Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord, for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord.

For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138

Again and again, throughout the Bible, we are reminded of the upside down nature of the kingdom of God. “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” Why is that?

Why does God regard the lowly and yet perceives from far away the haughty?

Could it be as simple as this: The lowly, the humble, realize that they are not God, and realize that they need God while the haughty, the proud, are just fine doing their own thing with nary a thought about what God wants?

And then what do we do: We read about the lowly and the haughty, or the sheep and the goats, or the weeds and the wheat, and we immediately judge in our own hearts which team we play on. We usually put ourselves on top. We get it better than anyone else. We categorize and demonize and then go to the mirror to see who is the fairest one of all.

The deeper truth is that we all have a little bit of both in us. Our hope lies in which wolf we feed, in how open we are to the guidance of the Spirit.

I was writing last Sunday’s sermon when it occurred to me that my prayer life is a really great barometer on the degree to which I am doing my own thing in life or relying on God for guidance, direction, and strength. On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul. Do you see the same in your life? Do you realize that is how God has wired us?

Down through the ages, the Christian church has been criticized for having an edifice complex. For being all about the building. At its best, caring about the spaces in which we worship is tied to “I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness…” At its worst, it is simple earthly “our church building is better than yours.” It is a fine line and a spiritually dangerous game.

But I appreciate church buildings. I live in Houston. I like air conditioning. But what I really appreciate is that buildings don’t move. The Bible says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, wherever we go, God is there. But buildings stay in one place. What I appreciate about that is knowing that, whenever God seems far away, it is clear that God is not the one who has moved. So it is that the haughty God perceives from far away.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we constantly face the temptation to be gods unto ourselves, to do our own thing, to consider only what is in it for us. Yet you have shaped us to rely on you, to turn to you, to surrender to you, to trust in you, to lean not unto our own understanding. Fill us with the grace to be real, to be honest, to be humble, to be who and what you created us to be, that we might do our part in our little corners of the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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