Thanksgiving for Deliverance and Prayer for Help
To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
2 He drew me up from the desolate pit,[a]
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
4 Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.
5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.
6 Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
but you have given me an open ear.[b]
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.
7 Then I said, “Here I am;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me.[c]8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”
9 I have told the glad news of deliverance
in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.
11 Do not, O Lord, withhold
your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
keep me safe forever.
The Lamb of God
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.”[a]
The First Disciples of Jesus
35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed[b]). 42 He brought Simon[c] to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter[d]).
Such a great psalm reading, one of my favorites. It’s also a psalm that the rock band U-2 plays at the end of most of their concerts. It’s a longing of the heart, how long must we sing this song? We long for life to somehow come together in some way, or even deeper, for life to be lived where we know others and are known by others…as well as knowing God and God knowing us.
It’s amazing to be in an area or a stadium when Bono sings this song “40”, which is basically Psalm 40. 100,000 people fill these stadiums and sing this song at the top of their lungs. When I look around I see folks with tears in their eyes. Now, U2 is not a christian band, they are simply a popular rock band who happen to have a deep sense of God’s presence in their lives.
I often think, wow, why can’t the church be like those stadium experiences? Not the production, but the feeling of deep connection. Now, church happens all of the time, it’s happening in those concerts, it happens down the street, and it happens in here. I see folks all of the time that want church, they want to connect to the deeper longings of their lives. They want to see God and to know that God sees them.
However, those of us in the church often get caught up in so much other things, that we forget that church, the body of Christ, is supposed to be a community of authentic friends going after this longing for God. There are important things like buildings, programs, meetings, etc. Often, we also are not able to let go of certain destructive things in relationships, it’s hard being in community together, isn’t it? We have so many different thoughts, emotions, opinions…we sometimes seemingly can’t get on the same page or even the same chapter. The church as we know it can become a place where we can’t see God because of our focus on our stuff…it leads us towards a blindness. Yet, we still long for something more…we still long for relationships within ourselves, others, and God to be made well.
What amazes me about Fleming Road UCC, is that this church has the same issues as most churches, yet there is a core of us that stay with this, we are committed to one another and to working through things and you include others. Most folks in society give up, move on, become church refugees. That’s not a judgment on them or us, it’s understandable. Yet, here, I know we have issues, but we are willing to have the patience to stick with it, to stick with each other I believe.
So, the psalmist goes on to say that as we wait, we should wait patiently, and God hears our cry, God sets us up on a rock.
Our gospel passage this morning finds John, the cousin of Jesus, proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the messiah, the promised one. This passage has a lot of verbs like, “look”, “see”, “behold”, all coming from the same greek root word. Have eyes opened to the reality of God in the flesh before us.
John goes on to say that this Jesus is the lamb of God. The lamb who sacrifices everything for us out of love. There is a motif in scripture that humanity is always looking for a scapegoat….someone or something that we can blame our issues on rather than dealing with them ourselves and doing the hard work of self awareness and risking vulnerability.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Day, it’s important for us to remember that this has been true throughout history…we have issues, we can’t seem to own them, folks come along pointing towards a better way to live for the common good, we scapegoat them, then, often, we kill them.
In Jewish custom, lambs or goats were offered as sacrifices, that’s where we get the term scapegoating. They believed that they could place their sins, their shortcomings on a sacrificial animal and release it in the wild to wander away with their sins or selfishishness and give them a fresh start…or kill that animal.
Jesus comes on to the scene. Jesus loves well and looks into the lives of others with grace and inclusion. Jesus is scapegoated because the religious leaders of that time and others were exposed in their shortcomings and put on to Jesus their issues…which led him to the cross where he became the scapegoat for us all. Jesus took it on and overcome being a scapegoat…Jesus love even overcame death and led to resurrection.
This is key for us in our understanding of the way of Jesus. Jesus took on our stuff, didn’t let it define him, absorbed it, and then nailed it with him to a tree…he let it die and then resurrected to new life that he shares with us.
Our passage also shares that others saw Jesus’ belief in them, Jesus’ willingness to love and brought folks to them. Andrew, a disciple of Jesus, always seems to be introducing others to Jesus…which makes sense, when we are excited about our relationship with someone, we want to connect them to others. It’s good to pause here and ask ourselves, do we sense Jesus’ love for us so much that we want to introduce Jesus to others like Andrew?
When Andrew is introduced, Jesus asks, what is that you want? That’s also a good question for us. We are the church, the body of Christ, what do we want in meeting Jesus? And, are we ok with playing church or do we really want to experience relationship with Jesus?
If we do want relationship, that changes everything. First century Judaism understood that names meant something, they had meaning. We get that on some level today. But, devout Jews knew that if you knew someone’s name, if you had their name, that brought a sense of knowing and of submitting to someone else. It was vulnerable to someone else to know one’s name.
Jesus was introduced to others, he was given their names, and then he did something remarkable, when he met Simon, he gave him a new name, Peter, which means rock. Later he would say that Peter, would be the rock that the church would stand.
Friends, may we also know that Jesus has given us that same name, we are the rock. We wait patiently for the Lord, he hears our plea, then he sets us upon a rock…a rock that isn’t a building or a system, but a relationship that is a sure foundation in a world that can often be shifting underneath us. And, we have friends that we love…and as we fall in love with Jesus, we want o love them as Jesus loved them and help them, as well as ourselves, find the new name that God is giving to us.