Sermon Easter 7B – ‘Blessed is the man…’

May 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

The first of the one-hundred-fifty Psalms is brief and memorable,
with its wonderful imagery of a fruit tree planted by a running stream,
its ever-stretched-out leaves bathing in sunlight,
its roots drinking deeply of clean flowing water,
blossoming with flowers which give forth a healthy scent,
laden with fruit sweet to to the taste.
How different from the useless chaff that grows,
which uses up the precious soil,
but is blown away by the windstorm.
And it’s not just the chaff that’s blown away, either,
but sometimes what seems to be sturdiest and most permanent.

We had three very large trees in the backyard
of the house where we’ve lived for nearly ten years.
I say ‘had,’ because there are only two large trees there now.
The third tree stood outside our kitchen window.
One spring, a nor’easter blew through the Susquehanna Valley,
and this tall tree, solid as could be,
snapped near its base,
crashing into our neighbor’s house.
No one was hurt.
The trunk of the tree had been hollowed out over the years,
and all it took was that one gust of wind
to reveal the emptiness inside.

Psalm 1 exhorts us to fill ourselves with God,
to drink deeply of His Word,
to take delight in him and him alone,
that we might be alive, solid and yet supple,
to be able to resist the storms which will undoubtedly come.
But there is also another way to read the first of the Psalms –
and that is not as an exhortation to holy living
but as a description of the One who is holy.

Our translation of the Psalm reads ‘Blessed are they,’
but the original would read ‘Blessed is the man.’
We understand that there are men and women in worship today,
that both men and women are called to the holy life.
But when we read ‘Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked,
nor lingers in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seats of the scornful;
but his delight is in the Law of the Lord,
and on his Law he meditates day and night,’
we do not simply think of any person,
we think of a certain person.
the One who became man for our sake.

The early Church, in the light of Jesus’ resurrection,
began to read their Bible with him in mind.
That is to say that the disciples, all Jewish at that time,
steeped in the Old Testament,
who had indeed meditated on God’s Law day and night,
began to see Jesus, in the light of his resurrection,
in every story, in every Psalm, on every page.
And in this first Psalm,
can we not see the Righteous One, who knows no sin
and whose only delight is to know and do his Father’s will?
Instead of hearing the Psalm as just instruction to us, ‘be this, not that,’
we hear the Psalm and behold the One who became our righteousness.
We indeed have walked in the counsel of the wicked
and lingered in the way of sinners and sat in the seats of the scornful,
and yet we through grace are made part of the body of Christ,
grafted onto him and made branches of his vine.

Alone, we are exposed,
in him, we are sheltered.
Alone, the storms of sin, evil and death will break us,
in him, we endure them, but withstand them.
Alone, we are turned in all directions,
in him, we have place and purpose.
The life that he has with his Father now flows to us,
and we are one with all who are joined with him,
all who in the waters of Baptism have been joined to him in his death and resurrection,
and whose lives flow from him..

‘Blessed is the man.’
When we say this Psalm in this way,
we’re not reminding ourselves to not be around the wicked,
and instead to delight in the law of the Lord,
we’re praising the blessed One who did that for us,
and who blesses us with a share in his eternal life.
And you known, if we’re blessing Jesus Christ,
the wicked, the scornful, and the sinners
aren’t going to want to be around us anyway.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Blessed is he who was born for us, who was baptized for us,
who died and was raised for us,
who lived our life so that we might live his.
Blessed be Jesus Christ, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
both now and forever.

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