By Pastor Cherie Johnson
Psalm 30 (NIV)
A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple. Of David.
1 I will exalt you, O LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
2 O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.
3 O LORD, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.
4 Sing to the LORD, you saints of his; praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
6 When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.”
7 O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:
9 “What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help.”
11 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
12 that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence. The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.
Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”
John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”
“But you must!” implored his companion. “The bull is catching up to us.”
“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table; ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.'”
What comes to mind with the word “Thanksgiving”? Saying grace before a meal? Thanksgiving Day and all of that goes with it, with family, special food, parades? Sometimes it reminds us of what may be missing in our lives.
Today’s Scripture is a psalm of Thanksgiving. Its poetry is quite beautiful. The psalmist talks about being pretty complacent about the good things in life until they weren’t so good anymore.
Even if the psalmist deserved it, he or she gives their personal witness that God comes to us in our suffering. God doesn’t leave us there, but pulls us out and turns our mourning… Or “wailing” in the NIV… into dancing.
Psalm 30 stars with a general but emphatic description of what God has done for the psalmist. It invites us to put ourselves into it no matter what we may be going through.
“I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. Oh Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. Oh Lord you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit.”
The psalmist goes on to invite us to join in as the faith community. Why would the psalmist do that? When you praise God for what God has done for me, you bring me back into the community. When we go through a crisis, like a prolonged illness, job loss, divorce, loss of a loved one; we can become isolated and separated from the community. Not even because the community has forgotten us, but also because we are so wrapped up and focused on the crisis that we may not even be able to maintain contact with the community. When the community praises God for bringing the person through the crisis, it is a warm embrace and, “welcome back.”
Next, we have a description of life before the crisis. The psalmist is very complacent about the good things in life until they went away. Psalms and sometimes the Prophets mention “the pit.” It is a place without light. It has steep sides. You’re completely alone. Sometimes it’s muddy or slimy. You’re stuck there, no way out. Isn’t that the way we feel in the middle of a crisis sometimes?
By describing the experience of the pit, it shows what God has done to rescue and restore. The psalmist is giving credit to God, and in fact is saying to God, “I could not have done it without you!”
Finally, we have the exclamation point to this Thanksgiving.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sack cloth in clothed me with joy.”
Can we be clothed with joy? What an outfit that would be. We can wear a frown or a smile, a grimace or joy.
As Rolf Jacobson says, “Life in the care of the Savior is a life in which the garments of darkness, repentance, and sin are replaced with the closing of salvation: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, humility, and the like. In the Christian faith, the newly baptized are often clothed in a white robe (and babies a white outfit) to symbolize the new creation, the new life of “putting on Christ.” This liturgical practice is more than just a ritual, however [emphasis mine]. It is a ritual that makes a promise. God meets sinners in their suffering. And God does not leave us there. God takes off our sackcloth and clothes us with joy.
What can we do to share what God is doing in our lives?
What was the last thing… Or recent thing… That you did, saw, red, visited, that affected you so much that you had to tell someone? “You have to try this new ‘whopper chopper’ that I saw on TV!” What have you just had to tell someone about? I actually felt that way after coming here, to Joseph, for the first time. The problem was that I had to wait to tell people until it was officially announced. That was the most difficult part.
Are you able to do that when it comes to your relationship with God? What is the biggest thing holding you back? Fear of judgement, not knowing what to say, not feeling like you have anything to talk about?
We’re going to do something about that. Think about one area or place this past week where you saw God at work in your life or in the world around you. For the next several weeks, I want you to look for where you see God moving. In worship you will be asked to put that on a piece of paper to be put in the offering plate to offer your thanks to God. For this week let’s share them aloud. Where have you seen God at work this past week?
For all these things, God, and many others we praise you and give you thanks! Hallelujah, and the whole church said, Amen! Amen!