Praying the Psalms in a Broken World 8-12-12

The last Psalm we read in our summer series on Praying the Psalms in a Broken World is Psalm 139. I chose it truthfully because it was my father’s favorite psalm, the one he asked to be read at his funeral. We also read it though because it is a wonderful conclusion to our series, since it is a formative statement for our understanding of who God is – God’s knowledge of every part of our life and our world.

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.

August 12, 2012

Praying the Psalms in a Broken World

We have a lot of concerns these days about privacy – about protecting our social security number and our credit card number, about having “our own space” in a world that sometimes seems particularly intrusive. Facebook is really fun. I love to share pictures from my life with people and to see what really matters to other people. Sometimes, though, I have to say, it’s a little embarrassing to see what really matters to other people. I wonder sometimes if they realize their sharing that picture or that thought with the whole world. All of us need and want private space –some part of ourselves not under public scrutiny all the time.

Even my dog wants to hide sometimes. Yesterday, she got into some trash, and she knew I was mad at her.  When she came into my office, she hid her head under the bed! (You can see the picture on Facebook or Pinterest)

At the same time, we do crave to be known and appreciated and loved –some of us more than others. Some of us are more comfortable than others being seen and letting people know who we are. Others I notice put up major barriers and walls. Sometimes those are walls that are simply for understandable privacy. Sometimes they hide difficult facts about a life that would be better confessed and dealt with. Sometimes folks engage in elaborate pretense and pretending, to the extent that they hardly know for themselves who they really are.

The Psalm this morning seems to recognize this kind of basic human dilemma and desire for privacy along with a desire to be known. The Psalmist says, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” The Psalmist, whose basic message is that God knows us completely, inside out, that God creates us and loves every part of our being, seems to be acknowledging that God’s perfect knowledge of us may sometimes feel a bit intrusive – maybe even a bit scary.

I feel the tension at times as pastor.  I work to keep information about people confidential that they would not want public. There’s probably times that I have not always done that as well as you would want me to, and you may certainly let me know when you feel like a boundary has been crossed. At the same time, wanting to be careful, our prayers tend toward the safe topics – praying for someone when they’re in the hospital or sick. When we pray for someone who is having personal difficulty – unemployment, or trouble with the law, or personal failings of some kind – we sometimes pray for the person without knowing all the details, or without revealing everything we know in public, but it can be a fine line. For some people, it’s too fine a line to risk in a community as tight-knit and caring as this one is.

With people this dilemma always exists. We are judgmental and flawed in our judgments. In the end though, the Psalmist who wrote this beautiful psalm claims that God’s knowledge of us as humans can never be a violation of privacy. God knows us inside and out. In the end after acknowledging reservations, the Psalmist says again, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.” He or she invites God’s scrutiny, even God’s judgment, because he or she knows God’s grace. Psalm 139 announces that God sees every part of us from the creation of every sinew, and that God’s judgment is welcome to turn lives around, to create new life and new possibilities for life, to challenge the culture of death and to turn it around.

Sometimes we have secrets even from ourselves. We can’t even admit to ourselves that we have a problem. We cannot see our own limitations. We are blessed to have God search us and know us and we’re blessed to have a community of people we can trust – with confidentiality, to help us test out and be able to reveal our brokenness, in hopes of healing. Thank God there is “someone who will always intrude, not like some unwanted guest, but as judge, advocate, friend, and savior, one who knows us better than we know ourselves and one who claims us in compassion.”

I have some friends, some parts of my community who I trust enough to share almost anything in my life.  Think about the secrets of your life – that one that flitted through your mind just then, when I mentioned secrets.  Think about that secret for a moment. You know God knows about that secret. You know that God loves you anyway, that God’s grace has made it possible for you to move forward with your life.

What would it be like to trust one other human being with that secret – to trust someone to keep a confidence, to know you that deeply and to love you anyway.  When we have experienced that level of trust, that level of spiritual bonding with someone, it has deepened our relationships, and deepened our understanding of the grace of God. What would it mean to you to be able to, as Ephesians puts it “put away falsehood; let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another.” Or as Paul says, “For now we see in a mirrior, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part, then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

This is God’s good news.

Responsive Hymn:  2214 Lead Me, Guide Me