Daybreak Delayed from Joseph Taber on Vimeo.
14For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20The the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you haves over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master. 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
24Then the one who had received one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25So I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘you wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not cater? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God.
1A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation.
2Before the mountains came into being, before you brought forth the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity You are God.
3You return man to dust; You decreed, “Return you mortals!”
4For in your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that has passed, like a watch in the night.
5You engulf men in sleep; at daybreak they are like grass that renews itself;
6at daybreak it flourishes anew; by dusk it withers and dries up.
7So we are consumed by Your anger, terror-struck by Your fury.
8You have set our iniquities before you, our hidden sins in the light of Your face.
9All our days pass away under Your wrath; we spend our years like a sigh.
10The span of our life is seventy years, or, given the strength, eighty years; but the best of them are trouble and sorrow. They pass by speedily, and we are in darkness.
11Who can know Your furious anger? Your wrath matches the fear of you.
12Teach us to count our days rightly, that we may obtain a wise heart.
13Turn, O LORD! How long? Show mercy to your servants.
14Satisfy us at daybreak with your Steadfast love that we may sing for joy all our days.
15Give us joy for as long as you have afflicted us, for the years we have suffered misfortune.
16Let your deeds be seen by Your servants, Your glory by their children.
17may the favor of the Lord, our God, be upon us; let the work of our hands prosper, O prosper the work of our hands!
This is the Word of the LORD
Thanks be to God
I normally like to drop us right into middle of a passage of scripture, to find a way of telling our story in a way that intersects with the gospel narrative. It marries the sermon to the scripture, and gives an immediate sense of the impact that the Word of God has on the life of the community of faith.
Passages like Psalm 90 resist that kind of technique. This psalm is not entry-level testimony, and we need to approach it with some life experience. A psalm of reorientation doesn’t make sense unless the reader has lived the disorientation of holding onto faith during a night when daybreak has been delayed. Most of us, though, know the feeling of a shaken faith. Most of us know what it’s like to check the refuge we have been given when the darkness and storms rattle the windows. The promise of God is trustworthy and sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s convenient.
At the end of his life, Moses looked out over the promised land, knowing he would not enter it. Moses had seen the amazing work of God, he had seen his people grow from a population of slaves into a nation that was called to be in a special, and holy, relationship with God. Moses did not enter the promised land, but he knew his people would get there regardless. Our psalm begins, ”A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” We locate ourselves on the edge of promise, proclaiming that our redemption is won in Christ, and the promise is at hand. We make that proclamation through the same voice that asserts in Exodus 2 that “God heard the groans of the people and remembered his covenant…”
We read, remember, and rely on the promise of Psalm 90. ”O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation.” Amid all the darkness, all the struggles that may try and break us apart and leave us drifting, the prayer of Moses, the man of God promises that ”[The LORD] is the speaker's home... affirms that the speaker is not homeless. There is a center to prevent fragmentation. This is a belonging to preclude isolation.” We have a home amid the hardships of this life that threaten to pull us apart in the night.
We start with home where we are rooted in God. The only way this poem can hold together; is to assert that WE are held together by God, who is eternal. “Before the mountains came into being, before you brought forth the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity You are God.” As this prayer of Moses, the man of God, moves forward, it holds us to the starting point: "O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation.” This Psalm is speaking in the midst of disorientation so that we can remember that God is at the center of all creation.
It’s so easy to put something else at the center. Especially when God seems distant and our anxiety is right on top of us. Usually, we put ourselves in the center. There are a bunch of sins that start with humans pretend that they are the master. Sometimes that false-mastery looks like human masters of the Israelite slaves in Egypt. Other times, it’s not an active oppression, merely an enslavement to the myth that we can master our own lives. Either way, we end up losing sight of the true master: God.
We, of all people, should know better. The Church knows that The LORD is God. We’re a southern church, so we dress our brokenness up with good manners and baked casseroles, and then whisper about the failings of others as though ours didn’t exist. We fall into the same patterns for which we fault others. Or, we keep our brokenness so hidden that we do not allow others to love us. We live in fear of the whispers so much that we never allow our need for help to come to light. But none of it is hidden from God. “You have set our iniquities before you, our hidden sins in the light of Your face.” God sees our need to be corrected by his fury, and to be healed by his mercy. Neither can stay hidden from the Lord, who is our refuge.
This poem acknowledges reality is full of suffering. “The span of our life is seventy years, or, given the strength, eighty years; but the best of them are trouble and sorrow. They pass by speedily, and we are in darkness.” It's not the end that troubles us, it's what the end is going to be like. Are we going to decline for years in a nursing home? Are we going to go peacefully in our sleep? We have a beginning and an end, and we struggle for most of the between.We don't dwell on it because it's better to live in hope and preparation. Even in hope, the question remains: How do we keep moving forward in the face of tragedy and grief?
The Psalm does not let suffering overwrite the foundational truth of the people of God: ”O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation.” We are often surrounded by darkness, sin, and death. God is our eternal refuge, but we have to acknowledge that we are refugees. This is not the way we were intended to exist in the world. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, but we live in a world that resists God reign.
One of the lunch bunch this week was troubled by the wrathful portrayal of God in this psalm. Verse seven, “So we are consumed by your anger, terror-struck by your fury,” and again in verse eleven, “Who can know your furious anger? Your wrath matches the fear of you.” Seems a far cry from the loving LORD we hear about elsewhere in scripture. If the wrath and fury of God was all there was, we could fall into the terror of the slave who received only one talent, and hide our talent in the ground, fearing a harsh god who “reaps where [he] did not sow, and gathering where [he] did not scatter seed.” But that’s not where this psalm leaves us.
The psalm does speak of God’s wrath and anger, and how we cannot conceal our sins, but all of that is framed by "O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation,” at the beginning of the Psalm, and “May the favor of the LORD, our God, be upon us” at the end. I think this psalm is work more towards honesty before the throne of God than with being internally consistent. This psalm offers us an image of God who is eternal, and yet is still hurt by the brokenness of the world. Although our seventy years, or given the strength, eighty years, pass by speedily, God still responds personally and passionately to the days of his people, to the work of their hands. We see God’s transcendence in his eternity, and we see his closeness in his wrath, and in his steadfast love that comes with daybreak. We are not left in darkness, but corrected, redeemed, taught to count our days rightly, that we may obtain a wise heart.
A wise heart remains rooted in the LORD. Rooted in the word of God, the law of God, the steadfast loving-kindness of God. "O Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation." A wise heart trusts God’s providential grace even in the face of sin and death. A wise heart knows that sin and death are already passing away, a once-thick fog that is blown away by as daybreak emerges on an empty tomb. A wise heart knows that from eternity to eternity, the LORD is God.
A wise heart relies on on the LORD, who has been our refuge in every generation. The same closeness that provokes God’s wrath with sin, allows us to plead with the God of eternity. We will see God’s mercy poured out when the promised daybreak comes. Then our joy will greatly outpace our affliction. Most of us have lived through the disorientation that comes to every life of faith. We know the fear of daybreak delayed. But we have seen the deeds of the LORD, and our children will see his glory. Therefore, we continue to trust in the LORD, our refuge in every generation.