Sunday, July 30, 2017

Wonderful Works

Wonderful Works from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.

Psalm 105
1O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.
2Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works.
3Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually.
5Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgment he uttered,
6O offspring of his servant Abraham, children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

7He is the Lord our God; his judgements are in all the earth. 
8He is mindful of his covenant for ever, of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, 
9the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, 
10which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, 
11saying, ‘To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.’ 

12When they were few in number, of little account, and strangers in it, 
13wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, 
14he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, 
15saying, ‘Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm.’ 

16When he summoned famine against the land, and broke every staff of bread, 
17he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. 
18His feet were hurt with fetters, his neck was put in a collar of iron; 
19until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord kept testing him. 
20The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free. 
21He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his possessions, 
22to instruct his officials at his pleasure, and to teach his elders wisdom. 

23Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham. 
24And the Lord made his people very fruitful, and made them stronger than z≈’c’/their foes, 
25whose hearts he then turned to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. 

26He sent his servant Moses, and Aaron whom he had chosen. 
27They performed his signs among them, and miracles in the land of Ham. 
28He sent darkness, and made the land dark; they rebelled against his words. 
29He turned their waters into blood, and caused their fish to die. 
30Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings. 
31He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. 
32He gave them hail for rain, and lightning that flashed through their land. 
33He struck their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. 
34He spoke, and the locusts came, and young locusts without number; 
35they devoured all the vegetation in their land, and ate up the fruit of their ground. 
36He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the first issue of all their strength. 

37Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold, and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled. 
38Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it. 
39He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night. 
40They asked, and he brought quails, and gave them food from heaven in abundance. 
41He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. 
42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 

43So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 
44He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples, 
45that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord!

This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God

I love having company over to our house. Which is a little weird for an introvert. But having folks over to our house for dinner, or even small parties, is something I really enjoy. I’ve had the opportunity to do that lately, and the “grand tour” of our hose is always fun. People ooh and ahh appropriately and I get to be proud of the house we’ve bought.

Then I get to talk about the furniture…

My Grandaddy and my Dad are both woodworkers. In their spare time over the years they have built wonderful cabinets and end tables, bookshelves and boxes. One result is that Leah and I have very little store-bought furniture. When I point out one of those hand-made pieces of furniture, you can always tell who has also done woodworking, because they go right over and check all the joints in the furniture and examine the drawers to see how they’re put together and run their hands over the top to check the quality of the finish. They know how to appreciate the specific details of craftsmanship.

But even when they find the signature of my Dad or Granddaddy carved into the back of the wood somewhere, they may know who made it, but they don’t know my Dad or my Granddaddy. Seeing their craftsmanship, a person can walk away with a smile of appreciation, but the impact of those two men on my life is far greater than the furnishings in my home.

It’s the stories we share that impact our lives. The relationships that bind us together also build us up. We are not changed by a distant appreciation of the other’s work, but by direct contact with one another, the back-and-forth of living alongside one another.

That’s why I’m often dissatisfied when folks who point only to the beauty of creation as their reason for believing in God. Our God is creator, certainly, of all that exists. But our God is also particular, the God of Abraham and Sarah, Issac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah and Rachael and Zilpah and Bilhah, Joseph and Asinath, Moses and Zipporah and Miriam and Aaron and Elisheba. God is a universal God, in that he’s the ruler of all the universe. But God is not a general, unspecific God. The LORD is God, and has nurtured a specific and special relationship with his covenant people throughout history.

When we come to worship the LORD our God, we are swept along by the history of those covenant places, and brought forward to our own time and place, where the faith-filled history of God’s continues.

This psalm assumes we already know God, and shares some memories of when God has done something special in the life of the people of Israel. These are the stories that get told around a family dinner table where the telling of the story keeps people together in the same way that living the story brought them together.

We know God, we know the stories of his wonderful works, but do those stories impact our lives? Do we recognize God’s special revelation in history enough to be changed by it?

The difference between mythology and religion is the impact it has on history. Mythology is always misty and vague in its impact on history. Tied to “a long time ago.” Religion, though, has an ongoing affect on history. God did not stop with creation, God created covenants with Abraham, with his descendants, and continually guided them first into Egypt to find food, then into the wilderness to find freedom, and then into the promised land to find faith.

And although that’s where this storytelling psalm stops spinning, we know that God kept working.

Judges, Former and latter prophets, gospels, acts, early church letters, church history, this particular congregation.

If God is distant, intervening in creation only in a distant act of creation, then none of us need to change our hearts and lives. That’s not the God we meet in scripture, and it’s not the God we have come to know in this congregation. The God we meet in scripture continues to work in and through this community of faith.

“42For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. 43So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. 44He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples, 45that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the Lord!”

Therefore, we will live our lives in praise to the LORD our God, telling of his wonderful works of old, and singing his praises with a new song.

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