Pastor Jim Abernathy’s newsletter writings have been reposted here on several occasions. I love Jim’s pastor’s heart and his ability to speak wisdom into my soul. Here is an article that just arrived and which I can certainly use right now. Perhaps it is a message you can use too. RMF
Pastor Jim Abernathy
I have been reading the fortieth Psalm this week. It’s a practice I observe from time to time of reading a text multiple times through the week, allowing it to speak to me over a period of time. I find in this practice that certain parts of the text speak to me in certain moments, finding broader application in the changing scenes of my life. I also read the text from different translations and in doing so, become more open to the different layers of the text.
Psalm 40 is a Psalm of patience and trust, confession and redemption. “I waited patiently for the Lord,” the NRSV translation begins, “He inclined to me and heard my cry.” “Happy are those who make the Lord their trust,” verse four affirms. Patience and trust…are there two more difficult concepts to embrace in our contemporary world? We used to describe a person of privilege as “wanting for nothing,” but today, our privilege might best be described as “waiting for nothing.” We find little satisfaction in the process, rushing too quickly at times to achieve the desired outcome. It is somewhat like that eighth grade algebra book I used that included chapter after chapter of algebraic problems, followed in the back of the book by the listing of answers to each problem. It was easy to find the desired outcome; more difficult to understand the process in getting to that outcome.
Waiting upon the Lord is a process of time and trust. Not only are we made uncomfortable by waiting, but our patience is sorely tested by the uncertainty of life events that call into question the ideals of faith and family, even government, that seem to be the foundations of hopeful living. Questions of why are often offered in the aftermath of what we do not understand. Relationships that begin in pure and passionate love find pathways at times too bumpy to traverse. Have you been watching the political ads on television this election season? If you believe what each side says about the other, no candidate is worthy of election! From Ottawa to Syria to West Africa to Charlottesville, unspeakable, sometimes unexplainable tragedy captures our thoughts and troubles our hearts. Patience and trust are often victims in so demanding and dangerous a world.
“Evils have encompassed me without number,” verse twelve begins. “My iniquities have overtaken me and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails me.” The Message translates the last part of verse twelve, “More guilt in my heart than hair on my head.” He is speaking to me…but also to you. Confession is recognition that gives voice to the need of the human heart for redemption. In The Message, the Psalmist’s recognition of the source of his redemption is quite clear, beginning in verse two, acknowledging that God has seen and heard his cry for help; “He lifted me from the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me on a solid rock so my foot would not slip.” Confession and redemption are voiced in his conclusion in verse seventeen, “And me? I’m a mess, I’m nothing and have nothing: make something of me.” Here is the hope of redemption, that God can make something of me…of you.
That is the redeeming hope Jesus offered when he said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.“(John 10:10b, KJV) From the Psalms to the Gospels, from Genesis to Revelation we see the story of patience, trust, confession, and redemption told and retold with the hopeful theme…that God can make something of me. That is a message worth reading, hearing, and sharing again and again and again…..