A Dwelling Place for Life

Psalm 90

By John Grimm

We see much of God in this psalm.  He is our dwelling place; is everlasting; can have anger; has wrath; has compassion; has steadfast love. He has glorious power and has favor.  We see how we start with him, then we aggravate him, and then we plead for his blessing upon us.  What an ebb and flow we go through!

We find ourselves away from God in this life because of our sin and iniquity.  We find ourselves near God in this life because of his compassion.  Maybe in our lives, we will stay closer to the Lord our God.  It is better to know the favor of the Lord our God than it is to know his wrath.

One line of thought through this psalm is trouble.  We have toil and trouble, and we have seen evil.  Yes, living our lives brings more than enough concern about toil, trouble and evil.  When we are not the cause of toil, trouble and evil, staying close to the Lord can be easier for us to do.  However, when we are the cause of our own toil, trouble and evil, we realize we are the ones who have separated ourselves from God.  It sure would be nice to live our 70 or 80 years close to God.  This choice is ours.  As the Lord turns to us, then we learn to turn to God. 

This Advent of 2021 sounds like a suitable time to turn to the Lord.  Will we accept the favor of God, or we will continue to feel his wrath?  It looks like that if the Lord is our dwelling place, toil, trouble and evil do not keep us from knowing the favor of the Lord our God.

God, we have turned from you.  Your wrath is justified against us.  We need you to get through this life.  As we live in you, let us know your steadfast love.  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

The Return

Psalm 147:1-11 (NLT)

Praise the Lord!

How good to sing praises to our God!
    How delightful and how fitting!
The Lord is rebuilding Jerusalem
    and bringing the exiles back to Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and calls them all by name.
How great is our Lord! His power is absolute!
    His understanding is beyond comprehension!
The Lord supports the humble,
    but he brings the wicked down into the dust.

Sing out your thanks to the Lord;
    sing praises to our God with a harp.
He covers the heavens with clouds,
    provides rain for the earth,
    and makes the grass grow in mountain pastures.
He gives food to the wild animals
    and feeds the young ravens when they cry.
He takes no pleasure in the strength of a horse
    or in human might.
No, the Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
    those who put their hope in his unfailing love.

I would never make direct comparisons between our year-long Covid-19 situation and the decades of exile the people of Israel experienced. As we start to see a return to something like normal lives, however, it is easy to borrow a little of their exuberance.

At the church I pastor, Holston View United Methodist, we are resuming in-person worship this Sunday, with safety precautions, of course. (Masks, social distancing, etc.) Several congregants have expressed their joy at the news.

I am looking forward to preaching to a significant number of people, rather than mostly focusing on a distant black lens. Not that I will forget those of you who are out there watching the worship live on the internet, or the recordings. I know many of you will not be able to return to the sanctuary just yet because of Covid concerns, and we always have a population of folks who are homebound. It’s just nice to get back to a good mix of online and in-person worshipers.

The opening of Psalm 147 certainly guides our response as we return to our sanctuaries and other church activities in phases through 2021. We have much to rebuild: our commitment to the Great Commission, the small groups and social networks that sustain us, and our willingness to unabashedly praise God all come to mind.

He is our great and glorious God! Even in places where we cannot yet shout this truth, may our hearts be filled with it.

We also are reminded of our need to approach God with humility. We enter church understanding we are the broken ones, lacking any perfectly pure knowledge. We enter seeking wisdom and correction, knowing we will be blessed in our encounter with the eternal mind.

As we return, let’s continue to put our hope in his unfailing love, expressed perfectly in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

Lord, as church people we are in different stages of return to our places of worship, depending on our locations and individual situations. As Christians, however, we are bound together by your Holy Spirit, and we pray you empower us to worship you well, wherever we may be. Amen.