THE WORD Psalm 139:1-12,23-24
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
24 See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
MESSAGE “Anticipation” Rev. James Renfrew
Anticipation … hoping for what comes next. When choir met on Wednesday, Larry had seen the worship bulletin and he was the first to mention the song “Anticipation” by Carly Simon. “Anticipation, is making me late, is keeping me waiting”. Yeah, that tune had floated around in my head, too, the moment I came up with “Anticipation” as my sermon title. I didn’t know much more about the song except the chorus “Anticipation”. So I looked it up, the lyrics, and as you might expect, it’s about the opening sparks in a relationship, a relationship that could go somewhere wonderful or just as likely go nowhere at all. Just because you anticipate something is no guarantee that it will actually happen. And who hasn’t had an experience of anticipation when it comes to love? Sometimes our anticipation is rewarded in the full, sometimes it leaves us with a heart full of could-have-beens or might-have-beens!
Yet, I would much prefer to live a life full of anticipation, than live a life with no anticipation at all. Even in rough times I prefer to have hopes for the best instead of expectations for the worst.
Psalm 139 describes in grand scale the things that could defeat us. The greatest fears described in the Psalm are finding yourself in helpless loneliness far, far away from God, or being surrounded by smothering darkness. But the Psalm proclaims that there is no place that is too far from God, and there is no place where God’s light cannot break through to you.
So think of the worst place you have ever been, and take heart that God is always able to find you, no matter where you are. Now, look for the signs of God in Christ reaching out to you! Those signs may not be immediately obvious, but they are there just the same. The Psalm wants you to embrace anticipation as the best way to engage with God. It’s not what God has done or what God is doing, but what God is about to do next that really matters. It’s what I love about worship, especially, not looking backwards but always looking forward to what God will be doing next.
Now a word about stewardship and how it relates to the worship theme of anticipation. Instead of budgets, income and expenses, financial statements, and investment charts, this year we’re using music as our window into stewardship. The music you teach, the music you learn, the music you share with others, becomes a model for how we do stewardship. How does the music you love open your heart mind soul and strength to the love and joy of God? How does the music you love give you confidence to share the important stories of your life and faith? So we thank Bill, Larry, Emily and now Tamara for sharing stories about how music has opened up their faith, confidence, commitment and anticipation for what God will be doing next.
So this week I was having a conversation with a guy I know, and he assumed that because I am a pastor that I have a clearly defined theology about God, filled with orderly doctrinal assertions, carefully backed by specific verses from Scripture. I think he was surprised when I described my theology not as settled but always in flux, an on-going conversation with God about God, about me and about you, and about what needs to be done in the world around us. Sometimes I am excited when I gain an amazing spiritual insight when it all comes together just right, sometimes I am stuck with something I can’t figure out. If anything, that conversation with God is more like music than anything else, singing my worries, singing my hopes, singing my intentions, all an exercise in anticipation.
For those of you who know a little music theory, what I know and understand and trust about God is something like the tension in a Major 7th chord, that needs resolution. The song I’ll be playing at the end of the service, “Turkey in the Straw” has a 7th chord, a D7 that just cries out to be resolved into the final G chord. I may not have figured it all out, but I continue to anticipate, anticipate and anticipate some more. There is so much more for me to discover and learn to get that 7th chord to resolve!
There’s another dimension of anticipation that we are experiencing in worship this morning. It’s the obvious one. It’s the tantalizing aroma emanating from the kitchen downstairs. Anticipation is never a guarantee that your hopes will be satisfied, but the odds are very much in your favor that within the hour you will soon be putting a fork into a slice of delicious home-made pie.
The Beatles recorded a song in 1964 or so, titled “A Hard Day’s Night”. All you have to do is hear the opening chord and you know what’s going to come next. Here’s my best approximation of it, but with only four fingers to use I’m missing at least half of the notes. Larry, some experts think it’s a G7sus4 chord, maybe you can play it on the keyboard, but on the mandolin it’s a knuckle-breaker. It’s a seventh chord and it’s just begging to be resolved. But whatever the chord is called, it opens the song and Beatles fans the world over are already anticipating everything that will follow form that one chord.
Anticipation … hoping for what comes next. Anticipation is not just a confirmation of everything we know and believe, but the opening notes of the new song to come, a new song that stretches to include the true circumstances of our lives and the incredible capacity of our God to surround us with the love we need. Today as we worship we may only be hearing the pick-up notes, the opening chords of the new song. But we are looking forward to everything that will follow. That’s faith, the faith we believe and the faith we sing!