Fifth Sunday after Pentecost July 9 and 10, 2022
“The Right Word” Psalm 19
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Do you ever struggle to find the right word? Have you ever spoken the wrong word at the wrong time? Sure. Saying the right word at the right time is not always so easy. Avoiding words that will later bite you on your butt is hard, as well.
Psalm 19, the reading I chose for today is about the right word at the right time, words which God speaks. I hope that you have heard the right word from God in your life. If you were living, doing or thinking something wrong, I hope God gave you a word that insisted that you change your life. He was pointed and bold to you. I also hope that He spoke the most comforting word of life to you, as well. Did you hear about the full forgiveness given in Jesus Christ? He offers it. God always has the right word.
The right word is that God wants to be seen in everything that we see. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the earth. (Psalm 19:1-4)
When you look up and see the brilliance of the universe, or when you look around and see that God put all things in the right order, or when you go on a vacation and marvel at the biggest thing you see, or the smallest of what He has made, are you listening to what God is saying? He is speaking the right word and He wants us to hear it. This is not just a message from God but this is a message about God – you can listen to His wisdom and glory and power.
John Stott is his book, Favorite Psalms, tells about the voice of God that is shown in His creation in this psalm: First, he says, it is continuous. “Day after day…night after night.” Then, he says, it is abundant. “The heavens pour forth speech.” And then God is universal in His speaking, “There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Page 21) When you go to the zoo, or take a walk, or look through your microscope, or telescope, God is speaking a right word. Do you hear it?
In the New Testament, St. Paul, on a number of occasions spoke about God’s voice heard by His creation. In one of his sermons he told his listeners, “Yet God has not left himself without testimony. He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17) In talking about man’s responsibility toward God, Paul in Romans 1 says, “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:19-20)
But not everyone is listening. In the back page of The Denver Post this past Sunday, July 3, the Freedom From Religion Foundation paid for the entire page to win converts to unbelief. A very nice looking lady wrote, “I’m a pediatric nurse, gardener, Coloradan…and an atheist. I’m one of 75 million secular Americans who are not religious. The “Nones” (those of us unaffiliated with religion) are now 29 percent of the U.S. population. We’re the largest “denomination” by religious identification.” (Page 20A)
The author is right. The fastest growing religion in our country is not Baptist, Catholic or Lutheran, not even the Mega-Churches, it is the “Nones” – those who proudly reject the voice of God – in His creation and in the Scriptures – the Bible.
But God is not silent. God will continue to speak the right word even if we, or anyone, would refuse to listen. Psalm 19, a word about how God has chosen to reveal Himself to us, continues with this word: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. (Psalm 19:7-10)
I wonder what the view of religion and of the Scriptures for the Freedom From Religion Foundation might be? So many folks have such a grim look at Christianity and Christians. They have been taught that Christianity is just a bunch of rules – do this, don’t do that. Who in the world would want to be part of a group that is all about requirements and obligations? The Word of God gives life. Listen to what it says about how lively and living and active and life-changing the Word of God, the Scriptures, are – these are the actions that God’s Word works: they revive the soul, they make wise the simple, they give joy to the heart, they give light to the eyes. It says that this word is sure and altogether righteous. Do you see, God has the right word at the right time for the right person – for me and you…and them.
22 years ago, I was called to the bedside of a man who was dying of cancer in his esophagus. His name was Walter. I had never met him before, but his family had called my office and explained that he only had a short time to live and asked if I would see him. I went to Lutheran Medical Center and spoke the greatest word that I had ever spoken. I spoke about Jesus and His purposeful death and His glorious resurrection. I told Walter that Jesus was his Good Shepherd and that the hands of Jesus were upon him. I told him that Jesus had prepared a mansion in heaven for him. He listened and then he told me this, “Everything that I take in my belly now tastes awful, it is bitter. But what you gave me today is like honey dripping into my belly and it is sweet and perfect.” It is like the psalmist who said, “The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.” That is the right word of God – sweeter than honey.
Martin Luther, reflecting on the expanse of the Reformation, took no credit, personally, for its success. He said, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all.”
Sometimes in our worship we say or sing things so often that they may lose meaning. But I hope that I can remind you of how we recognize that right word that comes from God. Before we read the reading of the Gospel we rise and sing the words, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Many disciples were leaving Jesus and Jesus asked the Twelve, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (John 6:67) and the response – You have the words of eternal life. Jesus has the right words at the right time. He has the words of eternal life. Where else would we go?
God has the right word spoken in all that He makes. Listen to what He is saying. God has the right word in what He has spoken in the Scriptures. Listen to Him. Trust them. He has given us words of hope that revive the soul and give joy to the heart. The right word at the right time.
But sometimes we need the right word at the wrong time. The psalmist (possibly David) ends this psalm with God speaking the right word at the time of our sinning. Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:12-14)
Especially at the wrong time we need the right Word. When our guilt is too much or our regret is too overwhelming, we need the right word from God. In John’s Gospel we listen to the work of God, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14) The Word – Jesus Christ. The Word – who receives our secret sins and our willful sins – upon Himself. The Word – who rose from death and who said, “Because I live you shall live also.” (John 14:19)
Today receive the right word. The right word is the word that causes us to listen when we see God’s hand in all of creation. The right word is the written and spoken Word of God that is sweeter than honey. The right word is the word of salvation and rescue from Jesus Christ, our only Savior.
God’s right word allows to speak our right word, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen!!