Summary: Worship that God wants from us is honest, transparent and real. Can we come to God, can we come to church, when all we feel is sorrow and lament? Or do we have to fake it all the time.
Sermon for CATM – April 13, 2008 – “Worship: An Act of Desperation - Psalm 142
I overheard someone ask someone else this very simple question recently: “What has been the saddest moment in your life?” I can’t recall the answer given, because as soon as the question was asked, my mind drifted to the saddest moment in my life.
That was about 15 months ago when I was with my birth family and Barbara at my brother’s home, and I was holding my brother as he died of cancer.
There just aren’t words to express the pain, the sorrow, the sense of loss that I and my whole family felt in that moment. We were all united in the same grief actually. Now all of my family shares in common our darkest day.
Usually we’re accustomed to coming to church and hearing upbeat worship and a fairly positive upbeat message or challenge. We focus a lot of the positive, because we believe in a Saviour who has won the victory for us.
Who has taken ultimate sadness and loss, experienced it Himself, and found a way to triumph over the darkest experience known to humanity…cold-blooded murder of an innocent. He triumphed over the grave and over sin.
Our darkest acts and imaginations and sins are taken by Jesus upon the cross. He becomes ‘sin’ for us.
And of course the bold declaration of Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday: He is risen. He is risen INDEED!.
We are not alone. God is with us.
Our darkest moments. Yeah…we don’t like to go there much. But you know, those moments are a part of life. A part of real life. And a lot of life is lament.
Something I’ve always found heartening and encouraging is the fact that other people of faith have gone through what I’ve gone through and worse, and have lived to tell of it and have lived to praise God.
The Bible contains all kinds of stories of peoples’ great struggles. Terrible tragedies, mind-numbing loss. Deep, deep frustration…but also faith. One of those people was David, Israel’s king who was a tragically flawed fellow, but who knew how to approach God in the midst of fear, deep shame.
Our key scripture today finds David in a cave. He was pursued there by Saul, the outgoing king of Israel, who resented David. David had been chosen by God to be Israel’s king, but he had waited a long time and honoured the fact that Saul was king.
David had been chased by Saul who wanted to kill him. Even when he had the chance to be free of the threat of Saul by killing him, David would not. Instead he allowed himself to be hunted and mistreated for a time by Saul. Living like an animal, in a cave.
So in today’s reading we find David in the cave, and when he was there, he prayed like this: [Reader]
Psalm 142:1 I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. 2 I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble. 3 When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me. 4 Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. 5 I cry to you, O LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living." 6 Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. 7 Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.
First things first. Sometimes our traditions or our personalities can constrain us from addressing God in this fashion. We may be comfortable with polite prayers, genteel petitions or the well-formulated and organized thoughts we find in some written prayers. Those are safe.
Those feel safe. But if the Bible is to be our standard for how to talk to God, if it sets the benchmark for just how honest and real we can be with our Creator and Redeemer, we can see pretty clearly here that it’s ok to cry out to God.
Have you ever done that? Screamed out loud to God, wondering why such-and-such was happening?
Actually “crying out to God” is rarely a response to something that has just happened that has shocked us.
When something bad happens, we’re often in shock at first. In stunned disbelief. Just think of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Our hearts or minds may turn to God, but we’re just as likely to stare at a wall for a long period of time, just trying to understand what’s happened.