Yr B ~ Epiphany 2 ~ Psalm 139
Last week I preached a sermon called The Sacrament of the Present Moment. I am captivated by this beautiful theological idea – that every single moment, and by extension every single place, is sacred and bursting with the Presence of God yearning for us to notice it, and embrace it, and become immersed in it, and yearning that we respond to that gift of fullness, and grace, and love by in turn loving others. Well, if every single moment is sacred, and every single place is sacred, what about every single person? (And I do mean EVERY single person – even the ones who give you…pause.) Is every single person sacred – filled with Godstuff at the centre of their being? I vote a resounding Yes! And as we dive into Psalm 139 I hope you’ll feel it too.
It begins…“O Lord you have searched me and known me.”
How does that make you feel?
It makes me feel good – because there’s safety there, and there’s a warmth and a depth to the connection being described. God knows when we rise up and sit down, knows our thoughts, knows our path, and is acquainted with all our ways. Heck, even before we put a word on our tongue God knows it completely.
How does God do that?
How can God know all that about me, about you, about all of us at the same time?
Well, it’s just too wonderful for us to understand.
But is it wonderful? That all depends on your theology of God. (Did you even know you had a theology of God?) You do!
If you imagine God as all-loving and supportive then you’ll love this psalm.
If you imagine God as judgmental and accusing then the idea of God searching and knowing you inside and out might be…upsetting!
I mean, what’s so wonderful about having someone know everything there is to know about us? What’s so wonderful about someone knowing your every movement and action? Isn’t that called stalking? [j/k] Maybe that can seem a little too close for comfort. Think right now about the things you keep the most hidden – you know, the things that you don’t show anybody or tell anybody about. The things that even your partner doesn’t get to see because you guard it. Maybe it’s too personal, maybe it’s too shameful, maybe it’s too embarrassing. Are you feeling uneasy yet? Anybody wanna type their secrets into the chat box? (Didn’t think so!)
So, if your theology of God sees a finger-pointing accuser trying to ‘get you’ when you trip up, then this psalm will have you squirming.
Guess what my theology of God says? Yup – all-loving, all the time!
God is love, and the only thing God can do is love.
Finger pointing, judging, accusing, and score-keeping are all human things – not God things.
My theology of God says that God is an all-encompassing, loving Presence.
And my theology of scripture says that when you’re reading a psalm – which is poetry, or more precisely they’re hymns, so they’re music lyrics – you need to remember that metaphors are powerful and suggestive but NOT literal or factual. How boring would our hymns be if they were only facts and not insights, and inspirations of wonder? So when scripture personifies God – making God seem like a humanoid individual – just like us, except way holier – we must remember that it’s just a metaphor – a way of describing in relatable terms something beyond our ability to grasp.
Now consider this about all those embarrassing things in your life that you’d rather no one ever knew about. God can see it. God knows about it, and has known about it always. And God loves you anyway! That’s how fully known we are – that’s how close our God is to our lives – imprinted in the centre of our being – absolute intimacy. It’s both wonderful and disquieting at the same time.
There’s no getting around that Psalm 139 speaks of an intimacy and vulnerability that can make us feel exposed and naked before God.
I think that’s a good thing! I hope I can describe that in helpful ways.
Psalm 139:1-6 says how God is all-knowing, always aware. The theological word for that is omniscient.
And then verses 7-10 say the same phrase we say all the time: Surely God is in this place! That’s God’s omnipresence.
7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol (means the depths, as in far from where we think God may be), you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.
The poetry is breathtaking. God is everywhere! North, south, east, west, up, down, near, far – everywhere.
Did you hear how v.10 ended though? God’s omnipresence isn’t oppressive, it’s comforting! Wherever I may go even there (God’s) hand shall lead me, and (God’s) right hand shall hold me fast. That warms my heart!
When I feel like my world’s been turned upside down and inside out, and everything is going wrong, and everyone’s out to get me – can you relate? – what’s God’s gift in such moments?
Verse 12 Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
The one who is leading us, and holding us fast, is one who is light in our darkness. Thank God!
Our thoughts are naked before God.
Our actions are naked before God.
Our moments and feelings are naked before God.
It’s utterly overwhelming – and now it goes deeper still. Verses 13-16: read on