Summer of Psalms: Psalm 1
Scripture: Psalm 1
This morning we’re starting a series of messages called A Summer of Psalms. The Book of Psalms is in the Old Testament and it is kind of like the Old Testament hymnal. We’re starting off with Psalm 1.
When I first encountered Psalm 1 I was just a young man doing my best to figure out life. I wanted my life to proposer. The world told me that I could have all of that by getting the right education, the right friends, the right jobs, the right clothes, car and house. Society told me that when I found myself through a process of looking inward THEN I would be able to be true to myself and I would realize my full potential. However, my experienced showed me differently.
His name was Tony. He was this African-American guy from the Southside of Chicago. That’s the part of Chicago you don’t want to come from. I was a white kid who grew up in the privileged Western suburbs of Chicago. We were very different from one another, but Tony, who was 5 or 6 years older than me took a liking to me and invited me to study the Bible with him.
As we gathered for our first study Tony and I opened to Psalm 1. Psalm 1:1-3, Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
I was blown away by these words. The life I wanted was like that tree transplanted by streams of living water. That tree was flourishing and would hold up to even the most severe drought because it had deep roots.
But my life wasn’t like that flourishing tree. Chasing this and that in the world left me empty, feeling like the world and my life were sterile. Why?
In part, the process of looking inward and being “true” to me closed me off to that which lied outside of me. It blinded me to that which was greater than me.
It left me trying to live as though something greater than me didn’t exist…as if something transcendent did not exist.
One of the first things Psalm 1 does is to point us to the reality of transcendence, that there is something beyond ourselves. In its entirety, Psalm 1 declares there is a God. One of my favorite verses in the Bible that talks about the existence of God is Romans 1:20. It reads, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Psalm 1 then goes on and tells me that this transcendent God desires my life to be this green, flourishing tree and it even gives us the key to having this life. The first key is found in these words, Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers….
Take a look at where you are standing. Who is surrounding you? I remember my parents and teachers telling me, “You will become who you hang out with.” Proverbs 1 tells us, My son, if sinners entice you, do not give into them….my son, do not go along with them, do not set foot on their path.
Now I have folks who say, “But pastor, those people I hang around with are my mission field.” I applaud the desire and sentiment, but my question is, who is having a greater influencing on who?
The second key God gives us to a flourishing life is delighting in law of the Lord. The Bible is the root system that gives life to the tree.
When as an adult I first trusted in God and embraced Jesus as my Lord and Savior, one of the most useful habits is was given to cultivate was daily reading of the Bible and the memorization of the Bible.
One of the reasons Martin Luther came to his great discovery in the Bible of justification by faith alone was that in his early years in the Augustinian monastery he was taught to love Bible by Johann Staupitz. Luther devoured the Bible in a day when people earned doctorates in theology without even reading the Bible. Luther knew so much of the Bible from memory that when the Lord opened his eyes to see the truth of justification in Romans 17 he said, “Thereupon I ran through the Scriptures from memory,” affirming the discovery.
Now I still daily have the Bible in my life, but unfortunately I have stopped memorizing verses of the Bible.
Not all, but some trees, including most oak trees, have deep roots. That’s one reason why the CA Pin Oak thrives in our semi-arid and arid landscape. These deep roots provide life when life is absent on the surface. That’s what the Bible does.
Romans 1:16 adds, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes….
So where can we find both being with other followers of Jesus and 2) being in God’s word?
One place you can find both is here at our Sunday worship gathering.
A 2nd place we have both Word and fellowship in the small groups that meet outside the walls of this church. As of today we only have two groups that meet regularly outside of church to study the Bible and build community. We have the men’s group that meets twice a month on Saturday mornings and a women’s group that meets every Friday morning, but not during the summer.
It is our goal to have dozens of these small groups scattered around the Westside. We envision having dozens of small groups gathering around the Bible and building community. As dozens of groups and hundreds of people do these two things, God will bless those 100’s of people with deep roots, which are the foundation of a flourishing life.
Now I know that for many people in a Lutheran church, this is not how you’ve lived your faith. Small groups are not a part of how you do your faith. The conclusion, “That’s not me and that’s not a part of my faith.”
Let me ask you this. Think of something in your life that is very important, something other than church. Perhaps it’s your role as a mom or dad, maybe being a grandparent, maybe you love sailing or surfing or maybe it’s some aspect of your job. If you had the opportunity to strengthen that area, to improve your ability in that area, would you do it? For most of us, the answer is yes, I would do it. Even though it meant I would change something, I would do it because I love that area of life and I want to see it stronger.
Adding to your life regular participation in a small group is that. It will deepen your life roots and help to know God’s provision and abundance as with other people you gather around God’s word.
There is something else that may happen as you gather with others around the root-deepening Bible. You may learn, for the first time in your life who Jesus really and truly is. Every tree that has deep roots has a tap root. That is the main root that goes straight down and deep in to the earth searching for life-giving water.
The tap root of life that God seeks to give us is faith in who Jesus is and what Jesus did. Romans 3:22-25 tell us this about Jesus, …righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The life that God desires to give us that is filled with his abundance and life is one of faith in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It is a life that lives by faith in this simple yet foundational truth that life, forgiveness and God’s abundance comes as a gift from him through faith.