Rev. George Miller
Nov 15, 2015
In honor of Rev. Langdoc being with us today, I’m going to do what he’s known for-tell a joke.
A father and daughter enjoyed a delicious meal at home. They talked, they laughed. After the meal they began to tidy up the kitchen, as was their tradition.
But the father realized he had left the broom outside on the porch. He knew his daughter was afraid of the dark, but he saw this as an empowering, teachable moment.
“Sandy,” he said to his daughter, “Can you please go outside and get the broom off the porch?”
“But Dad,” she said, with a quiver to her voice, “You know I’m scared of the dark.”
“I know, but don’t worry, honey,” he said as fatherly as he could. “Jesus is out there to watch over you.”
Sandy walked to the back door, her heart thumping as fast as it could, so loud she could hear it. Perspiration formed on her forehead.
“It’s Ok,” her father repeated. “Jesus is out there to watch over you.”
Sandy had an a-ha moment. With her hands trembling, she opened the back door, just a crack, slowly slipped her arm outside, gave a little whistle and then whispered “Jesus, could you hand me the broom, please?”
…It’s the day of Pentecost; nearly 2,000 years ago. The city of Jerusalem is abuzz with folk from all over the land.
Peter and the disciples are gathered together. What a month they’ve had. Jesus was crucified, buried, resurrected, and has ascended to the heavens.
It’s been the best of times and the worst of times: death, new life, and a call to play a part in restoring the Kingdom of God.
And “kapooya!” from heaven comes a sound like a rush of wind. Divided tongues like fire rest upon the people. They are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin to speak in ways that everyone can hear and understand.
Those who are present are amazed and astounded, and trying to make logic out of such an illogical event, say “Well, Peter and his buddies must be drunk with new wine.”
But Peter, standing with the disciples, speaks up and corrects those who are present.
“Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, listen to what I have to say- we’re not drunk. It’s only 9 am in the morning.
“No, this is a fulfillment of the prophet Joel that in the new age God will pour out God’s Spirit upon all flesh: sons, daughters, old, young, and those who are slaves.”
Peter continues- “listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth who was handed over and crucified has been raised by God, freeing him from death.”
Then Peter goes on to quote from Psalm 16:
“I saw the Lord always before me, for he is my right hand so that I shall not be shaken.
“Therefore my heart will be glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope.
“For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption.
“You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
This is what would become the first Christian sermon in history, given on the first day of the Christian church.
That’s a big honor for a song like Psalm 16 to have. It is a song that may have meant one thing back when David was King; but it also now means another thing, celebrating Christ as King.
How interesting that on a day in which the Holy Spirit breaks in to do something so radically new, that Peter would feel inspired to use words that were centuries old.
Proof that sometimes the most powerful thing one can do is to honor their roots, and that Scripture has a way of speaking to the past, present and future all at once.
This is another example of regeneration, in which through God something is the same, yet different; different and yet the same.
Even before Peter inspired the masses with his Pentecostal speech, Psalm 16 has had a special place in the Book of Psalms.
Psalm 16 is part of a collection of songs in which the singer has gone through some rough, dangerous patches.
They see God as their refuge, and the one who shows the path to life, no matter who they are or where they are on life’s journey.
Here the singer is able to say, even amidst life’s hardships that they have had enough- “Dayenu”, and they express that their joy, their ultimate happiness doesn’t come from people, places, or things, but from God and God alone.
The singer finds comfort in realizing there is nowhere they can go that God is not, even if they are surrounded by decay or facing the cold reality of death.
No wonder Peter saw this Psalm as a perfect vehicle to pronounce that Jesus Christ is alive and a new day has begun.
There is something else we discovered during Tuesday’s Bible Study- this particular song is extremely body-centric.
The singer states that the Lord is always at his right hand, and that his body rests secure.
Verse 7 is an Americanized adaption of the scripture. It states “In the night…my heart instructs me.” But the real word in the Hebrew text is “kidneys.”
Why? Because that’s where the ancient people believed their conscience was experienced.
Verse 9 in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible reads “My heart is glad, and my soul rejoices.” However, other translations read “My tongue rejoices,” which is what Peter says on Pentecost day.
Psalm 16 is very, very body-centric, with references to heart, kidney, tongue, hand.
Why would this matter? One possible reason is that the body plays an important part of who we are.
Because Christians have been so influenced by Greek thought, we unconsciously have a way of seeing ourselves as three divided parts- body, mind and soul.
However, the people of the Old Testament did not see things this way. They saw themselves as one complete whole, and the body was the vehicle through which we lived, loved and served.
Therefore, faith and spirituality and our experience of God are not just a soul thing, it’s not just a mind thing; faith is a bodily thing.
A faithful life is not just something we feel or think, it’s something we experience and do with our entire being, including our hearts, our hands, our kidneys, our tongues, our feet, our eyes, our skin, our hairs upon our heads.
In fact our faith can even be said to begin in our mother’s womb in which we are knit together and wonderfully made by God.
So to separate us into beings who are body, mind and soul would not fit into the world of the Psalmist, but to present us as organic, cohesive, holistic wholes.
Today, I invite us to use Psalm 16 as a jumping off place to think about our bodily expression of faith.
Our hands. 2 palms, 10 fingers, each with their own unique fingerprint.
In worship we can use our hands to clap and to play an instrument. In fellowship we use them to shake, to hug and to hold.
In mission and service, we use our hands to serve, for example- tomorrow as we hope to welcome over a hundred hungry people into our Shepherd’s Pantry.
In worship we use them to speak, to sing, to pray. In fellowship we use them to taste and to enjoy the delicious treats prepared for us.
In ministry we use them to speak to another; to offer hope, to present encouragement, to say a prayer.
Our hearts, alive within our chest; pumping and receiving blood throughout our body, sending oxygen throughout our flesh.
How during worship our hearts can seem to soar when we hear a certain song, an uplifting prayer, a message that resonates.
How in fellowship our hearts can experience love and welcome as we meet and greet one another.
How in both mission and care it becomes our hearts that we offer to one another and seem to speak out of; it seems to be our hearts that break when we hear of bad news, or illness or a death.
Kidneys- well I’ll just leave those out of today’s message.
But the point is that church and faith is not just a spiritual reality. Nor is church and faith just about what we think.
Church and faith is a physical reality in which our body is engaged, our body is in fellowship with other bodies, and our body is in service.
Our body becomes a way to not only experience God’s eternal presence, but to share and make God’s eternal presence known here on earth.
So it makes sense that on the day of Pentecost, Peter would feel so inspired to use such a body-centric scripture as Psalm 16 to celebrate the Good News of the resurrected Christ.
As it also makes sense that as we are about to enter the Advent season, Psalm 16 would be used.
Because after all, what is Advent, but a time to prepare to meet Jesus, Emmanuel, which literally means “God Is With Us.”
Emmanuel, God-With-Us does not just mean in the soul, or in the mind, but with us in the body as well.
God cared for us so much, and valued our entire being so much, that God came to us in the flesh, in the person of Jesus.
We experience Jesus not just as a spirit, as a ghost, as an idea. But we experience Jesus as an organic, cohesive, holistic whole.
And I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
God is good; we have no good apart from the Lord. Therefore let us rejoice with hearts that are glad, hands that clap, hold and serve, and with tongues that praise and bodies that are ever thankful.
Amen and amen.