Sunday, January 17, 2021
Message from Reverend Jim Burd
First, Elaine & I want to thank Immanuel for our generous Christmas gift! We really appreciate it!
"No Place to Hide" Psalm 139: 1-12,23,24
There's an old children's book entitled "Runaway Bunny" by Margaret Wise Brown. You may be familiar with it. I's more than sixty years old. The story begins with the little bunny telling its mother, "I'm running away." She answers, "If you run away, I'll run after you, because you are my little bunny." And the bunny begins to imagine all the ways he will escape her. He says, "If you run after me, I will become a fish in a trout stream and I will swim away from you." To which his mother replies, "I will become a fisherman and I will fish for you." The story continues with the little bunny suggesting one way after another of transforming himself to run or hide from his mother. She counters with she would do in that case; to find him and bring him home. finally, the bunny realizes that he will never be able to out-wit of out-run his mother, and he gives up, saying, "shucks, I might as well stay where I am and be your little bunny." To which she replies "I have a carrot!" The story ends with the illustration of the mother and son safely in their burrow, under a tree, eating carrots from the nearby garden.
The bunny learned that he could not hide from his mother, and he would never be able to leave her behind.
In today's text, the psalmist has realized this about God, with a profound sense of awe. there is nothing he can do and nowhere he, or perhaps, she can go to escape the Presence of God. This is my favorite psalm, because my entire personal faith is based on the fact of God's Presence in my life; that wherever I am, God is. Each of us needs to realize, and hold on to that realization; that God has known us, and has been involved in our being from the very first breath of our lives, and there is no place and circumstance in life that can remove us from God's Presence. Just knowing this as a fact of life is the very foundation upon which we can build our faith!
God knows the psalmist's mind, his motives, his actions, and his ways, which can mean physical paths and directions, or habits or manners; all one's ways of being.
Hear the words of the psalmist: "You know what I am going to say before I even say it" Do you remember, when, as a child, you began to learn that God knows everything about us? I do. My mother told me. I didn't go to Sunday School or church, but my mother wanted me to know these lessons. I never forgot that teaching. It would be nice if God didn't know EVERYTHING about us. Being so thoroughly known by God is challenging as well as a comfort. We can't choose what God knows about us; in other words just the good parts, nor let God in when we want to. God knows every inch of us; every cell, every thought, every habit. So there is no point in trying to hide. It can't be done!
The only one we're fooling is ourselves. Though this is ambivalence, this isn't bad news. This is good news! As one commentator writes: "To be fully known is to be completely vulnerable." The psalmist certainly celebrates as good news the marvelous and mysterious reality that his or her life is accessible to God in every moment and in every way." It is amazing grace that God is involved in our lives. So the psalmist concludes: "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is so high that I cannot attain it!"
The first thing in changing and turning our lives toward God, is to realize that there is no place to hide. God knows us through and through and loves us anyway! That's what frees us and gives us courage to stop hiding from ourselves. It is great to know that we are sought out and known by God!
What we find in ourselves makes us want to run away, but God will not let us go. We may hide from other people; even from ourselves; escaping into addiction, shopping, or desperately seeking one exciting experience after another.
Our two youngest grandchildren, Tristan and Marissa, used to love to play Hide and Seek with me; except their version of the game was that they usually wanted to hide and have someone find them. We played the game when we were were coming to their house. They would say, "Grandpa's here" or "Grandma's here." And they would run and hide. But instead of keeping quiet, so as to stay hidden, they made noises while they were hiding, so they were easily found. Sometimes they couldn't wait to jump out of their hiding place. They wanted to be found. I think that's how we look at hiding from God. We WANT to be found. we WANT the Seeker of Souls to find us every time because we are not complete until we are in God's Presence! There is a desire within us to never stay lost!
The first thing in changing and turning our lives around in the direction of God is to realize that there is no place for us to hide. God loves us through and through and love us anyway. That's what frees us and gives us courage to stop hiding from ourselves. Being sought out and known by God is indeed wonderful, because we are encompassed and held by God! We can risk searching and knowing ourselves, trusting that God will continue to encompass us and hold us!
What we find in ourselves makes us want to run away, but God will not let us go. We may hide from other people and from ourselves in a variety of ways; isolating ourselves, burying ourselves in our work, escaping into addiction, shopping, or seeking experiences that shield us from reality. There is no place we can hide from God. The psalmist points that out; that even in the place of the dead; Sheol, he cannot hide from God.
In 2021, we have plenty to worry about. But knowing that God can't leave us, gives us some assurance. Know this, my friends: God didn't begin to know us at our Baptism. We became God's beloved son or daughter when we breathed in our first breath. that was God's Breath of Life and we became living souls. What a comfort for us to know that profound truth!
Peace I Leave with You, My Friends