Psalms 1 & 119
Learning Where to Look: “Loving the Word!”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thursday is Valentine’s Day gentlemen, this is my pastoral duty to remind you to get your flowers and jewelry ordered before the day is over.
Seriously though, while I am not a big fan of the Hallmark industry creating such a fuss over a fake-holiday, I am gushy enough to have very fond memories of the Valentine’s card exchanges in school and those candy hearts with the very politically incorrect “love” messages (still the best way to communicate your deep love for your sweetheart….).
And there are a few movies that still capture my attention – maybe my favorite, most moving “love” movie is the 2004 James Garner flick, “The Notebook” – and yeah, I know that Ryan Gosling gets most of the credit for this movie, but James Garner’s role as the man in his 80s who reads the notebook, like a diary, to his Alzheimer’s afflicted wife is what makes this movie work. He reads her own love story to her, and occasionally she remembers that it’s her own story.
We are in a sermon series wherein we are looking at the Bible – and how we live by the Word of God. James Garner’s reading of The Notebook reminds me of what happens when we properly read “this” Notebook! Sometimes I recognize that it is a story about me – or, really, a story about God and what He does and says because He loves me.
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, we are weak but He is strong….”
One way to read the Bible is to ask, through every chapter, how does this tell me about God’s love? Some chapters are super easy to see that answer, right?: God so loved the world He gave His only begotten son…. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins….
But some chapters require a little more effort, right? – who’s finished with Leviticus yet? I expect some lunch dates this week….
Let’s hear some Words of God’s Notebook written for His Bride. Will we recognize that it is us in the stories? Two places today, both from the collection of poetry we know of as the Book of Psalms. First, Psalm 1 …. —-
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
4 Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
For those of you who are married, or ever have been married, do you remember what should have been the scariest part of your wedding ceremony? What part am I talking about? [the vows!]
I still remember, pretty clearly, my own emotions 34-years ago, when I looked into Jennifer’s eyes and said: “I, Mark Alfred Wheeler, take you, Jennifer Joy Jones, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge myself to you.”
Now, admittedly, it usually isn’t too difficult to do that, but because of those vows, it is my duty to love Jennifer – always. And it is her duty, a little more difficult(?), to love me.
In the same way, our pledge to God, informs our duty to love Him – and, therefore, to love His Word – to “delight in the Law of the Lord” and even to “meditate on it day and night”.
I heard one person tell me this last week that, while she has read the Bible, cover to cover, a few times, this time, this year, it is a delight, it is “alive”! Her duty is proving a blessing!
Today we are talking about loving God by loving His Word! And, I believe, we are called to love God’s Word in three ways. (Not too different from how we might love our spouse, or even a friend or a sibling or a child, in these same three ways.)
First, we are to love God and His Word “publicly”. This has always been true. In the Scriptures the public love of God and God’s Word is shown by attending to worship in the Tabernacle or the Temple or in synagogues. Even in the New Testament, that’s the way it starts, and then it goes to house fellowships and then to Christian Church gatherings.
Think of Jesus reading from Isaiah in the synagogue in Luke 4. The Old Testament is filled with “solemn assemblies” wherein the Scriptures are read together from dawn to dusk.
In the early 2nd Century, Justin Martyr writes, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities or the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the Prophets are read, as long as time permits.”
And in the early 3rd Century, Tertullian says, “We assemble to read our sacred writings … with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more steadfast.”
How else might we love God’s Word in public? [at work, at lunch, in school, in reading and in speaking]
Second, we love God’s Word as a family. This is slightly different from public. Just like we demonstrate our love for family members differently at home than we do on the soccer field, we demonstrate God’s love differently, too.
Moses, in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, instructs the Israelites to teach the commandments to their children.
Throughout the book of Acts we read of individuals “and their whole households” believing in Christ and being baptized. That implies both a love of God through Jesus and a growth in God’s Word.
And there are several letters of Paul and Peter that describe how “God’s household” obey the Word of God. That can only happen by reading together.
Admittedly, this takes time and effort, it takes a decision and an agreement to do so. And it takes prayer, for diligence, for obedience and for dedicated effort.
Let’s read to our children and our grandchildren. The only way we come to know the Lord is when we hear and understand God’s Word. Ignorance of God’s Word leads to ignorance of Christ.
Third, and last for today’s message, we love God’s Word privately! Psalm 1, what we just read, speaks of the singular “one” who is blessed simply because his “delight is in the Law of the Lord”, because he “meditates on it day and night”.
The result of this is to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, fruitful in season, and whose leaf does not wither.”
That’s not a command – it simply describes what happens when we are faithful to our vows, when we do our loving duty.
The other Psalm we have listed in our bulletin is Psalm 119 – each of the 176 verses – describes how we might love God’s Word! (We are not reading that this morning – but let me assign that to you for the rest of February – invest two minutes a day and read one section of Psalm 119 every day, for the next 22 days – and fall in love again with God’s Word!) (btw, we did read most of this Psalm together last year, every week we read the next piece of this Psalm as our Call to Worship from Spring until Advent. And – we sang Psalm 119:105 today as our opening Prelude Song.)
This Thursday is Valentine’s Day. I know that that’s not a day every one cares about. Gerri has often said, we can all celebrate Valentine’s Day, we don’t have to have a sweetheart, we just need to be a sweetheart! She is absolutely right – but know that YOU ARE God’s SWEETHEART, the apple of God’s eye! He loves you so much He gave everything of Himself for your sake.
When we read, and re-read, God’s Notebook, we will do our due diligence in keeping our Baptism vows, and we will grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, every day.
We have two more weeks looking at Bible issues and questions. May we continue this adventure of living faithfully, in and through God’s Word revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
May we be constantly and consistently blessed by the reading, the receiving, of God’s Word which always transforms and offers us God’s grace and mercy.
Thank You, YHWH God, for the gift of Your Word, written and living and ever applicable to our cultures and our lives, and for the ultimate revealing of Your perfect Word though Jesus Christ; and it is in His name we pray, Amen.
Hyde, Daniel R.; “Loving the Word”; TableTalk; November 2018; Pp. 28-29.