We all have lots of ways of communicating with the people we love. I have two daughters whom I love very much. When we are apart we speak on the phone, we text, we email. When we are together we talk and talk. When we meet we have big hugs. I like to cook them the things they really like. My daughter Lucia adores apple crumble. We give each other presents. We probably communicate too through a myriad of different facial expressions and body language.
God is our Father. He loves us. He too communicates with us in a myriad of different ways.
- He speaks through the beauty of the creation.
- He speaks to us through his words in the bible.
- He shows us his love when we experience his presence.
- We hear his still small voice in our hearts when he speaks through the Holy Spirit.
- He speaks to us sometimes through the words of other people
- Sometimes through circumstances
- Above all he has spoken to us through his Son Jesus.
This morning, as we look at Psalm 19, I would like us to focus on the two ways that the psalmist hears God speak to him: through the beauty of the creation and through God’s words to us in the scriptures.
- Let’s look first at the creation. The psalmist says this in verses 1-4:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the ancient world, many people worshipped the sun and the stars. Others thought that their destinies were controlled by the movement of the stars. But as the psalmist looked up, the sun, moon and stars spoke to him of the glory of their creator.
There is something about the beauty of the creation that speaks to us of God. As I walk around our lovely valley, as I see the sparkling water in river, as I see the deep red sunsets, the autumn colour of the leaves-all these things speak to me of God.
The apostle Paul says in his letter to the Romans in Ch. I.20
‘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…’
God speaks to us through the creation. We can know something of his power. Something of his character. His invisible qualities.
God speaks. Our part is to respond. To thank God for all this beauty and to give him praise.
- But God has spoken more fully to us through his words in the bible.
The psalmist delights in God’s words in the scriptures. He says in verse 10
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
As the psalmist hears God speak to him though the words of scripture, God’s words are precious to him, they are sweet.
As he describes the qualities, his words tumble over each other. He says God’s words:
- Revive the soul v7
- They are trust worthy
- They give joy to our hearts v8
- They guide us by giving light to our eyes
We can read the bible as a sort of rule book. We can interpret it to say, ‘This is a good thing to do. That is a bad thing to do.’ We can construct a code of conduct by which we judge other people and feel judged ourselves.
The psalmist knew that the scriptures are so much more than that. He knew that he came to the scriptures to meet with a God who loved him.
On Tuesday evening, I met with a young woman (who does not live in our parish and is not part of our community). She was in agony as her two young children have been taken away from her. A court order has been put in place which allows her to see them three times a week under supervision. She is struggling to understand how God can allow such a bad thing to happen to her.
We are all born into the middle of a drama. We see glimpses of love, of beauty, of joy. But we also see and experience heartbreak, evil, disloyalty, pain. How do we make sense of it all?
The bible is essentially a love story and we are caught up in the middle of it. Right at the beginning of the bible, in the first three chapters of Genesis, we see that men and women were made for a close and intimate relationship with God and with each other. That is what the story of Adam and Eve is about. But we also see evil enter the world. We see men and women choosing to live independently of God. The whole of the rest of the bible is essentially the story of God seeking to restore that relationship. First through the nation of Israel that was meant to show all the nations what it was like to be in a relationship with a loving God. Then when Israel failed in her calling, we see Jesus being born as a human being and coming to search for us.
Alex spoke last week of the bible being like a library of books. It has history books, wisdom literature, poetry, biographies (the gospels), letters, and the images and pictures in the apocalyptic books. All of them are written by human authors at a particular time and into a particular culture. But behind each human author is the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
An essential ingredient of growing in our own relationship with God and understanding the drama of life that we are caught up in, is listening to God’s word to us in the scriptures.
- It’s good to set aside a particular time to read the bible each day. Something that fits in with your daily routine. Some one who is commuting into London each day might be able to read the bible on the train. If you are a mother with a young baby your routine is going to be totally different.
- Somebody once said to me, ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’. It’s the same with the bible. Don’t set yourself impossible targets that you can’t keep up.
- If you are just beginning, start with the gospels. It’s always good to use a bible reading plan and some bible notes to help you. Alex recommended some last week which are on the website.
- Use a good translation. NIV or NRSV
- Expect God to speak to you
- Reading the bible is not just about head knowledge. It’s about meeting with a God who loves us and expecting him to speak into our lives.
- Ask the question: How does this apply to me?
I spoke a few weeks ago on the Great Commission of Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel. Jesus has commissioned us and all his disciples to share with people who don’t yet know him the good news of the gospel. The good news that everybody is invited into a relationship with God through Jesus.
In response to this, each church in our diocese has been asked to produce a Mission Action Plan called a pMAP. This local church plan-this pMAP-essentially looks at the steps we will take over the next three years.
The first diocesan priority in this plan calls us to invest in our own discipleship so that our faith grows and is strengthened.
As part of this, in the spring we would like to run a discipleship course to help us deepen and grow in our faith. I hope as many people as possible in our church will join in with this.
In our gospel reading, in Luke 2, we see the young Jesus in the temple, asking questions of the teachers of the law. All of us have questions when we read the bible. It’s good to be able to discuss them. As part of our Mission Action Plan, later next year, we would like to begin small discipleship groups where a group of up to twelve people meet regularly for prayer, bible study, friendship and support. They will give us an opportunity to study the bible together and discuss how God’s word applies to our lives.
God loves each one of us. His desire as our Father is to draw us closer to him. One of the ways we can respond to our Heavenly Father is to sit at his feet and listen to him speak to us through his words in the scriptures. My prayer for us as a church is that as we choose to do this, we will grow closer to God and put down deep roots of faith.