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Abyss, Mystery, and Wonder, July 16, 2023

Ps 135: 1-3, 13-21, “The contemplative life is a sweetness of longing and of tasting in which one ceases to praise and becomes pure praise, an unending chant to the divine goodness.” - Wendy Farley

Are you ready… to be lost in wonder and praise in the Abyss of GOD’S love?

Please pray with me, Great Creator Generous GOD, Our Savior Redeemer Jesus, and Sustainer, Comforter Holy Spirit prepare our spirits to see and be beguiled by the beauty of life. Help us to truly Listen to YOU, Learn from YOU, and Love YOU!! In Jesus’ Name we Pray. Amen.

The spiritual part of ourselves is a “divine abyss.” It is a dimension that is not touched by words, thoughts, ideas and feelings. Our bodies were made for perceiving the beauty of the world–a flower, a kiss, a stunning and vibrant green hillside, a newborn baby. And yet all the art in the world cannot capture exactly what it feels like to experience the Divine nature of these things. The path of unknowing is to both savor what the senses can take in but also wonder at the mystery of unfathomable depths of even a single atom. We can fall into the Abyss of GOD’S LOVE!

For the beauty of the earth,

for the glory of the skies,

for the love which from our birth,

over and around us lies.

God of all to thee we raise

This our hymn of grateful praise!

You are invited to a moment of quiet rest, a time of slowing the pace of your body and mind so that the spirit can settle.

Open yourself to GOD and then I’ll close our time of rest with a prayer…[PAUSE] Divine Goodness, Holy One, Pause us for this moment, bear us up in this time, hold us for eternity.

We revel in your wondrous works. We grasp for adequate ways to sing our praise. We seek to be lost in your beauty.

And all the people say, “Amen.”

Today we are on another “search for beauty!” I think we are finding out that we don’t have to look too far to see beauty around us, right? And yet, if we do look far, far, away… we see even more beauty!

The central theme of Psalm 135 is GOD’S universal sovereignty, especially over the other lower case “g” gods. Sovereignty has everything to do with power. It often describes a person who has supreme power or authority, such as a king or queen. Universal sovereignty of course means that GOD rules over everything and everyone. We can trust GOD’S with us always and will never leave us or forsake us!!

By virtue of our sophisticated scientific knowledge and incredible technological achievements, sometimes we forget who is really in control; we forget and we think that we are masters of our universe. And I bet that causes GOD to laugh!!

The confusion is a dangerous one, indeed a deadly one, for to place ultimate trust in ourselves is to consign our destiny to NOTHINGNESS!

But Praise GOD, we have GOD’S Word reminding us that GOD is sovereign!! Please hear Psalm 135 verse 5-7, “For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

6 Whatever the Lord pleases, he does,

in heaven and on earth,

in the seas and all deeps.

7 He it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth,

who makes lightnings for the rain

and brings forth the wind from his storehouses.”

Friends, those abilities over the forces of nature are GOD’S!! And these abilities are exactly what many people in the Middle East believed about their Canaanite god Baal, and what he was supposed to be able to do. And the Psalmist says, no way!!

Only can YHWH, The GOD above all gods can control nature.

Psalm 135 dares to affirm that there is room for hope—not in ourselves, BUT IN GOD! And now verse 13 & 14, “Your name, O Lord, endures forever,

your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.

14 For the Lord will vindicate his people

and have compassion on his servants.”

Now a few verses that Linde read to reinforce that GOD has universal sovereignty!! The idols do not create, because they have been created. The final negation of these other gods, involves “breath” or “wind,” recalling verse 7, “and (he) brings forth the wind from his storehouses.” The “wind” serves GOD’S command, but the idols have no “wind”—no vital power.

Verse 15, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

16 They have mouths, but do not speak;

they have eyes, but do not see;

17 they have ears, but do not hear,

nor is there any breath in their mouths.

18 Those who make them become like them,

so do all who trust in them.”

Friends, I hope you caught that!! Verse 18 again, “Those who make them become like them,

so do all who trust in them.”

Folks who trust their lives to nothing will experience nothingness, whereas those who entrust their lives to the sovereign GOD will participate in GOD’S enduring future, as it says in verse 12-14, “and gave their land as a heritage,

a heritage to his people Israel.

13 Your name, O Lord, endures forever,

your renown, O Lord, throughout all ages.

14 For the Lord will vindicate his people

and have compassion on his servants.”

Switching gears a little bit, have you ever gone outside on a clear night and looked up? What do you see when you do that? Let’s pretend that right now we are outside and it is night and we look up. Go ahead… do you see something?

Yes! Stars are some of the most amazing things we get to see. And because of a telescope called “Hubble” that has been taking pictures closeup way out in space, we now know just how incredibly beautiful stars and planets and galaxies really are. They are so far away that our eyes can’t take in the full beauty.

Sometimes things are SO amazing it is really hard to describe it. We just go “Wow!” That’s all we can say! Thank goodness we have that word “Wow” to help us!

This week I invite you to find a way to make stars for your guest bedroom. Especially if you have grandchildren staying at your home when they visit. You could even get your grandkids to help you think about ways to do this. And as a prayer at bedtime, look up at the stars and make the sign for “Wow!” If you find things that are really beautiful during the day, you can make the sign then as well. Every time we say “wow” we are offering a little prayer to God who created the beauty of life.

Let’s pray a repeat-after-me prayer:

God of Goodness [repeat, etc]

Thank you for amazing things…

thank you for wonder…

Help me…

Praise you…

With my “wow’s”

for the beauty of the earth…

In Jesus’ Name…

Amen…

Names were important in the Ancient Near East. Names described attributes of the person to whom they were assigned and could be changed when an important occurrence shifted the story and the essence of a person. The psalmist often gives glory to “the name of God.” And yet to name God is difficult for there is no one word that can describe the fullness of the Holy.

In today’s Scripture passage, the psalmist describes the attributes of God for which praise is given: justice and compassion. We learn true Compassion from GOD!! This is a Holy Spirit that moves and breathes–not only in setting the beauty of creation in motion, but even now. It is an indescribable presence that warrants the simple description “Beautiful Name.”

Usually, our prayers in this series invite us to an open-eyed experience of “looking around,” there is also the experience of “looking around” inside the mysterious depths of our own imaginations, our own memories of GOD’S beautiful creation. [have Hope play the prelude] And so today I invite you to close your eyes, simply allowing whatever image comes to you as you hear the music. Whatever comes to you, let this movie-in-your-mind be part of your praying, not questioning or analyzing too much. Just let it be. “Looking”–whether outward or inward, is a noticing of the depths of the beauty of life. And the Creator of that beauty is present, now, always.

And now I invite you all to grab a Pew Bible and turn to page 520, Psalm 136. I’m going to read the beginning of the verse and then together we will respond with the phrase, for his steadfast love endures forever.

Let’s rehearse on verse #1, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. Please say these words with conviction!

Let’s go, Psalm 136, verse 1 and following, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

4 to him who alone does great wonders,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

5 to him who by understanding made the heavens,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

6 to him who spread out the earth above the waters,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

7 to him who made the great lights,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

8 the sun to rule over the day,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

11 and brought Israel out from among them,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

13 to him who divided the Red Sea in two,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

16 to him who led his people through the wilderness,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

17 to him who struck down great kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

18 and killed mighty kings,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

20 and Og, king of Bashan,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

21 and gave their land as a heritage,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

22 a heritage to Israel his servant,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

24 and rescued us from our foes,

for his steadfast love endures forever;

25 he who gives food to all flesh,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

26 Give thanks to the God of heaven,

for his steadfast love endures forever.

So did you get the point?? Yes, GOD’S steadfast love endures forever. GOD is universally sovereign, all powerful and GOD’S steadfast love endures forever.

Please join me in falling into the Abyss of GOD’S Love with Mystery and Wonder!!

Please rise as and let us sing our closing hymn, “Go Ye Into The World.”

Benediction:

The world is so varied and beautiful.

Seek wisdom wherever it is to be found.

And may the goodness of the Creator,

the companionship of the Christ,

and the insight of the Spirit,

infuse your life now and always.

Amen.

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