The One-Stop Shop
Grace United Methodist Church
November 21, 2010
Psalm 119: 97-105
Oh, how I love your law!
I meditate on it all day long.
98 Your commands are always with me
and make me wiser than my enemies.
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes.
100 I have more understanding than the elders,
for I obey your precepts.
101 I have kept my feet from every evil path
so that I might obey your word.
102 I have not departed from your laws,
for you yourself have taught me.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 I gain understanding from your precepts;
therefore I hate every wrong path.
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path.
Now, you may all have a seat, but before you close your Bibles, I want you to turn back one chapter to Psalm 118 for a bit of Bible trivia. Today we are celebrating the Word of God as contained in the Bible by presenting our children with their very own Bible. Now, I don’t know about you folks, but I remember when I got my first Bible from my church as a third grader, one of the first things our Sunday School teachers taught us was that Psalms was in the middle of the Bible. Did you all learn this same lesson? They told us that if we would take our thumbs, put them on either edge of our Bible like this (demonstrate), and then bring them steadily together toward the middle, that where they met, if we opened up our Bible, we would be in the book of Psalms. And as a child, every time I did that with my new Bible, I opened up to the book of Psalms! Now that doesn’t work on every Bible because of commentaries, notes, and various things like that, but it is no less true that the book of Psalms is the middle book of the Bible.
A few years ago, my grandmother gave me a piece of paper that had printed on it some facts that have always fascinated me. Since she gave it to me, I have always kept it with my Study Bible. Here’s what the paper said:
Psalm 118 is the middle chapter of the entire Bible. Psalm 117, which of course immediately precedes Psalm 118 is the shortest chapter in the Bible, only two verses. Psalm 119, following Psalm 118 (and the Psalm we heard from this morning), is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. The Bible has 594 chapters before Psalm 118 and 594 chapters after Psalm 118. If you add up all the chapters except Psalm 118, you get a total of 1188 chapters. 1188 or Psalm 118 verse 8 is the middle verse of the entire Bible! Should the central verse not have a fairly important message? Here’s what is says: “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.” Is this central verse not also the central theme of the entire Bible?
Indeed, this is a truly amazing book in so many ways! The Bible is the Word of God that shares with us the story of God’s relationship with his creation, and especially all of us. As our reading from Psalm 119 this morning tells us, in the Word of God we find valuable teachings that give us understanding and the guidance we need to follow God’s ways and avoid every evil. In the Bible, we have the Gospel story of Jesus Christ, the story of our salvation and our hope, the story that lights the darkest places of this world. The Psalmist said it well, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.”
The person who wrote these words was undoubtedly in love with God’s revelation, God’s Word. We clearly see the happiness of a person who is in love with the one who truly offers life. And think of the same happiness we feel when we open up the Bible and read God’s Word! Just imagine how happy we might be if we were to meditate on it all day long, as the Psalmist suggests! Perhaps to some that sounds like boring drudgery, but we must remember this about God’s Word; whenever we open the Bible to read it, the Holy Spirit is there with us, opening our eyes and inspiring our reading, bringing us a new and fresh message about God and God’s love for us all!
Some of you probably remember a few weeks ago when I was reading our Scripture lesson, the story of Zacchaeus, and I finished only to tell you that I had just gotten a new inspiration, that if I had it to do over again, I would write a different sermon. The Bible is like that. And to me, that’s one of the most amazing things about God’s Word; its living and breathing! We could read a verse a hundred times and every time we would come away with a new meaning or insight, a new understanding inspired by the Holy Spirit. This is the Word that reveals God’s very self and God’s guide to life, the “light” of the world! And it is available to each of us, whether we are still exploring Christianity, whether we are new to the faith, or whether we have been Christians for even longer than we can remember.
A few years ago on the radio program “For Faith and Family”, pollster George Barna discussed the significant influence of music on culture. He said, “Music is really interesting because essentially it is the language of our culture. If you need an example of how that works just think about churches. Even in churches this is true,” he says. “What is the biggest war we have in churches? It doesn’t tend to be theological. It tends to be over what style of music you’re going to use in the worship service. We’ve had all kinds of fights, but in the church, music is the way we suggest to somebody, ‘Hey, I understand where you’re coming from. I speak your language.’ For so many, music is the feel; it is the sound that constitutes who you are and what you’re about.”
Barna goes on to say, “One of the ways I would describe music is every generation has to have its own private language that people over 30 can’t penetrate…They have icons within the musical culture that we don’t understand – many of whom we don’t appreciate – but they’re important toevery young generation because it helps them to develop a life philosophy. And many of these musical icons [for good or for bad] become role models for the young people. It helps them to identify some of their values and lifestyles. And, it also helps develop a sense of community among themselves. So music is hugely important.”
The thing about the Bible is that it’s hugely important too. And, because it is God’s Word, like music, the Bible gives each of us a language, a way that we can communicate with and understand God more fully. And even when delve into the Bible and come away with a new understanding, that is God at work in our lives. Maybe what you understand out of the Bible is different in some ways from what I understand, but it is the language that God gives to us through the Holy Spirit to help us come into God’s presence. The Bible helps us develop a life philosophy; it helps us identify some of the values and lifestyles that are important to God. And when we begin to study the Bible in such a way that we are able to glean these kinds of things from God’s word, I do believe that we will find what the Psalmist says to be true. We will learn, we will understand, we will be able to walk the path that avoids every evil and leads to life.
During Superbowl XXXVII (37), several years ago, FedEx ran a commercial that spoofed the movie Castaway. As you all remember, in Castaway Tom Hanks played a FedEx worker whose company plane went down, stranding him on a deserted island for years. Looking like the bedraggled Hanks in the movie, the FedEx employee in the commercial goes up to the door of a suburban home, package in hand. When the lady comes to the door, he explains that he survived five years on a deserted island, and during that whole time he kept this package in order to deliver it to her. She gives a simple, “Thank you.”
But he is curious about what is in the package that he has been protecting for years. He says, “If I may ask, what was in that package after all?”
She opens it and shows him the contents, saying, “Oh, nothing really, just a satellite telephone, a global positioning device, a compass, a water purifier, and some seeds.”
Like the contents in that package, the resources for growth and strength are available for every Christian who opens the Bible. That is what we celebrate today. We celebrate the life-giving Word of God. And as a church, the Body of Christ, committed to raising up our young in the faith, today we give this gift to them. So to those of you who received this gift today, I say this. Use that Bible. Read it everyday, you will always find something new, I promise. Wear it out, take notes in it. You can’t use your Bible too much. And if you do wear it out, we can always get you another one. I had a friend whose goal was to have a well-worn Bible. I think that’s a pretty cool goal; not because a well-worn Bible looks good, but because think about how your relationship with God in Jesus Christ will grow as you wear out those Bibles!
On the day I was confirmed and became a full member of the Church, my grandparents gave me this Youth Bible. When my Mom saw that it was a paperback Bible, she wrapped it in contact paper, and it’s a good thing she did too because if she hadn’t it would’ve fallen into a million pieces. Now it holds things that mean a lot to me; some letters, a couple of old sermons, and things like that. But I used that Bible all the time as I was growing up. I still use it even sometimes now. It has several devotions with scripture references on various topics, and every time I was struggling with something I would start there: peer pressure, happiness, friends, creation, doubt, faith, family, popularity, school – no matter what we may be struggling with, the Bible has an answer for us. It is truly a “one-stop shop!” Don’t be afraid to start there when you need an answer. These are the Words of Life!
The Bible is more than just a book, this is the Word of God. For each of us, that may mean different things. For me, the Bible is the word of hope in a seemingly hopeless world. For me, the Bible is a challenge to follow in Christ’s footsteps and to serve him through my life. For you, the Bible may be most importantly the word of salvation or the word of life. It may be the word of promise or the word of love. But it is nothing if we do not use it. We all have been given a wonderful gift, an amazing and powerful way to draw into God’s very presence. But if we want to experience that gift, we have to use this one!