Homily – Sunday, the 25th September 2022
Reading: Psalm 91:14-16
14 Because they have set their love upon me,
therefore will I deliver them;
I will lift them up, because they know my name.
15 They will call upon me and I will answer them;
I am with them in trouble,
I will deliver them and bring them to honour.
16 With long life will I satisfy them
and show them my salvation.
If someone asks us- Do you love God? What would be our response. I am reminded again of the Saint who said it was in the beginning 100 % me and 0% God, then came a phase where it was 50:50 and the goal is to reach where Paul did- No longer I but Christ
The love of God is practically made manifest in the love to each other. John in his epistle makes it clear- if you say that you love God and loves not your neighbour whom you can see you are a liar. 1 John 4:20 claims that it is an impossible proposition.
Where there is genuine love, there is the longing for each other, there is a sense of possessiveness and protectiveness, there is a sense of sacrifice and a willingness of adventure.
Love can be like wine. If you take care of it -the way you should- the strength increases by the day, but if you are lax there is every possibility that the wine become not palatable.
Love therefore is a complex emotion- it comes as a package.
The Context of Psalm 91 and the context of today
Psalm 91 does not have a title that tells us who the author was. Scholars therefore have suggested a range of possibilities from Moses to David and beyond. However, it is one of the most profound Psalms that depicts the love of God and what it entails.
The Psalmist begins by mentioning the bliss of dwelling in the secret place of the Most High, abiding under the shadow of the Almighty and trusting in God as refuge and fortress and the last three verses tells us what the package of love includes.
One of the best things about love is that you enjoy each other’s presence a lot. You love secret places and shadows, and you are sure the other is your rock and your refuge.
What does the package of love include?
The Assurance of Deliverance
The Psalmist points out at least seven of the crevices/ pitfalls that await the sojourner.
- Snares of the Fowler– the one who is secretive, enticing is always on the prowl. The fowler takes different forms today. It entices people away from fullness of life and the joy of love. What are the traps to which people fall into where given a choice between love and the alternative people discard love. It could be the enticement of Power, Prosperity, Passions or Possessions. It could be the sense of losing the first love. It could be money or mammon. It could be something else or somebody else. It could be the deep abysses that develops between people which becomes more unsurmountable each day. Yes traps around us are umpteen.
- Deadly Pestilence. Having gone through a Pandemic we know what devastation it can bring. It takes away lives and affects fullness of life of those left behind. It could bring economic catastrophise. The emotional baggage it can leave cannot easily be got rid of. It dislocate and dislodge people. Millions became drop outs, millions lost their jobs. Business collapsed, economies tumbled. Support systems to the marginalised and the disabled suffered a set back. Yes the epidemic was deadly though we are trying to wriggle our way out.
- The terror of Night. Imagine the people who have been living under the sound of missiles and blasts for over six months now. Imagine the terror when we discuss an impending nuclear attack- albeit in words. Imagine the climate crisis that we are staring at. Imagine people who see human audacity of making dams and then bombing it down on inhabited spaces. Imagine young children living in the fear that they would not see their parents or home again. Imagine young people being trafficked and the fear that grips their eyes. The terror of the night continue to take fresh forms each day/
- The Arrows of the Day– If the arrow was the weapon of the warrior and the archer those days what would be its equivalent today? Imagine the new forms of armoury we have today including chemical and biological weaponry. Wars are no longer fought face to face. They are clandestine deals made in economics chambers where regimes become mere puppets. Arrows take forms of Artificial Intelligence tools, they take digital forms and invade private spaces through the dark web, they take the form of drugs and indoctrination leading to violence. The arrows that fly around the day are managed by robotics and targeted on the yet to be born genetic manipulations. The challenge is beyond what we can imagine.
- Destruction of the noon time. It was on September 25, 1513 that Vasco Nunez de Balbova became the first European to officially cite the Pacific Ocean standing on the Isthmus of Panama. What followed in the name of colonialisation can be summarised in one phrase – destruction at noon time. It was on this day in 2011 we lost Wangari Mathai the Kenyan environmental activist the first Black African Woman to win a Nobel Prize (2004 for Peace). For a generation Climate crisis was seen as peace and survival issue and we looked at the word destruction through fresh eyes flabbergasted at how the world of the next generations was being looted and destroyed. It was on this day in 1970 the Black September hostilities came to a temporary halt but the destruction in the middle east still continues. It was on this day in 1777 that Philadelphia the then American capital was occupied by the British forces during the American revolution. Destruction because of invasion is still the order of the day.
- The gripping fears. Beyond the terror of night there is inexplicable fear around us. Fear of the economy, fear of the energy crisis, fear of the future. What we call today in counselling parlour- anticipatory anxiety. Fear that arises of prophetic anticipation of what is in store. The greatest fears today is the fear of uncertainty, the fear that something bad is going to happen and the fear of the loss of freedom.
- The Troubles of Life. Each indiscriminate act we see around today is compounding the troubles of people. It adds to poverty and hunger, alienates people from basic education, leads to food and water scarcity, adds to urban poverty and disorienting of rural life systems. People live in the cusp of loneliness, rejection and emotional turmoil.
In a context like this what does the Lord assure us? What is the joy for those who love the Lord
The Assurance of the Psalmist is a God who is able to carry us through and deliver us.
The Assurance of Lifting Up
When troubles bog us down it is natural we feel lost, disoriented and down. All of us need a lifting up at some points in life when we are laid low or feel down and out.
It could happen also because we feel let down by people whom we trusted and with whom we trusted our lives.
The Psalmist not only assured that the Lord would be the shield and buckler but also assured that in case we fall or rather whenever we fall, the Lord will lift us up.
This also should percolate in our lives as children of God.
Being handsome is good but giving a hand to some who needs that badly is better.
We rise by lifting others
When we feel that we are drowning one of the strongest assurances we have had is this- Don’t worry- your life-guard can walk in the water and can lift you up with a smile- Why did you doubt?
The Assurance of a Conversation
They will call upon me and I will answer them.
Loneliness is one of the Hallmarks of the present world. Alone in a crowd, carried away by the mirage of virtual realities.
Several people say, All I ever wanted was to reach out to another human being, not just with the hands but the heart.
Mother Teresa- once noted that the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved
One in three of the mental health crises today account to loneliness but many of them admit that they are shy or ashamed to tell out that loneliness is bothering them.
People need conversations. A precious relationship with God is where you speak and God listens. Prayer is not only about talking to God, it is also listening to God. It is enjoying being in secret chambers with the Lord. The sheer bliss of being with the Most High- the El Elyon.
The Assurance of Companionship
specially in times of trouble.
The greatest support we could ever imagine when we go through troubles and turbulent waters is to have a companion.
Have your ever imagined when does a mother bird cover her children under her wings- it is mostly when she perceives that the children are in trouble.
That is the promise of the Lord that the Psalmist affirm- I will cover them under my wings.
Hardships are part and parcel of life.
CS Lewis once remarked- Hardships prepare ordinary people for extra ordinary commissioning
It was Confucius who said- Our greatest glory is not in never falling over but in rising up every time we fall
Every experience, no matter how hard it is, holds within in it a blessing. A close walk with God helps you decipher that blessing.
Sylvia Plath is right when she says- O how we need another soul to cling to
No person can be called friendless- says Elizabeth Barret Browning- if you can connect with God and has the company of good books
Having someone who would wonder where you are is a very old human need. Or is it? All of us would love to have a bosom to go to when we need that presence most. The fact however remains several of us do not have one and the Lord offers to fill that vacuum.
The Assurance of bringing honour
Sometimes as you lower your head in anxiety the promise of the Lord cannot be more comforting that the assurance of Guardian Angels to Guard over you- He shall give his angels charge over you to keep you I all your ways, Even when you tread upon the lion and the cobra the angels will protect you.
Having fallen into deep abysses it is always reassuring to know that God will send guardian angels to protect you first and then rescue you. One day you will rescue others in return and your stories will rescue many more. You should only know you are part of something greater than what you can comprehend (Shannon Alder)
Billy Graham said- Being sure that there is a guardian angel for each of us is a good assurance.
Assured of having the guardian angel invariably brings you to honour.
The Assurance of Satisfaction
with long life
There is a strange comfort in knowing that no matter what happens today, the sun will rise again tomorrow so why fret and worry over things you cannot change.
Satisfaction is a divine gift. Only those who see divine choreography in every act of ones life would be able to find satisfaction that the Lord offers.
Here is more about gifting them fullness of life. It is not just the quantity of life but also quality of life.
Remember what Khalil Gibran says Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.
The assurance of Salvation
the Lord as a refuge and dwelling place
Salvation has three dimensions- one from the burdens of the past. Two, from the traps of the present, Three towards a peaceful tomorrow.
The assurance of salvation helps us to lay aside the burdens of the past, lay on him the burdens of the present and hope for a future not bogged down by burdens to carry.
And the question ultimately is do we love God. If yes Loves comes as a package and is always reflected in and through our lives
25th September 2022