Midweek Lent, 2016 Psalm 85
85:8 Let me hear what the Lord God would speak when He speaks peace to his people and to His faithful, that they turn not back to folly.
I come from a long line of Jansen’s who are gifted in wood working. Me? Not so much. I took shop in high school. One of the items we were to make was a bird feeder. I just couldn’t get the sides to match up. I cut a little more off one end and then the other, until I thought, “If I keep this up I’m not going to have anything left.” So I forced it together. Nailed a tin roof on it and called it done.
That’s how we come here this evening. Our lives are not quite in line with the pattern God would have us follow. We come not quite up to par. We come, with hands not quite as clean as we would like. Choose your picture, but in small and large ways, in actions unseen and seen, in words unheard and heard, we, the workmanship of God in Christ, arrived here burdened with those pesky things we call sins, we just haven’t measured up.
However, Psalm 85 opens with, “God, You favored us, You restored us, You forgave Your people’s crimes.” Crimes? Well, if we break God’s law what does that make us before God? But God has cleared our criminal record through the criminal death of his Son Jesus Christ. The psalm continues, “You covered all their offenses.” St. Paul tells us, “In Christ, God’s Beloved, we are redeemed through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Our sins are covered by his blood and we don’t have to worry that God will ever dig into our past, pull out those failures, and use them in political advertisement against us. As psalmist says, “You laid aside all Your wrath, You turned back from Your blazing fury.”
But there are times when we have difficulty focusing on the abundance of his grace. We take our eyes off God’s grace in Christ and fix them on the state of affairs in our world; or whatever problems with which we may be contending in our daily life. We wonder, “Why is God displeased? What have I done?” We think, “Oh, Oh, God is going to get me for that.” God is not going to do any such thing. We have been blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Why would God do that if he was going to turn around and get us for something which displeases him? That’s foolishness. Yet even the faithful suffer from such thinking when we look only see the distance between ourselves and God; instead of the nearness of His grace, no matter our circumstances, or feelings.
The author of Hebrews calls to refocus our attention on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Earlier in the service, at the end of our Lenten reading we said, though God has spoken to us in many and various ways by the prophets, “But now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”
Thus the words of the psalmist become our words, “Let me hear what the Lord God would speak when He speaks peace to his people, that they turn not back to folly.” The English actress Helen Mirren said in a recent interview that she loves to perform in our country. She said the English audience sits back and says, “What are you going to do for us?” The American audience leans forward and says, “What are you going to do for us?” The psalmist is leaning forward.
Leaning forward in anticipation, he and the whole congregation gathered for worship hears one word, “Salvation.” “Surely his salvation is near.” His victory is at hand. Jesus coming was a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth.” God lavished his grace upon us in Christ that this divided world and universe would be put back together again. You see, that word “Salvation” in the Hebrew is Yeshua. We know Yeshua as Jesus. What did the angel tell Joseph? “She (Mary) will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
But the writer of psalm 85 goes on to tell us what powers God’s salvation. “Steadfast love and faithfulness meet.” It’s like two friends meeting on the street. Steadfast love is God’s loyalty to us. Martin Luther called it, “goodness in action.” Faithfulness is God’s reliability. Steadfast love and Faithfulness meet on the street. Steadfast love says, “Faithfulness. Where you going?” Faithfulness responds, “I’m going to take up residence in Jesus.” “What a coincidence,” said Steadfast love, “I’m headed in the same direction. So I guess we are going to be spending some time together.” “Yes, we will be dwelling in Jesus and in his followers for eternity as I understand it.” James Lee Burke says of God’s nature, “He has a sense of humor and because He’s a gentleman, he always keeps his word.”
The psalmist reports further, “Righteousness and Peace kiss each other.” Righteousness is blamelessness, honesty, good order. We are at the end of the day; can we say we have gotten through the day entirely blameless? We can answer “Yes.” Because God put everything for which we are to blame on Jesus thus we have Jesus blamelessness, honesty and everything is in good order in our life. What about Peace? Well, the angels sang at Jesus birth of peace on earth. And on Palm Sunday, the people spoke of peace in heaven. In Jesus we have peace with God and able to be at peace. We will be able to leave with the promise that God will us blameless and give us peace. He will go before us during the week with righteousness breaking a path for us and salvation following behind.