game. It is in his mother’s arms that he is secure, comforted and restored. When he is alone with me and we are watching sports and eating candy, every so often he will start looking around calling out “Mommy.” She is really his orienting center.

A few scholars think the Psalm is not speaking of a weaned child but of a nursing child that has been satisfied at the mother’s breast and is therefore fed and quieted, resting between the mother’s shoulder blades. The practice in the ancient Near East was to strap a nursing child in a sling onto the back between the shoulder blades where the child would rest while the mother continued to work. This is the image described in Psalm 116:7 “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.” Both Psalms use the same Hebrew term that can mean “to wean” or “to deal bountifully with.” Either way, the image is of a child resting in the Lord, fully satisfied and calmed.

If I had to describe in one word my physical and mental condition during this current semester it would probably be exhaustion. I have been somewhat overwhelmed…mostly with good stuff like family, seminary and ministry, but some bad stuff. One thing out of the routine can knock me out…a lingering cold, broken washer, a sick child, no power steering suddenly while driving, etc. It becomes too much. Last week my dad told me about his friend’s 39 yr old son who had died without apparent cause the previous morning sitting at his desk. I am 39 yrs old. That hit home as I suddenly considered dying while hidden away in the basement attempting to work on a Greek exegesis paper…I decided to press on. But this also set me right…what can I do about it? Nothing. Jesus even says in Matthew 6:27 “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” If we cannot do that, why bother worrying about smaller things? I placed it all in the Lord’s hands and re-centered myself in him, deciding not to occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

A few years ago a navy friend of mine described a vortex that occurs in the water when two large ships pass each other close by. The water in between becomes a chaotic whirlpool that can sink a smaller boat that gets caught. I feel like I am in the vortex of all the situations and responsibilities of my life. There all also the regular demonic attacks and temptations that come.. There is a lot of good stuff too causing this whirl of life. But the outcome is exhaustion. It reminds me of a song by the band Fuel, called “Falls on Me,” in which the weight of even something good falling on the singer may prove to be too much to sustain.

One option is to hang on for dear life. But that is really living one stressor away from breaking down. That’s where we are on our own regardless of our awareness. It’s like Earl Johns’ prayer from the Lenten devotional says, “Lord, may we not pretend to see when we don’t.” Let’s not fool ourselves that we are okay on our own.

The Psalmist eschews that way of life…the way of haughty eyes, pride, arrogance and of delusions of having control of life. The psalmist instead opts for drawing back from dissipation, from being scattered and instead finds the center, calm and quiet in hope of the Lord.

God condescends to offer himself to us as Abba, Father, and invites us into his embrace. Jesus is the example for us in how to walk through this life without being overwhelmed. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. During his most intense struggles in the garden and on the cross, he prays to the Father and finds the center and resolve. And he teaches us to do the same, but not necessarily as the grown ups we want to pretend we are who just need some advice or a little help here or there.

When his disciples ask him, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” that to me is a perfect example of what the Psalmist describes as having heart and eyes raised too high and being concerned with things too great. Jesus brings a little child to himself and says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Another time, Jesus overruled the haughtiness of his disciples and said of the children, “`Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.`” And he laid his hands on them.”

We really want to be responsible grown ups who have the information and the answers. We need to know all the stuff. We are going to be out there and we need to have it all together.

However, we are reminded in Isaiah 30:15 of what we need: “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” In the midst of it all, our answer, our solution is to draw back to our center, our source, our Father and allow him to quiet and calm our souls like a loving mother does her child. This is to be what Sr. Marilyn Lacey calls being “God’s guest, everyday and everywhere.” It is what develops and is nurtured in his presence that we can take to our families, friends and to the world. Each of us is called to be the child whom Jesus blesses. So, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore.

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