Thursday, May 14, 2015

Singing in the Rain- Sermon for May 17, 2015; Psalm 1

Rev. George Miller
Psalm 1
May 17, 2015

Last week we talked about three iconic shows- Sex and the City, All in the Family and I Love Lucy.

Today we’ll talk about an iconic movie- Singing in the Rain. Considered by many to be the greatest movie musical of all time, Singing in the Rain has perhaps one of the top 10 scenes in film history.

Gene Kelly, after spending an eventful night of friendship, creativity and blooming love, is walking home when the skies break open and the rains begins to fall.

With nothing more than an umbrella, a streetlight and a pile of puddles, he sings and dances in such authentic exuberance that people just smile thinking about it.

“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain; what a glorious feeling, I’m happy once again.”

How can you not smile when hearing such a song? But think about this- if he says he’s happy once again, that means he was not happy before.

If he wasn’t happy before, what was he? Sad? Scared? Mad? Experiencing indigestion?

And, if he’s happy once again, that means he was happy at least one time before.

So if he’s happy now, is there a good chance he’ll be unhappy later?

You don’t need me to teach you this, but in life there really is no happily ever after and there is no totally tragic ending.

Life is a series of happy and unhappy moments; life is a series of sun and showers; life is a series of before and afters.

In other words, life is not one or the other, black or white. Life is often both/and, with various shades of grey.

However, today’s scripture doesn’t seem to present that reality…at first. Psalm 1 seems to construct a world that is black and white, that is either/or, that is happy or sad.

In Psalm 1 it appears that there are only 2 kinds of people, there are only 2 ways of being, and there are only 2 outcomes.

You can either be the righteous or the wicked.

You can either meditate on the torah or sit on the seat of scoffers.

You can either be a tree or you can be the chaff.

You can either stand with the righteous or poof!- perish.

I don’t know about you, but the older I get, the less comfortable I become with extremes.

I also think that organized religion is to blame for some of the thinking that tries to force people into seeing the world one way or the other.

Because the world is not one way or the other. Faith is not one way or the other. People are not one way or the other.

Who here can claim to be all righteous or all sinner? Who here can claim to meditate all day long or to sit and scoff? Is anyone all tree or all chaff; all righteous or all wicked?

How many here can honestly own up to the fact that they can claim to be from column A, column B and column C all depending on the time of day, the mood they are in, who is watching and who they are with?

On the surface, Psalm 1 almost seems to set people up to fail. Either you’re practically perfect or you’re not.

Abraham and Sarah wouldn’t pass the test. Moses and Miriam wouldn’t pass the test.

Peter tested the patience of Jesus and Paul tested the patience of everyone he met, so who knows if either one of them would’ve passed the test.

But Abraham and Sarah never stopped trying; they continued the journey they were on.

Moses and Miriam never stopped trying; they kept on keeping on until their time on earth came to an end.

Peter continued speaking before the people and Paul continued writing his letters.

Psalm 1 may appear to present the world as an either/or, pass or fail reality, but there is a hint of something more.

It appears in verse 3. In reference to those who are happy, the author states they are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in season.

The NRSV uses the word “planted”, which in some ways is correct, but the original word in Hebrew actually means “replanted.”

That may not sound like a big difference, but think about it. Planted has a sense of finitude sound to it. That one has been planted there from the beginning and that’s where they will always be.

But replanted- well replanted means that there was a “before”. It means that one is not now where they once were.

To be replanted means there is a back story, a history, another place you came from.

This notion of being replanted tied into what we talked about 2 weeks ago when we studied John 15.

If you recall we talked about how Jesus claimed to be the true vine and God the master gardener.

We discussed how the grapevine was the symbol of the Israelites, used to represent how they were taken out of slavery and placed into the Promised Land where they grew and thrived.

This image of a tree being replanted in Psalm 1 is similar. It continues the motif of God being the gardener who watches over and takes care of us.

It also presents God as an active participant in our lives, who doesn’t leave us where we are, but who takes us from and brings us to.

What this notion of replanting does is also soften the harsh black and white world that Psalm 1 constructs.

What it acknowledges is that not even the seemingly righteous, or moral meditators or delightful do-gooders were all that way from the beginning.

It suggests that though their roots are now planted in good soil, that at one time they too were on the wrong path or sitting amongst scoffers.

It suggests that although now their leaves are not withering, there was a time they too were like chaff in the wind.

There is something else about the use of the word “replanted.” It suggests that if one has been replanted before, one can be replanted again.

Let me repeat that- if one has been replanted before, one can be replanted again.

That, dear friends, is a truly enlightening thought.

What that means is that we do not belong to a God of 2nd chances- it means we belong to a God of 3rd, and 4th, and 5th, 50th, 500 chances and beyond.

It means that we are not replanted just once and if we make a mistake or commit a sin we are immediately dug up and thrown to the wind.

It means that when we do err, when we do sin, when we do wander down dangerous paths or sit amongst scoffers, we still have another chance to be replanted.

It means that when we do forget about the commandments, when we do forget about the stories that affirm our spiritual identity, we still have another chance to prosper.

It means that even if we have done some things that have broken some limbs, ripped off some bark or stunted our growth, we still have another chance to bear fruit and to grow leaves.

So today, if you feel like perhaps you have wandered down a wrong path, or you wonder if you’re spending time with the healthiest of friends, know that where you are is not where you’ll always have to be.

Know that in Christ there is more than enough water. Know that in the Holy Spirit there is more than enough land.

Know that in God we have a master gardener who is always willing and able to replant again and again and again.

Because of this truth we can be happy; because of this truth we are indeed blessed.

Amen and amen.

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