Psalm 95 (Briarwood, 2011).
Today is the last Sunday in the church year; and it is a time to put things — all things — in perspective. It is a time to weigh the powers we know in this world and to remember which ones we really value most.
There is no question that there are powers in this world.
All you had to do this week was to jump in the car, or hop on the 211, and head downtown to the Victoria Square Metro, and see what is going on outside. There were tents, as we know, and people. Lots of people. Occupying. Protesting against a kind of power that is very real and strong indeed. A power being reacted to in many cities across North America. A power that has to do with, money.
There is also the power of doubt. That’s a pretty strong power. Its voices get a lot of air time on the big channels and on book shelves. Where Blessed Christopher Hitchens is lovingly adored. It amazes me because this power is at it’s strongest here in Canada and Western Europe. Almost anywhere else in the world belief is a non- starter; like in the Philippines where recently the highest rated TV show for teens was Choose Your Own Imam. But in our time and place doubt is a pretty strong power that we all face. As if it were silly, really, to believe in God. Or think that God has anything to say.
Which is why this Psalm, Psalm 95, is a challenge; and certainly an invitation. Because in it, another power in the world is proclaimed. It uses a metaphor for God. One that doesn’t hold back. God as a Sovereign, a ruler. Really we say, is that so.
It is an incredibly bold piece of writing. An incredibly bold song. It reminds me of the boldness in the song by Regina Spektor, called Laughing with God; where she gives a challenge: no one laughs at God in a hospital, no one laughs at God in a war, no one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or poor. No one laughs at God when the doctor calls after some routine tests; no one’s laughing at God when it’s gotten real late and their kids’s not back from the party yet. No one’s laughing at God when there’s famine or fire or flood. Zowi. Zinger. She’s not holding back. About God. She even offers examples of life without God.
And there’s no holding back in this Psalm either. There is another power. For the Psalmist one who is for real. And one who reigns over and above and through all the rest. It would be harder to find a bolder song:
The Lord is a great God
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
And the heights of the mountains are his also.
It is even a bolder statement than it first appears. The depths of the caves, the space below the ocean floor, and even the top of Everest are God’s. It’s a way of describing the continuum of creation that is full of God and in which God’s way rules. Like what I say sometimes to my kids to try to say how much I love them: Zachary I love you from the tip of your toes to the top of your head, and back. This is a bold, bold song about the breadth of God’s power.
But it’s more. The unknown depths of the sea and the unreachable mountain tops are in the Psalmist’s time, places where other powers and others gods are said to rule. Those places are their domain. Solely. So for the Psalmist to say they are God’s is to say these are places where God is King and everywhere in between is to proclaim, quite intentionally, that God’s power is above all other powers. Is without limit.
What could a bold statement like this could mean for us.
Well one of thing is definitely this: we have choices. Have choices on what power to live for first. In every life situation – in work, careers choices, relationships, our health care, we can ask, where is God in this decision? Where is the reign of the loving, dying, risen Jesus in this? How does this choice relate to that revolution of love? In this moment in my life, what is God calling me to do? Or not do?
But it means something else too: for the rule of God’s love in Jesus to have no limits means it has no limits. It means there is no place this reign and rule of Chirst cannot and does not reach. If we are in the darkest valley, King Jesus walks with us; in we’re in the highest moment of our lives or of our church, King Jesus walks with us; if we are as lost as we ever thought we could be, King Jesus walks with us: there is no place where his love reaches not. God’s reign includes this worship service. God’s reigns includes the one after this. God’s reign includes this church, and this city, and this world , and this universe and the one beside it, and God’s reign includes your life and mine; because Jesus came and connected with humanity forever in his baptism, changed it forever in his teaching and healing, and has come to hold every power in this world, even the power of death itself in his hand. In his hand. In his hand are the depths of the earth. With a pierced, broken and bruised hand he hung on a cross. To start a revolution of love that has changed everything. In this world. In this church. In your life, in Kyla’s life and mine. And friends there is nothing stronger in this world than the reign of this Christ: as one of the first Christians wrote, I am convinced that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separte us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Friends, in his hand we are. And in God’s hand – come what may – we will be.
We started this series of sermons on the Psalms with Psalm 96 v 1. Sing to the Lord a new song. On the importance of newness, freedom and fresh expression in our worship. And in that sermon we talked about singing. And we talked about the miners in Chile how when they were trapped for 69 days – – everyday they would sing to God:
And now it’s time to end this month of Psalms with our brothers and sisters from Chile once more: to them as a witness to us of God’s reign. Did you know that when they finally got out of the ground, when they finally made it free from their subterranean tomb, when the were finally risen up to new life and reached the surface over 2000ft above them, do you know that they were given t-shirts:
And do you know what was printed on them?
Coming up out of their darkest hour,
rejoicing in their new life,
they dawned t-shirts
that had these words printed on the back:
In his hand are the depths of the earth
And mountains heights are also his.
Thanks be to God.
Let us pray.
Forgive us Lord, when we make you small and forget the depth of your love’s rule made real in Jesus. Continue that in us today and always.
Through Jesus our King.