2020 July 19 “All the Same to You”

Scripture     Psalm 139:1-12,23-24

  • God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand.
  • I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking.
  • You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight.
  • You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.
  • I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going.
  • This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in!
  • Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight?
  • If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there!
  • If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, you’d find me in a minute – you’re already there waiting!
  • Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!”
  • It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you.
  • Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;
    See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.

 Message      “All the Same to You”   Pastor James Renfrew

NOTE:  This is the first time the congregation has worshiped in the sanctuary since March

Listen to the words of Psalm 139 and what do you hear?

The first thing I notice is that God has been carefully investigating you and me.  God has been taking notes, writing reports, keeping a list of what you have done.  God knows everything about you. God even knows what you are about to say! There is no hiding from God.  You can’t lock the door, you can’t hide under your bed. You can’t go far, far away. Because God always knows where you are and what you have been up to.

That might make you real nervous.  Think about every questionable thing you have ever done.  Think of all the things you have said or done that you wish you could take back, all the things you have ever said or done that you hope the world has forgotten.  Think of all the things that you might have said or done that caused others hurt and pain.  God knows every one of them.  Yes, God knows everything you’ve ever done, including the very worst things.  You may hope they’ve been forgotten, but God remembers, God knows. It’s right there in your file.  Are you feeling nervous?

We had a vice-principal in junior high, Miss Quinn, who would remind us that every mistake we made in 7th grade would become part of our permanent record, damaging our college and job prospects for the rest of our lives.  The homework you failed to turn in, the test you failed, the window you broke, the hateful things you said will never be forgotten.  It’s all there in your permanent record.  Is that what God is like?

So you may feel very nervous when you read Psalm 139, that God knows all of the worst stuff about you.  Nervous, not only about choices you’ve made and actions you’ve taken, but also what’s inside of you, your attitudes, your beliefs, your prejudices, your fears.  According to Psalm 139, God knows everything about you, and there’s no escaping it. It’s like a deep hole you can never climb out of, and for some reason you keep digging it deeper. It’s all there in your permanent record.

Now, I could say, because God sent Jesus to save us, all of that stuff that we are nervous about is erased, it’s been taken away, your permanent file has been emptied.  The Cross puts us right with God.

I think that’s too easy.  Jesus on the Cross is not a big eraser.  Jesus on the Cross reminds us that God still knows exactly who we are and what we have done.  But God is not simply sitting on a throne in the clouds, God is not simply issuing judgments when we screw up.  Even with all of the things we have done or not done, God is right there, your closest companion on the way to eternal life.

Here’s the key, the heart of faith, and you can see it in the name given to Jesus at his birth – Emmanuel, “God with us”.  Here it is, we can’t escape God, because God is always with us, not to condemn us, but to hold us, to lift us up, to help us, to heal us. It’s the most basic concept in Christian faith, God does not act toward us on the basis of what we have done wrong, God acts according to what we need.  We call this “grace”.  God does not treat us according to what we deserve, but according to what we need, and in these times we need a lot!

At first, we thought that this first in-person service since March would be too complicated to include the Lord’s Supper, but we discarded that idea right away.  Of course, when we regather, it is at the table of Grace.  Wherever we have been for the last four months, darkness or light, it’s all the same to you.  In places of despair, places of hope, places of anger, in places of joy, in places of fear, in places of confidence, in places of worry, God calls us to the table of grace, not because of what we have done or not done, but because of what we need.

It’s a bit awkward today, of course, prepackaged servings here or your own bread at home, nothing like breaking the one loaf and drinking from the one cup at the one table.  But even in the awkwardness  it is clear what God has done, is doing, and will do in Jesus Christ, overcoming the fears, rebuilding the community, and regathering us in diversity and unity.

“Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;  cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about;  See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.”

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