July 1, 2012 Psalm 27: The Lord is my Light
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27 Psalm 27 2 Cor. 8:7-15 Mark 5:21-43
I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining.
I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.
I believe in God, even when he is silent.
Some claim this is an Irish saying, others that it had been written on a wall by a Holocaust victim. Whatever you believe, this is a profound statement of faith, belief that the sun exists, even when I don’t see it, that God is present, even when I don’t feel God’s presence or hear his voice.
Our psalm for today is also a statement of faith. Written in two parts, it begins with a statement of faith, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” and ends with another statement of faith, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord.” (13-14)
The first part is a psalm of thanksgiving and confident trust in the Lord. The writer thanks God for divine guidance and protection. God saved him from the wicked (2) so that even if an army were to surround him he would not fear (3). The writer takes joy in God’s sanctuary where he contemplates the beauty of God and spends time in prayer. His desire is to do this always (4). He trust that God will keep him safe (5) so with confidence he will sing God’s praises (6).
Then there is an abrupt shift to a lament. The writer goes from confident trust to crying for help. “Hear O Lord,” he cries. From saying his whole desire is to dwell in the Lord’s house, he shifts to saying I seek your face, do not hide from me (8-9). Even his mother and father have forsaken him (10). He has no one to turn to but God. False witnesses have risen against him, threatening him with violence (12). He prays that God will lead him in right paths in order to be free of his peril (11). Yet he trusts in the Lord (13-14), that God will prevail.
Why are two such different psalms joined together? In prayer, it is good to start with praising God and giving thanks for all God has already done, then turn to God in confidence with your request. Life is a mixture of joy and sorrow. Times of celebration are tinged with sadness; hope is found in times of trial. Yet faith remains.
In our reading from second Samuel, we hear David sing an elegy to Saul and Jonathan. David weeps over the death of Saul who sought to kill him. The young man who brought the information of Saul’s death, claims that he was the one who finished the king off, at Saul’s beseeching. Saul was suffering and wanted out of his suffering so what the young man did was a mercy killing. However, in the account of Saul’s death at the end 1 Samuel, we hear Saul asking his armor bearer to kill him lest he be caught by the Philistines. His armor bearer refused to do this so Saul fell upon his sword, killing himself. Perhaps the young man bringing news of Saul’s death expected to be rewarded for the news. Saul had been David’s enemy. Now that he was gone the road to being king was clear. However David did not rejoice at Saul’s death. The young man was rewarded with his own death. What some perceived as good news, was received with sorrow by David as he mourned his friend Jonathan, and the king, Saul. David’s grief is great. He cries, “How the mighty have fallen!” How indeed. David, because of his faith, recognizes the fickleness of earthly power and so doesn’t rejoice in the death of the king.
Our gospel reading holds a story within a story. While on the way to heal Jairus’ daughter, a woman sick for years with a hemorrhage that made her unclean was healed by touching Jesus’ cloak. Both are about miraculous healings, but what is more miraculous is the faith of the individuals. Jesus tells the woman with the hemorrhage, “Daughter, your faith has saved you.” While on the way to the synagogue leader’s home, he is told that his daughter has already died. Jesus’ response was, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.” The message is that those with faith will experience miracles.
Paul, in our reading from 2 Corinthians, is seeking funds to help the Christians in Jerusalem who are in poverty. It is a request for faith; faith that if they give now out of their abundance, if they are ever in need, they will receive as well. “Your surplus at the present time should supply their needs, so that their surplus may also supply your needs, that there may be equality. As it is written: ‘Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.” (Exodus 16:18) Paul quotes from Exodus about the distribution of manna each day, a reminder of how God provided for the Israelites in the desert and will provide for the needs of God’s people. So we are to have confident trust in God to provide.
In The Silver Chair, the fourth book of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the children visit an underground world. The witch who presides over the world through enchantment tries to lead them to believe that all they knew of the world above was made up, not real. She says, “you have seen lamps, and so you imagined a bigger and better lamp and called it the sun. You’ve seen cats, and now you want a bigger and better cat, and it’s to be called a lion. . . and look how you can put nothing into your make-believe without copying it from the real world, this world of mine, which is the only world.” (pp153-4) In response, Puddleglum, a Narnian, says, “One word. All you’ve been saying is quite right, I shouldn’t wonder . . .But there’s one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. . . I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it.” (p. 155) Puddleglum chooses to believe. He makes a leap of faith. He believes in the sun, even though he doesn’t see it; he believes in God, despite evidence to the contrary.
The psalmist says – the Lord is my light. What does that mean? What does it mean to have God as our light? The prophet Isaiah tells us, “No longer shall the sun be your light by day, nor the brightness of the moon shine upon you at night; The Lord shall be your light forever, your God shall be your glory. No longer shall your sun go down or your moon withdraw, for the Lord will be your light forever.” (Is. 60:19-20)
This sun that we see, is but a pale reflection of the light that is God. In the New Jerusalem, God will be the light, a light that we can’t imagine. As great as the sun is in comparison to a lamp, so great is our God in comparison to the sun. And so we are to have faith, follow our God, wherever God may lead. We are to trust in the Lord. “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living,” our psalm tells us. Not just in the next life, but in this life, we see God. We see God’s goodness every time we witness an act of kindness, an act of reaching out of ourselves, putting others before ourselves. We see God’s goodness all around us if we have eyes to see.
The Lord truly is our light, a light that shatters the darkness. While in this life we have lesser lights to help us see. We are guided by the sun during the day, the moon and stars at night, artificial lights/lamps as well. We walk by faith during dark times, but someday we will see God as God truly is and walk in his light. And so we have confidence to say, I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, and I believe in God.
Copyright June 2012, Robertson