Sermon preached July 15, 2012
Text: Psalm 24
I am going to let you in on one of the world’s worst kept secrets. I enjoy music, and all kinds of music - - - from La Traviata to La Bamba, from John Coltrane’s Naima to the Goo Goo Dolls Name. When I get around to writing my next blog I intend to write more about how this spring I both attended my first opera – La Traviata and visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
Today’s sermon, “Open Wide Open” could be subtitled a sermon in five songs, because I am going to wrap what I say around five different songs. We’ll see how it works.
The first song is Psalm 24 itself. The Psalms were the worship texts for ancient Israel, theology wrapped in song. A biblical scholar has written that “the book of Psalms invites attention to God’s will for justice, righteousness, and peace on a world-encompassing scale” (The Discipleship Study Bible). The songs in the Psalms sing praise for a God whose intent for the world is justice, righteousness and peace. They are songs of affirmation – this is who God is, a God who desires justice, righteousness and peace. They are songs of commitment – prayers which say that we will align our lives with the intention of God for justice, righteousness and peace. They are songs of lament for a world that is not yet a world of justice, righteousness and peace. The psalms sing, “We want the King of glory to come, the Lord of hosts, who triumphs when justice, righteousness and peace triumph.” We will live in anticipation of the final victory of justice, righteousness and peace.
Song two: “Wide Open Spaces” The Dixie Chicks.
Wide Open Spaces
“The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” There is not much left out here. The Common English Bible, the newest translation of the Bible into English, lets us know “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all its inhabitants too.” All and everything. Eugene Peterson in The Message renders the passage like this: “God claims Earth and everything in it; God claims World and all who live on it.” The Dixie Chicks sing about a young woman’s dream needing wide open spaces. The psalmist sings that God’s dream needs all the space the world can provide. God’s dream encompasses everything and everybody. No one is left out of the dream, that dream of justice, righteousness and peace. Talk about your wide open spaces! God’s dream for the world includes all God’s creatures and the earth itself. On this Lake Superior Sunday, we affirm that God’s dream for the world includes that big lake as well, includes our treating it with respect and care. If you have ever let yourself dream by the shores of the lake on a bright sunny day or on a magnificent moonlit night, know God’s a dreamer too, a dreamer of wide open spaces, a dreamer whose dream includes everything.
Song three: “Let ‘Em In” Paul McCartney and Wings.
Let 'Em In
God is a big dreamer, a dreamer of wide open spaces. The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” What should our response be? “Someone’s knocking at the door, somebody’s ringing the bell…. Let ‘em in.” Our response to this God of wide open spaces is to open wide. “Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.” Yes, this is a psalm imagining God as returning to Jerusalem and to the temple triumphant in the struggle for justice, righteousness and peace. Yet the imagery can be personal, too. Open your heads and hearts and souls wide to God. Let God in. Let God’s dream fill and inspire our own dreaming. It is good to dream dreams for our lives, but a part of our dreaming should also be for the world. How will we be a part of God’s dream for the whole earth, for the entire world, this dream of justice, righteousness and peace?
Song four: “I Saw God Today,” George Strait.
I Saw God Today
So one result of my visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has been giving country music more of a listen than I have in the past, with a focus on classic country singers and songwriters. George Strait is a country singer in the classic mold and one of his songs is entitled “I Saw God Today.” It is a song that tells the story of a new father, whose wife has just given birth to a baby girl. In the chorus he sings about God – “I know he’s here but I don’t look near as often as I should.” When he looks he sees a flower growing in the middle of a sidewalk. I saw God today. When he looks he sees a couple holding hands, the woman with child. I saw God today. When he looks into the nursery window and sees his daughter he sings again, “I saw God today.”
When we open wide to God two things happen. One, we see beauty. There are God sightings in beauty – the flower, the loving couple, the baby. Maybe some of us have those kind of God sightings in beauty with Lake Superior. Maybe we have heard something of the sound of God when waves lap up against a rocky shore line. My favorite God sighting on the lake is the full moon shining bright orange on the waters. I want to sing praises to the God who claims the Earth and the World.
Song Five: “Botswanna” John Stewart
How can you have a sermon in five songs without one song being obscure? For music lovers there is a certain joy in finding the lost song, the little known tune that speaks to you. John Stewart was an American folk singer and song writer. He is best known for being a member of the Kingston Trio in the 1960s and the writer of the song “Daydream Believer.” The song “Botswanna” begins with a vision of beauty, sometimes neglected. Oh I live in California /I can look out at the ocean /On the silver blue Pacific /It is always there to see /And I’m as busy working /That I don’t have time to see it /But it’s the knowing that it’s there /That means a lot to me. That song could fit with Lake Superior. Just knowing that it’s there means a lot. The song takes a turn, however. Looking out at such beauty makes it hard to see something else. And it makes it hard /And I wonder if God cries /When he sees the pictures /That were taken at Botswanna /The pictures of the children /With the flies in their eyes.
When we open wide to God, two things happen. One, we see beauty; we encounter God sightings in beauty. The other is that we see things that make us wonder if God cries. We see things, I think, that bring us to knowing that God cries. When there is cruelty, God cries. When there is suffering, God cries. When the earth is degraded, God cries. When God’s dream of justice, righteousness and peace is violated, God cries. Opening wide to God’s wide open dream means seeing all those places in the world where God’s dream is not yet a reality and having our hearts broken a little, like the heart of God.
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all its inhabitants. God claims Earth and everything in it; God claims World and all who live on it. God emerges in beauty, and in the beauty of justice, righteousness and peace. God cries when God’s dream is violated, when there is pain, when the earth’s inhabitants do not care for each other or for the earth itself. God calls us to open wide to God’s presence in beauty and in the struggle for justice, righteousness and peace. God calls us to open wide and to live wide open with love – to create beauty, to alleviate pain. How is such an open wide open life possible? Because God is always wide open to us. Verses five and six, The Message: God is at their side; with God’s help they make it. This… is what happens to God-seekers, God questers.
Open wide. Live wide open. Amen.