May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O God, our Rock and our Redeemer.
On a cold, snowy day last year, I found myself walking down a side walk in the city of Albany, New York. As I walked between the large snowbanks, I suddenly found myself in front of an old, brick church. A sign on its wall caught my eye. It was small, but was the type where you could switch out the message. I got up there and saw it simply held a piece of paper that said: “The Gospel according to Everyone.”
“The Gospel According to Everyone.” As I read Psalm 19 this week, I couldn’t help but think that this was an accurate summary of the passage.
The psalm today begins with the Gospel according to creation.
Have you ever heard that Gospel?
Have you ever stared outside on a wintery day, watching the snowflakes dance and frolic in the air as they make their way to ground, and admired the snow wrapped like a thick blanket over everything that you can see – the ground and the houses, the bushes and your car?
This is the Gospel according to creation. It is a story told every day.
Psalm 19 tells us that: God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning. Professor Night lectures each evening.
Do you ever attend these classes?
Do you ever sit outside in wonder, watching the birds as they flit from tree to tree, looking for bugs, getting situated just right on the branches?
Do you ever get up early to watch the sun peak its head above the horizon? The rosy shimmer of its light bursting across the sky, lighting up the clouds with its brilliant oranges and reds and yellows.
Or are you a night owl who prefers to stay up late for the evening lectures – taking time to slip outside and gaze at the star-splattered sky … admiring the depth of the midnight black background and the hazy glow of the crescent moon?
The lectures are so riveting they don’t even need words, but are felt by the heart.
In the version of the Bible known as the Message, Psalm 19 tells us that the words of Madame Day and Professor Night aren’t heard, their voices aren’t recorded, but their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
The Word of God for the people of God.
I once heard the story of a priest who was scurrying off to evening prayers at a local abbey. The sun lingered near the horizon as he walked a path, lined on one side with open fields and the other with trees. The air was clear and calm and the priest could hear the birds’ closing songs for the day. For a long, long time, this man stood under a great pine tree, looking at its height, feeling its ancient life, aware that all was being enfolded by the sun’s last light. He took in the moment. He could have stayed there for another ten minutes but he chose to move and a minute later was standing in the abbey listening to the monks chant and allowing his prayers to rise with the incense. In two different ways, the man had experienced one continuous act of worship.
The Gospel of God comes through the sun-streaked skies and it also comes through the words of the Scripture.
Psalm 19 reminds us how the law of God revives the soul and the precepts of God rejoice the heart. The Scriptures are more precious than gold and sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb.
Just this week, someone was saying to me, how can you possibly believe in the Bible, the words are so old … how can you even know if they are true?
Have you ever heard a comment like that? How would you respond?
There are many ways to answer the question of how can we know that the Bible is true. One is to look at Biblical scholarship and literature. The Psalm today writes about the drippings of the honeycomb and archaeologist have found bee hives made of straw and clay from the ancient Israelites that date back to 900 B.C. so we know that, yes, indeed, the Israelites harvested honey and knew about the sweet taste of the honeycomb.
Yet, more than just telling us how the ancient Israelites lived, the Bible conveys the Truth of the human experience. The Bible tells us how God’s love broke into human history, transforming human beings and changing the trajectory of the world. In the Hebrew Scriptures, God liberated the Israelites from bondage and God sent forth prophets repeatedly to liberate God’s people from exploitation and injustice. In the New Testament, God becomes flesh and dwells among us, saving all of humanity from death and despair. These stories are true not only because God liberated the Israelites from bondage over 3000 years ago but also because God liberates us from bondage right now in our present lives. It is the Truth of the human story, a story that is not yet done being told.
How do I know the Bible is true? The Truth of these stories are ones that I have seen with my own eyes, touched with my own hands, ones that have dripped into my life like the sweet honey of a honeycomb.
It is the Truth that no matter how dark or difficult the circumstances God is still at work in our lives. The truth that our mistakes and misgivings, our death and despair are not the final word.
Love is. Hope is. Goodness is. God is.
This truth is one that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John teach us. Yet, the truth of the Bible comes not only from the stories from this ancient text, but also from the testimony of creation and from the stories of our lives.
We see this in Psalm 19 which goes from talking about the sun and the Scriptures to the human story. The writer of Psalm 19 speaks plainly about how God has helped the writer and the Israelites find their way, avoid danger and find hidden treasure. The writer asks that God clean slate and give them a fresh start.
My friends, you have heard the testimony of the stars and the skies, the Israelites and the Psalm writer, now I ask you:
What part of this chorus is God inviting you to sing? What is your testimony?
How have you experienced God’s grace and mercy and redeeming love?
As I was pondering that question this week, I found myself thinking of a story in my own life. When I was around 20 years old, my mother got me a summer job working at her place of employment, a non-profit that did great work with people with brain injuries. I was excited about my job but when I got my acceptance letter, I did not bother to read it. It said I had a summer job and, really, that was all that matter.
Finally, the day before my new summer gig came, as I began to prepare myself for my first day of on-the-job training, I stumbled across this letter. This time I read it in full.
It clearly stated that, in order to show up at the training session, a tuberculous test was required and that all who had not had one recently would be turned away. I had not had one recently. I should have read the letter in advance but I hadn’t.
And all I could imagine was arriving at the agency for my first day at the agency, and being turned away for my shortcomings, having to do the walk of shame in front of my mother and her co-workers as I walked back to my car.
My mother had helped me get this job and I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain. What was I to do but to tell the truth? I told my mother how I had messed up and, somehow, in response to me she was gentle and kind. By the time I came to talk with mother, it had become quite late in the evening, and so she suggested that at 6 a.m. the next day I call my cousin – who was a doctor – and ask her if she could give me the tuberculous test, which is usually just a prick in the skin.
Okay, I said.
So the next morning, even though it embarrassed me greatly, I found myself waking up my poor cousin at the crack of dawn, explaining my mistake and asking for her help. She fit me in before all of her patients and wished me good luck on my first day of training, which I was allowed into.
In the face of my own foolishness, I will always remember the kindness of my mother and cousin and the Gospel Truth they taught me:
Our mistakes and misgivings are not the final word.
God is. Forgiveness is. Mercy is. Love is.
And that Good News dripped into my hungry heart like sweet honey flowing from a honeycomb.
The Scripture today call us to tell this story of God’s love and grace. We are called to join the chorus. To tell the Gospel according to everyone, according to the fox and the mouse, according to the birds and the blue sky, according to David and Solomon, Matthew and Mark, Laurie and Robin, and Lisa and Bob, Logan and Marilyn. All of us. All of creation is called to lift its voice in testimony. And so we take our place among the stars and the swans, the prophets and our present day siblings, joining in the chorus of love and mercy and tenderness that reverberates throughout all of creation until the ends of the earth.