August 5, 2012

Ninth Sunday after Trinity Sermon

God of Blessings
Psalm 115, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Lk. 15:11-32
Ninth Sunday after Trinity
August 5, 2012

There is a saying that goes, "out of sight, out of mind." I know that's true of me, for without reminders I am liable to forget things. Sometimes even reminders don't help. Looking over my calendar for this week I noticed I have written a large "N" in one of the boxes. I probably wrote that while on the phone, intending to fill in the details after the conversation was over. Instead, I moved into something else, and now I have no idea what the letter was supposed to remind me of. Fortunately, God is not like that. He is always mindful of you (vs. 12). He knows your down-sitting and your up-rising. He is around your path and around your bed, and is acquainted with all your ways (Ps. 139:1-15). He even knows your thoughts before you think them. He knows your trials and hurts, your miserable failures, and your desire to do better. He watches over you. He sees you through the eyes of His compassion and mercy. He has you in His mind with the intention of doing good for you. Thus we read in verse 12 of Psalm 115, He shall bless you.

The blessings of God are a major point of Psalm 115. In 18 short verses, this Psalm uses the word, "bless" five times. It is found three times in verse 12 alone. "He shall bless us;" "He shall bless the house of Israel;" He shall bless the house of Aaron." Then verse 13 says, ,"He shall bless them that fear the Lord," and verse 15 says, "ye are the blessed of the Lord." This is a Psalm about blessing, and it is a Psalm about the God who blesses.

What does it mean to be blessed? We usually think of it as getting things from God. We are blessed with comfortable houses, abundant food, friends, family, and Church. And truly these things are blessings, and truly God promises to give us such blessings, according to His wisdom, and according to what He sees we need to have and according to what He sees we need to have taken away. Verse 14 is a promise of such blessings. "The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children" It refers back to the promise to make a great nation of the descendents of Abraham. It refers, in part, to the increase of Israel through the ingathering of Gentiles into the Kingdom of God, and it refers to the increase in the knowledge of God that would come to Israel, and the world, through the Saviour Jesus Christ. But it surely also refers to God's intention to care for all of His people, and to "bless" you with the good things you need to live in peace and happines before the Lord.

But the word "Blessed" means more than this. It really refers to an attribute of God. It means He dwells in perfect and unshakable peace and joy. It means He is complete and fulfilled in and of Himself. He needs no other person or thing to make His life complete. He has it all within Himself. Theologians call this the aseity of God, and if you want to get a discussion going this week, just tell someone you heard a sermon about the aseity of God on Sunday. They won't be able to resist asking what that means. If God really is complete and fulfilled in and of Himself, then He did not create you to fulfill some need in Himself. He doesn't need you to make Him happy. He created you to share His happiness with you. He created you so you could experience some part of the Joy that He is. Thus, to be blessed is to become one with His Blessedness. It is to become a partaker of the kind of joy that can only exist in God Himself. To say, God is blessing you is to say God is bringing you into deeper fellowship with Him and you are finding more and more of His perfect joy. The Bible states this in many ways. It talks about the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and the peace of Christ which the world cannot give, and of entering into the joy of the Lord. All of these verses refer to being made partakers of God through Christ, of Him dwelling in you and you dwelling in Him who is joy forever and ever. This is what the words, "He shall bless us" really mean.

A second point of this Psalm is faith; "trust thou in the Lord." Psalm 115 uses the word, "bless" five times; and it uses the word, "trust" four times. Once, in verse 8, it refers to the ruin of those who trust in god's that do not exist. These are the idols made with human hands, the Kalis and the Baals and the golden calves before which people bow and to which they attribute the blessings they have received from God alone. But there are other idols, too. The god of mammon does not have a statue to represent it, nor a temple in which to worship, yet it is still an idol which the Bible warns us about many times. There is another kind of idol, it is the idol of our own supposed goodness, and many people worship it with all the devotion they have to give. They even believe they will be able to stand before the Judgement Throne of God one day and tell Him they are worthy to enter His Heaven and fellowship with Him forever, because they have earned it by their own goodness.

These idols have ears that cannot hear and hands cannot help. They cannot teach you how to run a home, find a vocation, or find the really important things in life. They cannot comfort you in sickness or sorrow, heal your brokenness, or save your soul from hell. Ask a stone to teach you how to live an honest and honourable life. Ask a stick to comfort you when friends and family abandon you. Ask your car, your money, your hobby, and your job to make life worth living and to carry you safely to the shore of Heaven when this life ends. Ask Buddah to die for your sins, or Kali, or Osiris, or Caesar. They cannot help when you stand before God to give an account of your failure to meet the perfect standard of His holiness. That is why the Psalm says of those who serve idols, "They that make them," that is, they that trust and hope in them, "are like unto them." They are dead.


"Trust" is repeated three more times in verses 9-12. "House of Israel, trust thou in the Lord." "Ye house of Aaron, put your trust in the Lord." "Ye that fear the Lord, put your trust in the Lord." I think it is safe to say that, as much as this Psalm is about the God who blesses, it is equally about trusting the blessings He gives. As much as it is about God giving the things we need, it is also that much about having the faith to desire the blessings He wants to give.

The amazing thing about this Psalm is that it seems to have been written to encourage faith in God during a time of tribulation in Israel, for verse 2 asks, "Wherefore shall the heathen say, Where is now their God?" It is as though enemies have gathered around Israel like scoffers around the cross of Christ, saying, "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him" (Mt. 27:43). Where is your God now, Israel? Where is your God now, Jesus? Where is your God now Christian? Where is He now when you need Him? It is in the face of these taunts and persecutions that Israel, that you, are told, trust thou in the Lord; He is your helper and defender. It is often true that, rather than delivering you from your trials, God chooses, for your own good, to deliver you through your trials. He "preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." Picture a small flock of sheep grazing green pastures and drinking still waters. Where are they? Not in the fold, safely locked away from predators, they are in the wilderness, under the eye of the wolf and lion, in the presence of their enemies, just like you. And the faith you are encouraged to have is faith in God when the storms arise and enemies surround. In sickness and tribulation and sorrow and loss, and even in the face of death itself. Because the One who dwells in Heaven and is able to do whatever pleases Him has promised that these things are but the fires that purify your gold, and that He will bring you safe at last to the Mansion He has prepared for you in Heaven.

Father of all mercies, who has promised that all things work together for good to those who love Thee, grant us faith to tear the idols from our hearts and life in faith and obedience in Thee, now and forever, through Christ our Saviour. Amen.

2 comments:

  1. Bishop Campbell, the possibility of pun notwithstanding, this homily was a real "blessing" to read! To move from the stunning doctrine of the Triune Majesty's Self-sufficient, Self-contained--His aseity--to the utterly practical application to deeper communion with Him (all in one paragraph) was simply artful. What an indictment this is for the popular notion that theological profundity and practical application are contrary in the life of the Church! The treatment of idolatry, whether metal or mental, was also wonderful. Thank you for the great word to us. Blessings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for the very kind words, Brother. I hope I have faithfully expounded the Word, and that the Word proclaimed will help people grow in grace.

    Blessings

    ReplyDelete