+ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +
In last week’s installment in our series on the Psalms, we encountered language that is all too often absent from our individual and corporate prayer and worship: the language of lament. The psalmist addresses God from the depths of his soul, and in so doing gives us words to proclaim our own longing for deliverance and help in the midst of hardship and struggle. This is a necessary part of the life of faith, and it is possible because of our trust in God – however weak it might be at any given moment – because we know that the relationship we share with God is strong enough to bear the fullness of our pain and groaning when suffering visits us.
Today, we sharpen our focus on that language of trust as we explore yet another type of psalm. In Psalm 27, we are given a glimpse into the mind of the psalmist as he declares his confidence in the God who has called him into relationship and promised to uphold him in the midst of struggle. These well-loved words have given strength to countless people of faith through the centuries:
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?
When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh –
my adversaries and foes –
they shall stumble and fall.
Though an army encamp against me,
my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me,
yet I will be confident.
One thing I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
to live in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the LORD,
and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
Now my head is lifted up
above my enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the LORD.
(Psalm 27:1-6, NRSV)
It’s curious that the lectionary calls us to stop at verse 6, because the rest of this psalm illustrates a profound truth about what it means to trust in God. Here’s the rest of the psalm:
Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!”
Your face, LORD, do I seek.
Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
If my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will take me up.
Teach me your way, O LORD,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
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;
wait for the LORD!
(Psalm 27:7-14, NRSV)
The psalm of trust does not occur in a vacuum. It is not an expression of trust that comes from a place of ease, but one that has been tested by the experience of hardship. The psalmist moves from his declaration of trust in God to calling out once again for help. In the end, he seems to be wavering, until he remembers the steadfast love of the Lord and finds the words to renew his commitment to God and God’s rescue. This is so important, because it shows us that lament and trust and praise are all part and parcel of the life of faith. We move between them as we journey through life in relationship with God, with one another, and with the broken and beautiful world in which we live.
To declare our trust in God is not to put on blinders and forget the experiences of brokenness that surround us, but to acknowledge them, to lift them to our creator and redeemer, and to stand in defiance of those enemies that would be too strong for us to overcome on our own.
To declare our trust in God is to recall the times in which God’s strength became our own, the times that we came through our struggles because we knew that Christ was with us in the midst of them, the times that the Spirit empowered us to move forward in faith, hope, and love toward the future that God was preparing for us.
To declare our trust in God is to bring our whole selves to God with the confidence that God will hear us and answer in accordance with God’s good and gracious will, a will that has been revealed throughout the generations of faithful people who have gone before us.
Brothers and sisters, today we declare that the Lord is our light and our salvation, and we refuse to give in to fear. Instead, we lift our voices, praying that the God who has promised to accompany us all our days will continue to make his presence known to us in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Wait for the Lord, dear friends. Be strong, and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord! Amen.