“My Light and My Salvation”
a message by Dr. Bruce Havens
based on the theme: “Lent – a Journey of Hope, Faith, and Love”
Arlington Congregational Church, U.C.C.
March 17, 2019
1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear;
though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
4One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.
6Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
8“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
10If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
11Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Kat’s story invites us to realize that anyone can face the difficulty of being treated unfairly. Anyone can be in a situation that feels unjust, where someone in power treats us as less of a person. But she also has seen how acting on the goodness of God, showing that goodness to someone else can change a life, can lift a spirit. Her two stories lift up the injustice of bullying by someone in power and the power of showing God’s love to someone can give them hope for the journey, to know the light of God’s love that is greater than the shadow of a bully’s power.
Who hasn’t had a time in life where fear cast a shadow over them? Who hasn’t faced adversaries in life? It might have been adversaries in the form of a schoolyard bully or a work “frenemy.” It might have been a difficult situation with family or an illness. Adversaries come in many forms and some are formless but just as frightening. No one is immune from the challenges of life.
Faith that is worth having, should give us strength to face these challenges. It should give us hope that we will overcome, and it should help us find the love of God to be with us through those times when our adversaries seem more powerful than we are. These include very personal, spiritual challenges but they also include challenges that are caused by injustices that can be perpetrated by individuals and by systems that have been turned from their Godly purpose to benefit all of God’s people to the profit, privilege, and power of a few. Here is where Kat’s story is important. While one person’s difficulties or challenges are no more or no less important than anyone else’s, anyone can be a victim of the abuse of power when someone stereotypes someone else. Kat’s experience is a powerful reminder that even someone like her, who some would think has every advantage, can still be treated unjustly, can be stereotyped and treated as someone of lesser value.
The other reminder in her story is the way her faith gave her strength to face that difficulty and still hear God’s call to do good to others. Her work to bless someone who suffered the injustice of bullying reminds us that mercy and justice walk hand in hand. Our faith calls us to believe and act with love and compassion for someone who is treated unfairly even if they aren’t the same race, religion, socio-economic status, or any of the other human built walls that separate us from one another. Kat’s actions and those of her sorority sisters will change that young girl’s life because she will remember that someone cared enough to care and to act and that may give her the strength to do the same for someone else in the future.
In the Psalm this morning we hear the inner conversation of the writer. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” The writer – perhaps King David himself – says he has faced “evildoers [who] assail [him] to devour his flesh!” That’s frightening! Even if “an army encamps against” him or “war rises up against” him he says, “Yet I will be confident!” That is a powerful faith in a God who his “light and [his] salvation.” He says even if his own family – his father and mother – “forsake” him “the Lord will take him up.”
Wherever our journey of life takes us, whatever adversaries or enemies we face we need to be able to find hope, know God’s love, and have faith that God will deliver us. I think the Psalm writer’s words can help us face whatever life brings without worrying about the outcome.
Rev. Matt Fitzgerald, [ “Start Early,” SSD, ucc.org, Dec 4, 2018 ], in a StillSpeaking Devotional tells of a member of his church who “lost her husband to brain cancer two years ago. He died way too young.” He said she has had a “rough go” of it but “she got up off the mat, felt her feet beneath her, found her sparkling self again. Then she was diagnosed with lymphoma.
He says he went to see her in the hospital and she told him something he has had others tell him as well. “Her husband came back to her. She heard him speaking.” Rev. Fitzgerald says this happens more than you might think. He has “dreamed of [his] dead father for decades, heard his voice in silent moments.”
The woman with lymphoma said “Her husband didn’t waste words.” He said to her, “‘You worry all the time. About the girls. About work. It stands out because there is no worry here. You’ll see. When you’re with God you don’t have to worry. So why worry now? Don’t wait to get here. Start early.’”
Wow! What great advice! But even Rev. Fitzgerald admits, “Like much good advice, it might be impossible to follow. It is hard to live in paradise down here on earth, especially when you’re facing chemo. And yet, she found deep comfort in his words.” Rev. Fitzgerald says he did too, and to tell you the truth, so did I. Rev. Fitzgerald adds, “We have much to be anxious about, but we know how the story ends. We know how our story ends. It ends with a beautiful beginning, a realm where all tears are dried and mourning is no more.” Then he adds this final advice for us: “You can wait until the moment that you die to let that truth change you, or you can start early. Why not start early? It may not erase all your fear, but it won’t hurt to try.”
We don’t have to wait until we die to let go of worry and anxiety, to find strength and courage beyond ourselves. “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” the Psalm writer proclaims. His own heart reminds him saying, “Come seek God’s face,” in the midst of life and he proclaims, “I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” These are the reasons we can take this journey of life and know that hope, faith, and love will bring us through.
This Psalm is the most powerful proclamation, maybe in all of Scripture of God’s everlasting, never-ending, love and the promise of God to overcome all things that beset and besiege us. We can also remember that Jesus put it this simply – “Behold, I have overcome the world!” and he did it on our behalf. He says, “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world [ John 16:33 ]!
Maybe you can’t believe that fully. Believe it enough to take the next step in your journey and then the next and the next. Maybe you want to but some things in your past have left you limping on this journey of life. But take heart – you are still moving forward. Whatever left you limping wasn’t as powerful as the love that God has for you. Whatever injustices we face, God will give us the power to overcome. This is the faith that God gives, our hope is in the God who has declared he is for us, on our side, and the love that God offers that can make our journey one of light and salvation. AMEN.