Normally I preach on the Gospel, but this week I want to reference the psalm because the Spirit really stirred some things up with this psalm. I think the psalms often get overlooked in scripture and I haven’t quite figured out why that is. Perhaps it’s the structure of the psalm; it looks like poetry and that can be offputting. Maybe its just that the psalms, for similar reasons to other stories in the Bible can be confusing and overwhelming. I personally, however, love the psalms. The psalms have given me words when I want to express my love for God and my limited vocabulary just won’t do it justice. The psalms have given me words when I want to express my anger to God and I feel that my colorful language is disrespectful. The psalms have given me words when I am in deep grief and I can’t even think straight to form a coherent prayer. I would tell anyone who desires to memorize Bible verses to start with the psalms. They are quite multi-purpose.
The psalms are also in our hymnal. They are meant to be sung. This is why (in case you were wondering) the page numbers for the psalms are not printed. The psalms are considered the first 150 hymns. I commend them to you for further reading or perhaps reading them again.
Lent is a fantastic time to be reminded of this psalm. We should talk about repentance all the time, but it seems that we talk about it in Lent just a bit more. To repent means to “turn around.” The idea of repentance means that we should turn from our sin and turn towards God. Of course, repentance is always easier than it sounds. I am only speaking for myself here, of course, but I find that as soon as I repent I find myself doing something else that separates me from God. This is what sin is, friends. Anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God. Remember, we are the ones that put up these barriers. God never causes us to sin, it’s all on us. God is not the one tempting you with another piece of chocolate, with another beverage, with behavior that is less than stellar, or with relationships that are not life giving. It’s all on us. It’s on us, then to turn and confess our failings to God and receive forgiveness and grace upon grace.
I think, then, that the first two(ish) verses of this psalm are great to think about when it comes to repentance. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust…” Right there. That’s where I want to stop (yes already). I think if this were our only confession to God, our only proclamation to God, our only plea to God, it might be enough. But, it also might be a challenge. The challenge comes in that when we are baptized in Christ Jesus, when the Holy Spirit comes down to us, when God says “yes, this one here–the one that’s all wet?? This one’s mine too!” never in the baptism to we hear the words “you are completely God’s except for this one small part here–you’re responsible for that part.”
When we are brought to the waters of baptism, we are brought with an understanding either by our parents, our godparents, or us, that our lives are not our own. If we live, we live to the Lord and if we die, we die to the Lord. But still, it is tempting, ever so tempting, to say “to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul…..”except for this part here. And that part there. And just ignore this part here. It’s like inviting someone over to your home and you really really want them to be there and then you say “but ignore the mess.”
God wants our mess. God wants every single part of our mess. And here’s the thing, whether we’re willing to give God our mess or not, God is already quite aware of the messes in our lives. God is already quite aware of the messes we’ve been drug into and the messes in which we’ve drug ourselves. God already knows so there’s no sense in trying to only give parts of us up to God. We cannot close the door on portions of our soul (like we can with our homes) and say “don’t worry about what’s behind that door, God, nothing you need to see there!” If we cannot trust God with our souls, who can we trust? We do ourselves no good trying to hold on to any part of us. I have seen what happens when we try and fix us ourselves and we end up making bigger messes. It ain’t pretty. So often we want to say “to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul but please be gentle.” The Lord is gentle. Again, I think the temptation is to approach God with trepidation and trembling as if we’re going to say something that is either going to surprise or shock God.
God already knows what we have done (or not done) so anything you tell God isn’t going to be a shock. Seriously, if we had an actual back and forth conversation with God it would probably sound like this:
Me “Ummmmm God, I did this thing that I’m not too proud of. So, to you I lift up my soul. Please, have mercy.”
God “What did you do, my child.” And then we would confess to what we did that separated ourselves from God. And God would respond “Oh that?? Yeah, I knew that already.”
The same goes for trusting in God. It’s easy for us to say that we trust in God but how often do our actions show that is not the truth. We don’t need “insurance” with God. I once heard this comedian say that insurance is “just in case stuff happens” stuff. There is no need to have insurance just in case God doesn’t come through for us. There’s no need for insurance just in case God doesn’t forgive us. There’s no need for insurance just in case God’s plan doesn’t pan out. Because the thing is that God always will come through for us. God will always forgive us. God’s plan will always pan out. Now, does that mean it’s the same as our plans, our dreams, our futures we had in mind? Nope. But it most likely better than anything we could have ever imagined.
Trusting in God means doing it with 100% of our bodies 100% of the time. I know this isn’t easy. Trusting in God means letting go of the idea that we are in charge. Trusting in God means letting go of the idea that we think we know better for ourselves than God does. Trusting in God means just letting go. And that is scary. But we’re talking about a God who loves us, brothers and sisters. We are talking about a God who loves us without abandon. Whose love can’t even be measured or comprehended because it’s just that amazing! When will we figure out that God isn’t out to punish us or make us suffer? When will we figure out that God already knows our secrets and our fears so there’s no need to hide anything from God? When will we figure out that when we try and rule our lives ourselves that we end up with a mess that Satan helped us to create?
Lifting our souls, our entire souls to God takes work. Trusting God completely takes work. But, it’s all on us. We have to get over our fear that God is somehow going to let us down. We have to get over our fear that we are going to somehow disappoint God. As we travel towards the cross, brothers and sisters, as we reflect on God and God’s saving and redeeming action in Jesus Christ, we remember that Jesus gave himself completely in death so that we may have life completely.
If you’re up for a challenge, friends, perhaps the prayer you can pray over the next 40 days or so is this psalm. But pray it like this: “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. My entire soul. I trust you God, completely. Yes, I’m serious. Yes, I need your help doing this. Help me to repent from anything else.” Amen.