Sermon 1-31-21 The Rev Jen Van Zandt
For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken. 3 How long will you assail a person, will you batter your victim, all of you, as you would a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 4 Their only plan is to bring down a person of prominence. They take pleasure in falsehood; they bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. 5 For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. 6 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. 7 On God rests my deliverance and my honor; my mighty rock, my refuge is in God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. 9 Those of low estate are but a breath, those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. 10 Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.
Like all psalms that have a title, Psalm 62 has a title that caught my eye. It’s called “A Song of Trust in God Alone”… “A Song of Trust in God Alone”. Depending on one’s mood, we
might either be drawn into one of those words, like “Trust” or “Song” or just move on. I was drawn into the word Alone.
Whether we live alone or with a spouse or children or grandchildren or our parents, we still really deal with everything alone; how we worry and think about the future; how we dwell about the past; what we feel about our vocations, finances, our kids, our health, our dreams, and our faith. And while some of these things may be shared with another, ultimately what we do about that and how we think about them, is by ourselves. Alone. It’s a singular experience. But whether you are in agreement with your loved ones or at odds about anything—faith, children, politics, habits, routines, finances, thoughts, fears–we actually aren’talone, because we know God is with us in all of it.
Oh wait that’s not Psalm 62, that’s Psalm 139. This psalm, Psalm 62 is actually a psalm proclaiming trust in God as rock and refuge, alone, as in: not relying on any other sourceor resource to endure and enjoy one’s life. One description of this psalm says it’s “an individual recounting a personal experience of quietly enduring adversityas a lesson for others about trust and prayer and finding refuge in God.”
Just imagine your faith, your speech and your actions are so in line with God that you model this for others; quietly enduring adversity,trusting prayer and finding refuge, not in worldly things, but in and solely in God. This psalmist isn’t caught up, (as I was), in the thinking of “alone”(as in singular or sad or even isolated). The psalmist is proclaiming aloneas a good thing, a sure thing.
James Luther Mays, who’s an expert on the Psalms, retitles this psalm “My Soul Waits for God Alone.” He actually counts the number of times the word “alone” is used in this psalm. Six verses: “God alone”in verse 1;” He aloneis my rock”, verse 2; “For alonemy soul awaits in silence”, verse 5; “Healoneis my rock and my salvation”, verse 6 and so on. But here’s the cool part. The Hebrew word “yah-ach” is not the word for alone. yah-ach” actually doesn’t translate as alone, but “surely”. The Hebrew dictionary defines “yah-ach” as an adverb which is “an emphatic belief of what’s about to follow, an expression of truth”. You may recognize this adverb more commonly when it is used in the 23rdPsalm, “Surelygoodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”. James L Mays states that these words are: “ an exhortation to the congregation to put their trust in God rather than in human beings and money”. Walter Brueggemann states it even more harshly: “a violent intent to make life secure.” We may not necessarily like that description “violent attempts to make life secure”, but all of us at least, have controlling and even subversive attempts to get what we want, because we think that’s what we need to give us a feeling of security and peace. You may still rail at this, but if we’re honest with ourselves, there are plentyof examples where we choose for ourselves without thought or care for the other. Walter Brueggemann says this psalmist, thus, is “wrestling not only with forces of evil but with his or her own fears”.
Of all the disturbing headlines that we see day in and day out, you may have heard the story of a couple in Vancouver who chartered a private jet to fly into a separate territory in the Yukon to get the Covid vaccine and displace elderly indigenous peoples. They put themselves first, with all their assets, because they were living in such a deep place of fear. Now maybe our actions are not that hostile or flagrant, but what lies in our hearts and our faith, it’s not only a lack of confidence in ourselves; it’s a lack of confidence in God. Walter Brueggemann again, says “apart from God’s strength, the psalmist (and we) can really not be sure of anything except our own weakness.
I was at the supermarket yesterday like probably many of you, scampering with the anxiety that we’re about to have a big a snow storm. Before COVID, we all looked forward to a snow storm! It was an excuse to maybe step away from work, and responsibilities, eat comfort food, binge watch movies. But we’ve been doing that now for almost a year. COVID’s even ruined the snowstorm! My friends, I’m going to invite you, when this storm comes, (whether it’s big or small) to not only turn over your fears, but to look outside, literally. Find a place in your home, in your basement, in a luxurious great room, your office, a breakfast nook and take some time with this psalm so that you are able to move from a place of aloneto a place of surely.
Nan Merrill rewrites the Psalm beautifully and I encourage you to close your eyes or focus on something that gives you joy and I’m going to read it, her translation of Psalm 62.
“For you, alone, my soul waits in silence; from the Beloved comes my salvation enfolding me with strength and steadfast love, my faith shall remain firm. How long will fear rule my life; holding me in its grip like a trembling child, a dark and lonely grave? Fear keeps me from living fully, from sharing my gifts. It takes pleasure in imprisoning my soul. Fear pretends to comfort. So long has it dwelled in me, truly it is my enemy. For you ‘surely’ my soul waits in silence. My hope is from the Beloved. Enfolding me with strength and steadfast love, my faith shall remain firm. In the silence rests my freedom and my guidance. For you are the heart of my heart. You speak to me in the silence. Trust in love at all times. O people pour out your heart to the Beloved, Let silence be a refuge for you. Being of low estate by itself, is but a sigh, being of high estate is misleading… Once you have spoken, twice have I heard. Our potential gifts belong to you, In you, O beloved, belongs our faithful love. For you render to us all that we offer to You – Fear begets fear, love begets love. For you alone my soul awaits in silence. From the Beloved comes life and love and Light.
May it be so. Amen