"God's Enduring Love" Psalm 107        November 2, 2008

            Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37
1O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
            for his steadfast love endures for ever.
2Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
            those he redeemed from trouble
3and gathered in from the lands,
            from the east and from the west,
            from the north and from the south.
4Some wandered in desert wastes,
            finding no way to an inhabited town;
5hungry and thirsty,
            their soul fainted within them.
6 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,
            and he delivered them from their distress;
7he led them by a straight way,
            until they reached an inhabited town.
 33He turns rivers into a desert,
            springs of water into thirsty ground,
34a fruitful land into a salty waste,
            because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
35He turns a desert into pools of water,
            a parched land into springs of water.
36And there he lets the hungry live,
            and they establish a town to live in;
37they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
            and get a fruitful yield.
                                                Sermon Outline
Last week The Presbytery of the Pines sponsored a three-day Church Professional's Retreat at DeGray State Park near Bismarck, Arkansas. The retreat was titled "The Jazz of Preaching" with Reverend Eugene Lowry[1] who intertwined improvisational jazz piano instruction and demonstration in contrast to sermon preparation.
Lowry talked about letting the text speak to us creatively; to not approach sermon preparation with pre-established ideas of how we think it should go. Let the text surprise you.
We discussed the difference between 'task' terminology and 'achievement' terminology. Is preaching a task or an achievement? Rev. Lowry suggests that a sermon is not preached unless it is heard; that is, unless the hearers become involved in the sermon and personalize it.
One session focused on using the Lectionary; its history and
---positive: broad coverage of the bible; exposes to known and less known texts;
---negative: cuts and pastes sections of scripture, sometimes leaving out contextualizing text before, after, or even in the middle of a section of text thereby changing its intended meaning.
Sometimes the lection sanitizes a text by removing offensive verses or passages; those that deal with the depth of OT Jewish belief of vengeance and retaliation, rather than dealing with them in light of the NT. Other passages use selected verses in order to leave out the questionable behavior of traditional heroes of the Bible.
Nothing wrong with that if the purpose is stated clearly, but we consistently hear sermons we miss the complete picture.
One example is today's Psalm reading of Psalm 107. The lectionary suggests reading verses 1-7 and verses 33-37. However, this text corresponds to the third chapter of Joshua, which is another of the reading on this day. The lection includes only those verses applicable to the OT lesson. However, to appreciate this psalm, one must look at the psalm en toto. To that end, let us delve in further. 
The overall outline of the Psalm:
* Call to Worship
* Recollection 1: life without an aim, or purpose
* Recollection 2: life of despair
* Recollection 3: life of excess
* Recollection 4: life of financial dependence
* Summary of the power and enduring love of God for His people.
READ THE ENTIRE PSALM HERE (or paraphrase the vignettes):
Walter Brueggemann writes in his book "Finally Comes the Poet" that places of the heart are not changed by further instruction, but by story telling of Grace. Psalm 107 does just that: it illustrated God's enduring love by four stories of God's redeeming grace and deliverance in difficult circumstances.
The pattern is always the same: "Some …." Did this or that, fell into misery, called for help and found relief and salvation through the mighty works of God.
The psalm begins with a call to worship.
* Call to Worship (1-3): Let the redeemed of the Lord say this—
Verbalize God's blessings in your life
Encourage others by sharing the encouragement you received from God
* Recollection 1 (4-9): life without an aim, or purpose.
They wander aimlessly though life, bored, nothing to live for. Many teens and pre-teens today suffer from depression or desire to live, they believe life is futile and hopeless.
* Recollection 2 (10-16): life of despair.
This could be a life of depression, addiction or affliction. Life is too much to handle; sense of loss, wanting to give up.
* Recollection 3 (17-22): life of excess.
Those who suffered from physical ailments through either sickness or excessive living.
* Recollection 4 (23-32): life of financial dependence.
Those who could have sailed the chaotic sea of business but fell into bad habits.
* Summary of the power and enduring love of God for His people (33-43).
When we intentionally remember and reflect on God's greatness, all other things diminish in importance. Remembrance is an important aspect of many OT writings.
If we momentarily can't recall examples of God's deliverance in our own lives, we can surely remind ourselves of God's deliverance of others.
            Examples of stories can be found in:
Christian Biographies and autobiographies
Movies with a message
Other's stories
But it is our own stories of God's deliverance in our own lives that causes our spirits to soar. The writers of the Psalms knew this and utilized remembrance and story telling throughout the OT. In fact, any oral society uses stories to pass down wisdom from generation to generation.
I think that in our world of the written page, scrolling text on computers and streaming video clips on television, we have lost the art of story telling and engaging in meaningful conversation with one another; face to face, not via a computer.
The psalmist presented us with four types of people, who are now "the redeemed of the Lord," who once were in trouble, but lived to tell about it . . . how they found deliverance and redemption with the Lord.
"O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever." (verse 1, KJV) Amen.
Rev. Rosemary Stelz

[1] Eugene L. Lowry, The Sermon: Dancing the Edge of Mystery, Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997.
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