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A heart of wisdom - Psalm 90 Sermon, August Prayer Service

A heart of wisdom - Psalm 90 Sermon, August Prayer Service

Text: Psalm 90
Theme: “A heart of wisdom”.[1]

Intr –  Psalm 90, our text for today, talks about the transience and frailty of life; broaches the topic of life's end. But here’s a story of survival.

Betty Lou Oliver - an incredible story. She survived two horrible disasters on the same day. On July, 28, 1945, William Smith Jr. flew his plane into the Empire State Building at the 79th floor due to thick fog. Betty was working on the 80th. She was severely burned but managed to survive. When rescuers arrived they decided to lower her via elevator, unaware that the cables were damaged. Once the door closed the cables snapped and the elevator plummeted 75 stories to the basement. Oliver survived once again and was taken to a hospital. From the account[2] we learn that she was treated and fully recovered from all injuries.

We all want to be ‘Betty Lou’. We all want to survive. We surely want to live, but life one day or another ceases. Eventually we all die; like Betty Lou, who survived two disasters but now is dead too, like we will we be one day. But the fact is that there are other disasters to prevent while we live. What we need to pay attention to is the disasters that can end our lives while we are still alive. When family relationships are damaged, a job no longer satisfies, friendships crumble or our faith life dries up.... What's left then? to go on living without life? To carry on only waiting for the end?

That’s why we need to pay attention when in our Psalm today Moses talks about “a heart of wisdom”. Psalm 90 talks about life and its transience. Moses, in the only Psalm from his hand included in the Psalter, makes remarks about how life is short and fragile; also, it underlines God’s control over our time and life. We learn from it about having a heart of wisdom and what it implies: being able to number our days. The perspective of the end often puts things in perspective, and help us to see clearer.

A heart of wisdom. I don’t think any of us would reject it. We all want to have a heart that is wise and lives wisely. These are the characteristics connected to a heart of wisdom in Psalm 90:

_God is our dwelling place. Whenever we are away from His presence we will always be wandering, looking for home. Have you ever had the experience of living more than one day, or one week without a place to call home, where you can lay back, relax and just be yourself, like you do at your house? It is an unsettling, distressing, terrible feeling. That is the feeling that will be in the back of our mind when we think we can live away from our rock-solid dwelling place – Christ.

_He is eternal. Time is in His hands. We are mortal, He is not. We are transient, He is constant and eternal. It is only in Him that we can find our permanent, comforting, reassuring and eternal dwelling place.

_Law – anger. God’s anger is a reality. When we think about God we usually like to talk about Love. That’s true, God’s essence is love. But there are many ways love can be manifested, one of them being the Righteous anger over sin and its consequences. God wants us to know that whenever we think we can dwell in sin as opposed to our dwelling place in Him, anger is on its way.

_Gospel – Forgiveness. Here we find God’s essence, love, in its most beautiful, comforting, assuring manifestation. God’s love is not just a fleeting feeling, it is a permanent solid ground where our faith is anchored, where our heart is nurtured and where our life has purpose and direction. This is especially important when death strikes and we need to run for shelter and hope. His love is there for us. Always.

_Blessings – We may be taught by Christ to number the days of our lives, but we can’t number the blessings embedded in them. These blessings are so many, so diverse, so full and so amazing that all we can do is to constantly thank our Lord and Saviour for them. Especially for the greatest of them – The Son of God, on a Cross, for a number of 6 hours, so our days could be innumerably filled with His gracious and steadfast love, so that we may rejoice and be glad in our days;

The tragedy that took place on the cross at Calvary is the way for us to get past our life’s disasters. But even better, is the way to prevent them. If a plane crashes into a tower, an accident happens, or any given tragedy comes into our lives, they are not under our control. But reaching out in faith to God’s Grace in Word and Sacraments is an opportunity presented to us every single day.(James 4:8) When God’s hands guide ours, we can live, prevent, avoid, and act. And we can strive to rebuild whenever something bad has already happened. During the days we have numbered before us, a heart of wisdom sees the pervading presence of Yahweh conducting days, years and centuries, ordaining things and keeping us alive in His steadfast love.

Still, Psalm 90 talks about life’s transiency. Life’s end is also a part of life. So when death strikes… or better, before better strikes – because when it comes we may be too emotional and melancholic to reflect properly on things;[4] - before death strikes, when we are still well is time to remember the actual root cause of death. It is not cancer, or accidents, or old age or shutting down of our organs. It is sin. (Romans 6:23)The wages of sin is death. That’s why any human being is liable to it at any point of the road. We don’t like it, we don’t even want to think about it, but death is a reality and is caused by sin. That’s why we need Christ, the One who numbers our days, carries our lives, comforts our hearts and gives hope to our soul. Being constantly nurtured by His Word and Sacraments here at Church, being constantly in His presence daily in Word, Prayer and action, this is where He is working in us resilience, strength and hope for our every day struggles. There, we can always hear God’s voice whispering to our hearts. "Trust me" - for not everything in life has an explanation that our mind can contain and be at peace with; not all things happen in a way that we are able to fully understand, at least on this side of Heaven.(Romans 11) I do not mean that tragedies and accidents are God's will. But by believing and living in His will, we have the security we need to face them.[5] As we are rooted in Christ that day won’t be one of despair, but one of hope and trust, even in sorrow, that death was already defeated on the cross and that life is the last and eternal word.(John 5.24)[6]

Cc - When we are built upon the Rock, Jesus Christ, we are given certainty that in our history faith is the not a snapping cable and Life is our word of truth. We can have a heart of wisdom, numbering our days, living in His Grace, releasing our fears and doubts to the Lord, who knows better days and times.

This story is not and incredible one. It is totally credible; because in Christ we are not going to ‘survive’. We will live. Forever.[7]


[1] References:
-BRUG, John. A commentary on Psalms 73-150, p.128-140
[3] His work and His favour. In the parable of the foolish rich man in Luke 12 we learn how a not-wise heart operates because it doesn’t rely on God’s work and favour. It deems itself to be eternal an all powerful; until the night comes when our soul is requested. God’s work and favour is all we have, and all we have to rely on.
[4]Death is our arch-enemy and we don’t like to even think about it. Now, when we face the loss of someone we consider “too young to go” under our parameters there is a tendency to seek answers in terms of 'God's will'. Was it or was it not His will? It comes out especially from catastrophes, accidents, shooting rampages and the like. We catch ourselves sometimes wondering about “Was it or was in not really their time to go” type of thing. That happens because we measure things with the rule we have at hand. We try to judge what is early or late based on our perception of days and times, which a very personal, and therefore subjective parameter.

This can be demonstrated when we think, for example, that if someone dies around their 80s or 90s (as much as when may we miss them) the question "Why, God?" or “Was it time already?” lose their strength. We tend to accept it more easily, or find it somehow "normal", because according to our current standard to live up to 80 years should be considered a fairly good age to be reached – which doesn’t happen when we think of 25 or 30 years old. But there were times in the past when living up to 30 or 40 years was considered to be already good, a long life. People wouldn’t ask “was it time already?” that much for it was the equivalent of modern times’ 80s or 90s. Perhaps at that time if someone died at 35 or 40 one would say, 'Ah, that's fine, he's lived a long time, God took him to himself.' In the future, perhaps life expectancy will be 130 or 150 years of life, and then, being in your 80s would be considered still your second young adulthood; who knows.

The fact is that when death comes the question may be asked inside our hearts: was it the right time?
[5] We have love, forgiveness and hope to even face our own death saying, “You are not a full stop; you’re only a comma. Jesus Christ has the last word.”
[6] The right time for that is now. Today is the time live by faith, trusting in His love, numbering our days with a heart of wisdom, walking in faith toward our eternal home.