Psalm 5, Turn Murmurs Into Joy

Sept. 18, 2011             Murmurs into Joy
Ex. 16: 2-15                 Psalm 5            Phil 1:18-26     Matthew 20:1-16
Dear Mildred,
            Perhaps you are wondering why I am using such an antiquated form of communication as an actual hand-written letter.   Well let me tell you about the last few weeks.
            As you know, my children presented me with a laptop computer and cell phone and cable to use with the computer for Internet.  Time to be a modern grandma, they tell me.  This way I can bring the Internet with me wherever I go.  It will also be faster than the dial-up connection I had been using. Needless to say, I told them at my age, nothing goes fast, so dial-up is fine for me. 
They also decided that I no longer needed to be confined to my large old house and moved me into an apartment in a senior living complex in Florida, this way, they told me, it will be easy for me to jet around the country for weeks, even months at a time and visit them or some exciting locale, making me a jet setting grandma.  Well, the last time I flew was when I slipped on some spilled water in the kitchen and ended up on my rear in the dining room.  That was enough excitement for me, thank you.  But then, I’m not one to complain.
            Now I’m in an apartment in this luxury senior complex complete with pool and Tiki bar for liquid refreshments.
            Anyway, to get back to my computer troubles, my cell phone is what they call “tethered” to the computer by this cable.  Last I knew tether was something you did to horses, “Tether her up to the hitching post, Tonto,” or to inmates.  The way I see it, I’m either being put out to pasture or imprisoned, but I’m not one to complain.
            Everything was going well with my phone and computer until last Monday.  I tried to connect to the Internet and got an error message – “unauthorized charger.”  I called technical support at the phone company, waited ten minutes to talk to an actual human voice, was told to try turning off the cell phone, removing the battery, wait one minute then put battery back and turn phone on, as well as turning the computer off and back on, something they call “rebooting,” why I have no idea.  She then gave me this sales pitch for a “smart phone.”  I told her I did not need a phone that was smarter than me.  I had enough trouble with the one I had.  I just needed one that worked.  But then, you know me, I’m not one to complain.
            So I did what she told me to do – no luck.  I called back and waited fifteen minutes this time and told my story to another technician.  She asked if I had checked whether the phone worked with the original charger to see if problem might be with the phone.  If that doesn’t work she said to restore the phone back to its original status, however if I did that I might lose all of my contact information so make sure that I back it up.  She told me how to do this, all of which I did.  No luck
            I called again, this time waiting twenty minutes to talk to someone with a heavy accent.  I told my story, everything I had already tried, and no, I did not want a new phone.
            She suggested the problem might be with the computer and explained how to check for any recent up-dates and how to do a system restore.  I did this and lo and behold, it worked.  I was in the middle of sending Sylvia my apple pie recipe (Sylvia says I make the best apple pie) when I lost the Internet again, before I could send the email.  I tried everything I had been told to do only to get the Internet back long enough to be in the middle of sending the recipe and have it turn off again. 
            At this point, not only did I have no Internet, I had also lost all of my phone contacts and when I tried to find the back-up – it was non-existent, which is why I haven’t called you for a while.
            So I decided to restore my sanity by “rebooting” the computer into the recycle bin.  I hid the phone in my underwear drawer, and retired to the pool and Tiki bar to do a system restore on myself back to the good old days minus technology.
                                                            Sincerely,
                                                            Ethel
                                                            Vista Grande Boca, Senior Living Residence
What is it about us humans, we just love to complain, don’t we?  Seems to be inherent in human nature.  Exodus reading one of several murmuring accounts, people in the desert murmuring, mumbling, complaining against Moses and God.  Seems the Israelites had a lot of time on their hands while wandering in the desert to complain.  Gospel we hear how the workers are complaining because they feel they are not being treated fairly.  I can understand complaining when you are hungry, or when the food is not very good.  I can understand complaining if someone who had only worked an hour got as much money as me when I had worked all day.  Complaints are well understandable to me.
Psalm today is a morning prayer, it is a hymn for the morning sacrifice in the temple, speaks of proper worship, what is necessary.  First verse, give heed to my groaning, person is complaining to God.  KJV translation “consider my meditation” far cry from RVS version.  Meditation is not a precise translation, more precise one would be the “murmur of my soul”- my souls complaining.  “A man comes before God with his case against the experiences which he feels he does not deserve (much like workers in Gospel).  That sets him to probe deeper into himself in order to discover the murmurings against God which may be poisoning his inner life; from which he may proceed to real meditation, wherein he faces all the facts, and particularly counts his blessings one by one.  He thereby is more likely to come into a frame of mind fit for worship.  It is worth noting how different phrases in the psalm are psychologically connected.  If he really faces his complaint in God’s presence, he is more likely to be honest when he says that he may worship in reverence to God (vs. 4). . . When a man discovers his innate complaining spirit, and how it blinds him to God’s goodness, he has started on the way to “saving health.” 
Found this myself as one summer I wrote a feelings journal, poured out whatever I was feeling each morning, went back to read later and was surprised at how whiney I was, which then opened my eyes to my own complaining nature and helped me to change. 
Psalm starts with bringing complaints, groanings, to God.  Actually a good way to begin a prayer or a day.  Christopher Reeves, former Superman star who was paralyzed in an accident, used to allow himself 20 minutes each morning to feel sorry for himself, after that no more whining or self-pity was allowed.  There’s a lot of complaining going on in the Psalms, only natural, kind of the feeling journal of the Hebrew community where they let out all they are feeling, including whining, then to move on to something else.  So, the psalmist gets up in the morning and lets out his complaints in order to let them go, in order to move from whining to gratitude.  It is good to begin the day, looking up to God – KJV “in the morning I will direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.”  Hard to stay down if looking up.
Verses 4-6 speaks of how God does not delight in wickedness; God isn’t deceived by evildoers.
“We see evil knocking at God’s gate, asking that it be admitted as a guest, only to be met with an indignant stare and a disdainful rejecting hand.” A particular type of men are singled out for rejection, the foolish in KJV, the boastful in RSV, those who lie and are bloodthirsty are abhorred by God, God isn’t tricked by their lies or treachery, vote of confidence in God by psalmist
Vs. 7, psalmist speaks of entering God’s temple for true worship, not because of any worth on his part but because of God’s great, steadfast, love, showing him to be a truly humble person.  It is not we who do God a favor by coming to his temple to worship, but God who bestows this favor on us.
The psalmist concludes with three requests, first to lead him out of his troubles, keep him on God’s path so that he doesn’t go astray, second that his enemies be requited, compares their throats to open sepulcher, open graves which left uncovered through neglect could be cause of injury or even death to those who stumble on them unaware, an apt description of those who lie and deceive and cause injury to others.  Finally he prays for both himself and all believers that they may sing for joy.  He concludes with a statement of confidence that God will bless the righteous and protect them with his shield.
So how is one to deal with the whining and complaining that is part of human nature?  How do you go from groaning, in the first verse, to rejoicing at the end?
One way is to look for the humor in the situation, which is what I did in writing letter at beginning.  The basis for this letter came from numerous problems I had this week with my Internet, more than are recounted in Ethel’s letter.  Ethel, perhaps because she is smarter than I am or because she is retired and doesn’t need a daily connection to Internet to do her work, is able to do what sometimes I would love to do – throw away my computer and cell phone and go back to a simpler time.  Writing this gave me a chance to live vicariously through her.  It also gave me something to laugh at, an opportunity to see my situation from a different perspective, which is what humor does.  That’s why we make so many jokes about all of the health problems that are part of aging.  Better to laugh than to cry or keep complaining.
Another way is to bring your complaints to God, leaving them there, offer them up as a sacrifice each morning, as Christopher Reeve’s did, as the psalmist did.  Paul writes his letter to the Philippians from inside a prison and yet he rejoices, he rejoices in his sufferings and invites the Philippians to do the same, he counts it all joy, whether he live or whether he die, such is the equanimity of a heart at peace, devoted to God.
We aren’t going to wipe out all complaining and whining, simply not possible, gives us something to talk about, a common experience to share, however we need not be stuck, if we bring our complaints to our God and let go, we can turn our complaints into joy.

Robertson, copyright November 2011

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