God is Holding Your Life: These Lives are Precious; Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
Plymouth First UMC, January 10, 2021
Pastor Toni Carmer
The Psalm we’ve read this morning is praise and a prayer that was probably written to be repeated at the coronation of a king. According to its inscription and placement, it comes most likely when David hands over his throne to his son Solomon, who prayed to rule and to judge the people with wisdom. Like all of Israel’s kings, Solomon both succeeded and failed “royally” in that calling. But perhaps it’s helpful to have in mind that the standard to which he and all the kings of Israel were called, is God’s standard. Justice and righteousness was expected of the king, in the same way that it was expected by every faithful Israelite in all their dealings. However, the king—by virtue of his office and because of the power that he holds—impacts the whole nation as he either lives out his call—or fails to live it out.
It’s interesting, I think. Hearing the background of this text, you may be concerned that I’m intending to politicize the message this morning and to focus on what has happened this past week in our nation. And it IS interesting to consider the coronation of a king, as we prepare for the inauguration of a new president in our nation in a couple of weeks, a modern day and American version of this practice. What you need to know is that this is a lectionary text, though I’m working a week behind in this planned series because I wanted to talk about the Magi following the light of the star last Sunday. The lectionary is a 3-year plan of scripture for preaching that was put together some time ago without regard to any nation’s secular holidays or political activities. I didn’t choose this lesson to make a point or to point my finger. And yet as I read the commentaries BEFORE Wednesday afternoon’s events in our capital, thought of them as it all unfolded, then re-read and considered how the scripture relates to us today, I couldn’t help but think, Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy, indeed.
What I believe is particularly important for us to consider today, is that although these texts were originally meant for a king’s coronation, when there were no more kings to crown, the words were repeated in anticipation of a Messiah who would come to accomplish what an earthly king could not do. Later yet, the Psalm would be applied to the birth of Jesus and his epiphany—to this One who would bring light to the world; to this One who would deliver justice and righteousness to all people.
As we look to THIS king and wait for his return, we have hope…expectation… of what is yet to come. But we don’t simply wait for his return: we have been called to acts of justice and righteousness in this day. With the coming of Jesus, in his life and death and resurrection, in the giving of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church—WE—as the church and as his individual disciples are called to be the administrators…the royal priesthood…the hands and feet…the disseminators…the transmitters…the communicators of justice and righteousness…the light-bearers in THIS day.
We may feel that our power is limited in accomplishing this work that we’re called to do—that we have a limited circle of influence; certainly not that of a king who rules over an entire nation. But think again: our king rules over heaven and on earth, our power comes from on high. The church of Jesus Christ lives and breathes all over the world. Don’t clip the wings of the Holy Spirit in thinking we’re just an itty-bitty church (as I’ve heard us described) in a small town in a fly-over-state that can’t accomplish too much…because my friends, we’ve got work to do, and we’ve been given the power to do it.
Consider this: In ancient Israel, the call to justice and righteousness was particularly focused toward the nation’s most vulnerable—the poor and the needy: the alien, the orphan and the widow. In the Hebrew Bible, the protection of the widow and the orphan from those who would oppress them was one the defining characteristics of Yahweh. That’s what the people of Israel expected of their earthly king. And that’s what we’re called to do today…that’s what we seek to do today, as followers of the king who rules over all of heaven and earth.
We do this because we have come to know that these lives are precious. Created in God’s image, each of us are called to acknowledge God’s love—not only for ourselves, but for all people.
These lives are precious. Your life is precious. My life is precious. The lives of others who we know and who we don’t know are precious. The lives of others who look different than we do. Whose lives are very different from our own—their lives are precious.
As the psalmist offered this prayer for the king, may we receive it for ourselves and offer it to one another as we seek together to our king’s work:
May we look for the image of God in all people.
May we treat one another with kindness, with love and respect.
May we acknowledge that people’s lives are precious and a bit precarious, and are in need of tender care.
May we look for ways to lift up the poor and the needy, not only in helping to provide the physical things they need like food and clothing, but to give honor and respect, acknowledging the worth of their humanity.
May we seek to learn more about ourselves, our responses, the reasons behind our fear or our hate, our tendency to not see or to turn away…that we might be healthier ourselves so that we can care better for one another.
May we be humble, realizing our own failures, and forgiving ourselves so that we might more graciously serve the one who has already forgiven us.
May we then, be like rain that falls upon fresh-cut grass.
May we be like showers that water the earth.
These lives are precious, and so may we bring nurture and sustenance that we might be a part of bringing God’s peace into our world.