Rhythm & Flow
Bible Text: Psalm 119:137-144 | Preacher: Rev. Dennis Howard | When I read the Psalm for today’s worship service, I was struck by the fact that it contains a rhythmic exchange between the psalmist and his God; a rhythm and a flow.
Here is what I mean.
The first two verses are all about God.
They are all about how God’s promise flow out from his throne, into the world where humanity dwells.
These first verses speak to the reality of the righteousness and faithfulness of God’s judgments that stream eternally from God’s heart flowing eternally over all of his good creation.
Then the focus of the third verse ebbs from God flowing instead onto the psalmist; focusing on the psalmist’s zeal for God and his vexation over those who do not share his adoration of God’s loving word of promise.
The fourth verse moves equally between God and the psalmist; drifting back and forth as it does between God (his faithful and eternal promise) and the psalmist (his love for the God that pours out such promises upon all humankind).
The fifth verse also passes equally between the psalmist and God.
The psalmist confesses to his small and despised nature contrasting his finite and broken nature to God’s universally gracious precepts and promises.
The sixth verse flows back to God again; it is all about God, as the psalmist declares the everlasting righteousness and undeniable truthfulness of his God.
In the seventh verse the sharing, the eb and flow between God and the psalmist, continues in that even when trouble and anguish overcome the psalmist the truth and beauty of God’s commandments are there to delight him.
God remains a very real presence for the psalmist even in the face of his equally real-life problems.
The last verse of our psalm gives a resounding finale to the rhythm and flow of this amazing poem.
This poem that so vividly portrays the dance of life, the back and forth between God and humankind, that is life in God.
The last verse of our psalm speaks once again to the truth of God’s righteousness.
This verse speaks to the truth of God’s eternal decrees and to our need to hear that truth so we may gain understanding so we may gain life.
This psalm, these few short verses, perfectly encapsulates and illustrates the creative dance of love and life, the rhythm and flow that we enter into with God when we engage God’s promise with the love and trust that comes to us from God through God’s gift of faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God.
The sad truth is that if we read these verses too quickly, without taking the time to savour them to let them flow over us, we totally miss the fact that the very nature of our life in God is described so well therein.
But then, life in this world is like that.
We all are in such a hurry, we all get so busy, that we forget the life-giving rhythm of a life lived with God, not this world and its cares, at the center.
When we become consumed by the pleasures and the cares of this world, we are blinded to the One from whom true life flows.
When we separate ourselves from others by our fears and our prejudices, we lose connection with the only part of life that matters in the long run, the rhythm and flow of life in God.
Zacchaeus was a busy man.
He was a chief tax collector.
He had people.
People who were busy every day on the roads and in the markets extracting taxes from travellers and merchants.
Zacchaeus was a wealthy man.
But he was a man separated from his community by their hatred and distrust because he was a despised collector of the hated Roman taxes.
No doubt Zacchaeus held a little hate in his own heart for those who turned their self-righteous backs on him because of how he made his living.
Then one day this hated and hating tax collector heard about Jesus.
He heard by word of mouth that Jesus was coming to town.
Something stirred in Zacchaeus’ heart.
He had a feeling that he needed to find out who this Jesus was (it turns out that feeling was the power of the Kingdom of God stirring in him as God’s Kingdom in Jesus Christ drew near to our tax man).
So, our tax man found a very undignified way to try to see who Jesus was.
His desire to see who God was, his desire to know God, drove Zacchaeus up a tree that day.
And there Zacchaeus came face to face with the outpouring of God’s love for this world, which was and is yet today, Jesus Christ, his Lord.
That day the God of the universe responded to Zacchaeus’ desire to see God by inviting himself into the tax man’s home and so into his heart.
Clearly the invitation of God that day flowed through Zacchaeus’ ears and filled his heart.
When Jesus showed up at his home, Zacchaeus repented of his dishonest ways through which he had accumulated great wealth, while totally alienating his community.
Zacchaeus denounced his greed for worldly wealth by pledging to give half his ill-gotten gains to the work of God’s kingdom; feeding the poor.
Zacchaeus truly heard Jesus’ invitation as it flowed from Jesus’ lips that day.
Zacchaeus was convicted of the evils of his life that day by God’s simple and straight forward desire to enter his home and sit at his table.
Awestruck by God’s unconditional forgiveness of his sinful ways as evident in Jesus’ desire to break bread with him, the dishonest tax man’s new-found love for God flowed from a brimming heart; flowing out into his renewed life and he bore fruit meet for repentance.
His life was transformed by the miracle God’s loving acceptance as it flowed over him like a river that day.
The despised and rejected tax man took up his rightful place in God’s Kingdom.
He understood God’s word and will for his life.
And he lived.
That is how God works for us and in us.
By rhythm and flow.
People hear God’s word of promise.
Their hearts of stone become hearts of flesh as God’s Spirit flows into their lives.
They respond to the outflowing of God’s loving word with God given love of their own.
And they repent of their broken ways of living, their brokenness is made whole as their repentant hearts receive the faith needed to hear and act upon God’s word.
And through this faith-illuminated hearing of God’s word, they receive understanding.
And that understanding flows into their life, their eternal life in the presence of God, where they feast forever at God’s table.
As we sit this morning at table with our Lord, may the ebb and flow of eating and drinking in the presence of our Father God, fill us with faith, with the peace of God that is beyond understanding and with all joy in believing.
As by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus feeds each one through the sacrament of His Body broken and His Blood shed for sin of the whole world.