Remembering and Hope
I have told you before that I grew up the son of a sailor, and because of that we never got the chance to live close to my grandparents. So in order to get to see our extended family we had to go on an adventure. Many of my memories involve long trips in a Plymouth Station wagon traveling from San Francisco, California to Mississippi. And while the trip was long my parents always tried to keep my brother and me occupied. One trip my dad had this great idea to rig up a 13 inch Black and White TV in the station wagon so we could watch cartoons. I know now that’s a bit commonplace, but 35 years ago there was no iPhone with Netflix. I mean we have no idea what a DVD was much less a MP4. So we could only watch TV when we were close to a big city and could get reception. Unfortunately we usually only got reception during the morning when “As The Stomach Turns” was on, so that turned out to be a bust. So we resorted to reading books, playing with toys, and the ever popular travel games like find the alphabet on road signs.
When you are in a car that long it is easy to get a bit stir crazy. But there was one thing that always seemed to help pass the time, and that was when we would sing. My parents had all 8 of the Party Rock tapes, so there were times we would sing about Cathy’s Clown or Running Bear. But most of the time I remember singing church songs. Maybe that’s why I have enjoyed this series so much, I have such great memories of singing traveling songs. And now we get to look at the traveling songs of the families who were making the long trip to Jerusalem. And these song are a beautiful reminder that we can learn a whole lot about living with God in a fallen world through the hymns we sing.
One more point, I thought that it was important for us to not only talk about these songs but to sing through the sermon. In my own life, I have noticed that a lot of my theology was formed through the songs I sang. Rarely do people find themselves repeating a line from a sermon during the week. I have never had someone say “I woke up last week repeating the words from your sermon, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind.” But many of us find ourselves humming or singing a worship song during the week. I still catch myself humming Reckless Love.
While we have a few different songbooks to use during our worship services, these early travelers and the early church only had one; the book of Psalms. In these pages we find the lyrics of the songs that the Israelites and the first Christians used to worship God. They would sing songs of praise because of what God had done in their lives, and then they would sing songs of hope because of what God will do in their future.
Our song this morning comes from the 132nd Psalm and it is unique that it does both. It begins as a song of remembrance as the psalmist reminds us of the time that David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to the city of Jerusalem. And it ends with a prayer of hope that God will shower His blessings on the pilgrims who gather in the city to worship God.
If you think about it, that is still the basis of why we gather to worship. Every Sunday we stop everything that is going on in our lives and spend some time gathered around a table of remembrance. We take a little piece of unleavened bread and drink a small cup of grape juice as a way to remember our past. We remember God’s expression of love as He sent Christ to come to our world and experience humanity, and to die as a sacrifice for our sinfulness.
We spend some time in prayer thanking God for how faithful He has been in our lives. We remember how God was present in the difficult times and how His hand guided us through our own valleys. We pray words of hope as we petition God for His presence, mercy, and grace.
We sing songs of expectant hope. We hope that God is not done with us yet, but that He will continue to be actively involved in our lives, actively working in the fabric of our lives and weave it into a beautiful tapestry, where we will be able to see His love and compassion poured out in the mess that we make of our lives.
So let’s sing Let It Rise
Remember what God has done in the past
Our song starts by referencing 2 Samuel 6, when David brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem. The song doesn’t have to tell the whole story, because the people who were originally singing this Psalm, knew the story. It was a part of who they were, just like the story of Jesus is a part of who we are today.
There is no way that the fact these people were singing this song while they were walking the up the same roads that the ark had been carried was lost on them. They are not the first persons to walk up this hill to Jerusalem, and they will not be the last. And every group was reminded in this song that God has gone before them, and would meet them in the temple.
The ability to remember is a wonderful gift God has given us. The ability to remember skipping rocks across a pond, as a child, or the first time you saw your wife across a room, or the love in your husbands eyes on your wedding day. Our memories replay the best moments in our lives and is one of our greatest blessings from God.
That’s why God uses symbols and activities to help us remember His power, love, and presence. In Genesis 9, after God destroyed the earth in a flood, He told Noah, I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Rainbows are more than just a thing of beauty, they are a reminder of God’s promise.
That wasn’t the only memorial God established, The Feast of Passover, Feast of Pentecost, and the Feast of Tabernacles were all established so that the Jews could be reminded of God’s protection and providence. In Joshua 4 we see God having the people set up a memorial to remember how He stopped the Jordan River so they could cross into the Promised Land.
God knew that we needed memorials because, we get so caught up in what is happening right now we lose sight of what we have already overcome. This morning as I was looking through social media I was struck by how many folks are just kind of drifting through life one crisis at a time. I mean these people are not having real crisis, usually they can’t find clean socks in the drawer or a 20 year old athlete on television totally wrecked their lives. But what happens when, not if but when, the bottom really falls out and our world comes crashing down around us. How do we handle life when we ave forgotten God’s faithfulness in the moments that really mattered.
Josh Ross has written a book entitled Scarred Faith. It started as a journal during a time when his world came crashing down around him. Back in 2010, Josh received a text that his older sister Jenny had a fever of 105; while it was incredibly high, she was 31 years old and very healthy. Josh did what we would all do, he said a prayer and in a few hours later he got a call saying that her fever had broken and she would be okay.
But the next morning Josh received a call from his mom that his sister was in ICU, diagnosed with Group A Strep. By the time she entered the ER she was in a full blown battle with septic shock. Josh writes that eventually his 31 year old, healthy and vibrant sister would lose her life. A husband would lose his wife, children would lose their mom, parents would lose their daughter, and Josh would lose his sister. As horrible as this story is, I was struck by what happened after the doctors came and told the family that Jenny had passed away. If you will look at the screens, I am going to let Josh tell you what happened next.
I find hope in the way Josh and his family have been able to deal with the terrible loss of his sister. They don’t dismiss the pain or the loss, but they find their strength by remembering that the tomb is empty. Of all of the memorials that we need to remind us what God has already accomplished in the past is the one that points to the empty tomb. It is because the tomb was empty that we can move to the next verse in this song.
Hoping for what God will do in the future
One of the byproducts of remembering what God has done in the past is that we receive hope for what He will do in the future. That exactly what we see in the second part of this Psalm. The reason that memory is tied to hope is because everyone of these promises found in the end of this song are tied to what God has already done. And if we are not sure of what God has done in the past we will never find hope in what He will do in the future.
In verse 15 we read of God’s provision: I will bless her with plenty; I will fill her poor with food. The Jewish travelers singing this song would get to this verse and remember the 40 years that their ancestors spent wandering in the wilderness. One of the amazing things that God did while His people wandered was the way that He took care of their basic needs. When they were thirsty He provided water from a rock, when they were hungry He provided mana that covered the ground like dew and gave them quail from the skies. In those 40 years of wandering the Children of Israel’s clothes never wore out, they didn’t plow the ground, plant, or harvest, yet there was food and water enough to spare. God had blessed His children with plenty.
Sing Awesome God
In verse 16 we read of God’s salvation: I will cover her priests with salvation, and those who worship me will really sing for joy. The Jewish people have been oppressed more than any other ethnic group. They spent centuries in slavery and dealt with the destruction of their homeland countless times. So they understood the physical nature of salvation as well as the spiritual nature of salvation. When their priests wanted to describe what salvation was, all they had to do was look back into their history.
Today if you were to attend a Jewish gathering you would be struck by their joy that exists in their gatherings. It is a joy that comes from an understanding of what God has done and those who live in hope for what God is going to do. They have always celebrated God’s presence in their lives whether it was the celebration on the other side of the Red Sea with Miriam and the women accompanying with tambourines, or the victorious trumpets that shook and finally tumbled the walls of Jericho, or the beautiful hymns of David that we continue to sing in our churches today. Their joy, mingled with hope and expectation, overflows.
Sing He Has Made Me Glad
Verse 17 talks about the presence of God: Here I will increase the power of David; my anointed one will be a light for my people. This idea of light is found all throughout scripture as a metaphor of God’s presence and the hope that exists in our relationship with Him. God is light and His light shines in our lives. He takes us and leads us through the darkness into an ever-growing experience of vitality and productivity.
God reveals reality. His light opens our eyes and hearts so that our life can have focus. With God leading the way we can see clearly in this dimly lit world. Light reveals while darkness conceals. God is our light that reveals the truth in our lives. The mysteries of life will gradually unfold and become clear. When we bring the fear and uncertainty of our life to the light of God we can see who is truly in control and find peace and comfort in Him.
Sing Because He Lives
And in verse 18 we read about the triumph of God: I will clothe his enemies with shame, but he will be a glorious king. The history books of the Jewish travelers are filled with battles with the Amorites, Jebusites, Moabites, and Canaanites. These people were not only seen as enemies of the Jewish people but enemies of God Himself. And while there were times that God used these people to bring His children back to repentance, the end result was always the same. As a matter of fact outside of the Biblical narrative the world would not know who these people are. The shame of God's enemies and the glory of God is decisive and the triumph is complete. Evil will lie sprawling in defeat, righteousness will flourish in victory.
Sing Victory in Jesus
This song is echoed by Paul in Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
We can have hope in our future because we serve a God that exceeds all of our expectations. God does not just forgive a sin, He promises to forgive all of your sin. God doesn’t just love you when you’re good, He loves you even when you are drowning in your own sinfulness and selfishness. God doesn’t just give us our daily bread, He provides an abundance of blessings from the food we eat to the homes where we live, to the opportunities to use the talents and gifts He has already poured into our lives.
Hope connects us with the future just as memories connected us with the past. We can remember the past and have hope for the future. Our hope rests in our Lord Jesus Christ. Sure there might be valleys, just as there were valleys in our past. But the hope we have in Christ Jesus should make us realize that some day we will stand on the Holy Mountain of God, reigning with Christ, beautifully adorned as bride for the bridegroom. Worshiping God, praising God, dwelling with God. That is what hope does for us.
This morning, no matter what you have done and no matter where you have been we have the opportunity to look back to the cross that stood on Calvary, we can remember the empty tomb and find hope in the fact that God’s forgiveness is complete and all encompassing. Our sins have been paid for in full by Christ. When we place our trust in the finished work of Christ there is no place for guilt in our lives, we are forgiven!
I love the words of Paul in Colossians 1:21-22; And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight
We remember the cross and have hope that we can be reconciled to the Father. Jesus will present us holy, blameless, and above reproach, not because of what we have done but because He finished the work of the Cross.
We remember the tomb and find hope that we can change to become what God created us to be. We don’t need to wallow in our sin, believing the lie that we cannot change. The tomb reminds us that there is hope. If God can take the body of Christ that was dead for three days, and give it life, make it a glorified body, then just imagine what He can do with us.