The Heavens are Telling – Oct. 4, 2020

The Heavens are Telling

A Communion Meditation by Rev. Karen A. Mendes

Psalm 19

October 4, 2020

World Communion Sunday

Main Idea:  God is still speaking.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen.

The ability to speak is a great gift.  Through our speech, we share ideas, experiences, histories, hopes, and fears.  Speech is both a gift and a responsibility.  Our speech can bring people together or drive them apart. Our words can clarify or confuse.  They can heal hearts and communities, and they can wound grievously.  Our Scripture text for today, this glorious psalm, is a hymn to the power and beauty of God’s speech.  It invites us to recognize God’s speech in creation and in Scripture, and to align our speech with God.   God is still speaking to us today and on this World Communion Sunday and everyday, we are called to share God’s word with the world.

Imagine yourself on the top of Mount Mansfield looking west toward Lake Champlain.  You can imagine that you hiked up so you are tired but feeling accomplished, or that you drove up the toll road and are glad to be out of the car.  Either way, imagine that you are standing on the ridge line.  The wind buffets you a bit.  The vast blue sky stretches over you in every direction and the brilliant blue color contrasts exquisitely with the reds, and yellows, and oranges, and greens of the foliage that stretch down and outward from us to the distant dark blue waters of the lake.  From such a spot, we are awed by the beauty and the majesty of what we see.  We are aware of our small role in this breathtaking spectacle.  We are humbled by the privilege of living in such a beautiful place.  In such a moment we understand “The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.”.   As we look out at such beauty, we intuitively know the glory and power of God.   The psalmist tells us that creation pours forth speech and declares knowledge without any words at all.  The vastness and the diversity of nature give testimony to the creative and beneficent power of God. The grandeur of the mountains and the sun, the delicate intricateness of flowers and insects, all vividly proclaim the majesty of our God.  No words are needed to be heard loud and clear.

The second section of the psalm (v. 7-10) moves from the beauty and power of God’s speech in creation to the beauty and power of God’s speech in Scripture.  Structurally, this section is quite different from the first.  Instead of vivid images, the Psalmist creates 6 precise, parallel statements about the Scripture.  Because they are parallel, we can move the parts around to organize them into descriptions of Scripture and what Scripture does for us.   The law, the decrees, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, the ordinances of the LORD are perfect, sure, right, clear, pure, true and righteous altogether.  They revive the soul, make wise the simple, rejoice the heart, enlighten the eyes, endure forever.  They are more desired than gold and sweeter than honey.  While creation shares God’s glory without words, Scripture shares God’s glory through the words contained within its pages.  All we need to know about God and about how to live with each other within God’s love can be found here.  The speech of Scripture and the speech of creation work together to reveal our loving God who rejoices in the harmonious workings of all of creation, who works on our behalf to strengthen and encourage us.  “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.”

The final section of the psalm turns to us.  Creation and Scripture have much to teach us but have we learned what has been presented to us?  “By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  The psalmist recognizes that none of us is perfect, nor can we foresee and prevent all errors.  She asks God to reveal her hidden faults and to keep her from the insolent so that she might “be blameless and innocent of great transgression.”

The psalm ends with the prayer with which I begin every sermon. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  This is the Psalmist’s equivalent to WWJD, (What would Jesus Do?),  praying in every moment that our speech would align with God’s speech.

This psalm is so beautiful and its movement from the vastness of the heavens to the intimacy of our hearts helps us to find our place within God’s plan.  But what does it say to us about our speech today?  In our nation, Free Speech is one of our bedrock principles, one of the 5 rights enshrined in the 1st amendment to the Constitution.  We claim the right to say whatever we choose to say whenever we choose to say it with very few limitations.  These days we are overwhelmed with media talking heads, with politicians’ Twitter feeds, with pushy friends on Facebook, to say nothing of the cacophony of needs and obligations filling up our minds with unstopping litanies of worry and stress.  Speech is a beautiful and powerful gift and yet sometimes it feels like too much!

This psalm reminds us to listen carefully to the speech we hear around us, specifically warning us to beware the insolent, meaning the rude and disrespectful.  When we hear rude and disrespectful speech, we have several options.  If it is not directed at us, sadly we sometimes agree with it and join in.  This is what we see on social media and wherever a bully holds sway.  If it is directed at us, we feel sad or angry or disempowered.  This psalm encourages us to stand up against the insolent and reject their negative influence.

This psalm invites us to stop and pray before we speak.  How would our speech change if we prayed this prayer each time we spoke?  If we said “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” before we spoke to our families, our co-workers, the person who cut in line at the grocery store, or before we commented on someone’s Facebook post.  How would our speech change if we were consciously lifting it up to God?  It would change a lot because we would be aligning our speech with God!  We would rest in the goodness and grace of God, revealed to us through Scripture and creation, and be able to extend that goodness and grace to others.  We would speak with faith and hope rather than worry and fear.  In this way our speech would share God’s word with the world.

On this World Communion Sunday, during this extraordinary season, our speech is very important.  God calls us to share words of inclusion, healing, and justice in our everyday encounters.  God call us to join with creation and with Scripture to share God’s love, God’s grace, God’s power with our deeply hurting world.  As we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with Christians around the world, may our actions and our words proclaim the glory of God. 

Our hymn of preparation is  Break Now the Bread of Life.