11 November 2012
Wow! There is light at the end of the tunnel. After this section of Psalm 119 there are only two left. We started talking our way through this Psalm, with several significant interruptions, on September 25, 2011.
And by now you have figured out that there is a lot of repetition. Like the challenges the psalmist is encountering the psalm itself goes on and on. In addition to the acrostic system the stanzas usually follow a similar pattern -- especially the further into it we go.
“My life is miserable because of enemies who do not care about God and his Word. But I am faithfully obedient to God’s glorious Word. It’s the only stable thing in my life. Thus, God in keeping with your Word you should rescue me.”Concisely that’s it. There are variations but that’s it.
This morning I want us to focus on one particular phrase. You have already heard it several times in different forms but for today I want us to hear again it in a fresh way -- the second half of verse 154 -- “Make me live again by your word.”
According to the psalmist -- God’s Word restores life. That, by the way, is the key point this morning -- God’s Word restores life.
“Make me live again by your word.”
How so? Well that’s what I want to unpack this morning -- and I want to use three different metaphors to look at the richness of this sentence. The first metaphor is CPR. Who can tell us what CPR stands for? How many of you are certified in CPR? How many of you can actually remember the ratio of breaths to chest compressions that they taught you?
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. If someone’s heart has stopped because of an electrical shock or heart attack you can attempt to get it going again manually.
I need a volunteer for a demonstration. [Demonstrate CPR.]
The current thinking is that hands-only CPR works as well as trying to alternate between pumping and breathing. That is, if there is only one rescuer. And you do the compressions at about 100 per minute -- which is about what the song Stayin Alive is.
The point is that there are times when “Make me live again by your word” is our cry for emergency resuscitation.
We’ve worked ourselves into a spot -- or maybe traumas of life just happen -- we’ve gotten to the point where even though we’re alive -- we’re walking dead -- spiritual zombies.
And we turn to God -- trusting in his promises -- his direction -- his Word -- and call out for rescue -- much as the psalmist did.
A a matter of fact you can even use his words -- “Make me live again by your word.”
In a very real sense CPR is about the timely transfer or use of energy from one person to another. When we read, hear, claim, act on God’s Word we are tapping into the divine energy of God.
So the Word itself is as powerful as God himself. You don’t even have to be a trained expert to use it.
In Matthew 8 a Roman centurion, of all people -- a powerful representative of the evil empire -- the oppressive Roman machine, came to Jesus to ask him to heal his ailing servant. And Jesus offered to go with him to where the servant was suffering.
But the centurion replied, “Lord, I don’t deserve to have you come under my roof. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. 9 I’m a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and the servant does it.”The centurion understood that there is power in the Word because if flows from a powerful person.
If you are suffering -- physically, spiritually, emotionally -- either because you’ve got yourself into hot water or the floods have come after you -- you can look to God’s Word for CPR -- for restoration. For God’s Word restores life in emergencies.
And by God’s Word we’re talking about the written promises, laws, precepts, directions -- all that is contained in scripture. For scripture itself has a healing effect.
But even more so, we are talking about Jesus -- the living breathing Word of God who came into the world to rescue us -- to wrestle us free from the grip of the enemy. That’s Word showing up Code 3 in the incarnation -- that’s the cross -- that’s the resurrection. That’s the Word to which we turn for CPR.
The second metaphor for the Word which makes us alive is the pomegranate. Pomegranates appear on the top of nearly every researcher’s list of what is now being called Superfruits.
These are fruits that are exceptional in nutrient richness and also contain a lot of antioxidants. That is, they have a lot of vitamins and minerals -- and also chemicals known to fight off diseases such as cancer and heart disease -- as well as conditions such as osteoporosis.
Some additional superfruits are: Avocados, blueberries, dragon fruit, cranberries, goji, kiwi, grapes, mangosteens, papayas, pineapples, watermelon, all types of citrus are on the list -- which makes me happy, nonis, bananas, apples, blackberries, seabuckthorns, and even tomatoes.
There are lot more. And the best way to consume superfruits is fresh. However, there appears to be some benefit, albeit lesser, to drinking the fruit juices. And pomegranate juice even beats out red wine to win first place in a list of beverages ranked by antioxidant levels in a UCLA study.
Between you and me -- I think the term superfruit is largely a marketing ploy -- because all fruit is super. As far as I’m concerned there isn’t really a Clark Kent fruit.
Certainly some, such pomegranates, are more super than others -- but you can’t go wrong in a high fruit diet. You’ll stay stronger -- and maybe even live longer. Who knows!
God’s Word is the superfruit that restores life by keeping us healthy. A steady diet of God’s Word builds up the immune system that fights off sin and discouragement and despair.
The psalmist can go on and on about all that troubles him. But he is not swallowed by his troubles because he has been feeding himself a steady diet of God’s Word -- his messages and promises.
So the attacks don’t get to him in the same way as they would others.
A steady diet of superfruits and God’s Word will restore your life. The third metaphor the Word which makes us alive is my bicycle. (Wheel it out.) Now, you’re probably thinking that I’m going to say something about the benefits of exercise -- and I’m sure that there are many.
But I don’t really ride my bike around Laveen because I’m looking for exercise. I mean, riding the bike is good exercise but that’s not why I ride.
When I meet people in town they will often say, “I’ve seen you riding your bike.”
I ride it a lot -- especially between September and May. I go to the post office, to the grocery store, to Starbucks, to people’s houses. I often have packages strapped to the rack or stuffed in my panniers.
I’m sure it can be a strange sight to people only used to cars. And because I often wear safety green when riding I stand out. Well, at least that’s what I’m hoping to do.
Now, I’m sure that many people think I’m so poor I can’t afford a car or that I had one too many DUIs so I’m stuck riding the bike. All of those are wrong, of course.
The fact is that I ride the bike because I love it. I love the feel of the wind on my face. I love being able to move on my own power -- without gas or electricity. I love it that unlike cars, trucks, or motorcycles, the bike is such a quiet machine. I just glide along.
A year ago Cheryl and I went to visit Kirk when he was working in Amsterdam. Amsterdam is an incredible city of canals and cool old buildings -- and bicycles. Sun, rain, or snow -- there are more people on bikes than in cars. And the thing which amazes me most is how quiet Amsterdam is compared to Phoenix or any other city where we’ve lived.
When most everyone is riding a bike there is so much less road noise. Sometimes you have to make some small noise so that people realize that you’re there [ring the bell].
Amsterdam is a quiet city but very alive. And in many ways quietly pedaling down the street with a little breeze on the face feels alive to me. If I feel stressed or overwhelmed it all evaporates once I get pedaling.
Likewise, when I’m riding God’s Word I feel alive in a way unlike anything else. It’s so encouraging -- so stimulating -- so freeing.
One thing I do is start the morning off with the Moravian Daily Texts for the day. This is the the oldest continuously published devotional book (since 1731) in the world and if I am not mistaken, when you consider all the editions in all 50+ languages, it is the most widely distributed devotional book in the world.
There are two short but highly focused passages for meditation for each day -- something to chew on all day long. And I try to keep them running in the background of my mind all day. And I find that this keeps me focused. I feel more alive -- more excited about the day and more tuned into what God is doing.
Reading the Bible does not usually feel so much like an obligation or a discipline -- although it is that at times. Rather it feels like connecting with an old friend. It feels like the freedom of riding down the mountain from Madera Canyon in southern Arizona -- the warm desert breeze, birds singing. Alive.
God’s Word restores life -- sometimes like CPR during an emergency -- sometimes it’s like the power of superfruit -- and sometimes it just feels like the joy of a winter ride on my bike through the desert.
Renewal, reawakening, restoration -- whatever word you want to use -- “Make me live again by your word.”
This morning I want to invite you to learn CPR, to eat lots of superfruits, and to take a ride on your bike -- or at the very least to let these things remind you of the life -- the deeper life -- the full life -- that is restored through God’s word. “Make me live again by your word.”
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture taken from the Common English Bible®, CEB® Copyright © 2010, 2011 by Common English Bible.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. The "CEB" and "Common English Bible" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Common English Bible. Use of either trademark requires the permission of Common English Bible.