Sermons

"Overflowing Cup of God's Abundance": Sermon for the 19th Sunday After Pentecost, Year A

"Overflowing Cup of God

Oct 15, 2017

Passage:Psalm 23

Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Robert Pace

Series: Pentecost

Category: Peace, Stewardship, Trust

Keywords: abundance, blessing, comfort, trust

Summary:

In the midst of disaster and chaos, we look for comfort. The Twenty-third Psalm offers that to us. It teaches us to TRUST God.

Detail:

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

I was talking to someone this past week who said they couldn't bring themselves to turn on the news any more. Every day brings more tragedy. More heartbreak. More disaster. More of the unknown.

Hurricanes, acts of unspeakable violence, personal tragedies--all of them filling us with dread and doubt about where we stand.

We're only a few weeks past the terrible catastrophic losses of the hurricanes that swept through the Texas coast, and those that devastated Puerto Rico and Florida. We're a couple of weeks removed from the chilling and unthinkable tragedy in Las Vegas. We're now watching wildfires in California, with scores of people missing and many dead. And, horrifically, this week close to home, a student at Texas Tech shot and killed a police officer.

And of course, in addition to these more global problems, all of us have troubles and concerns affecting our lives that don't make the news. We all have daily--sometimes hourly--pressures or problems or relationships that weigh on us and bring us stress and fear.

How do we respond in the midst of this sense of crisis--this fear?  As people of faith we turn to God. We look to God's presence in the midst of our crisis.

The Twenty-third Psalm gives us a wonderful, comforting example of how we might do this.

Of course, one of the great things about the Twenty-third Psalm is that it has a place in our popular culture. It's definitely the most popular psalm. Parts of it are immediately recognizable.

When I took my first teaching job at a college in Virginia, I was shown my office in the old, historic building on the campus. As I walked in, I was greeted by the previous occupant of the office--the history professor who had just retired after forty years at the college. He was packing up the last few items in his desk before handing over the keys to me.

As he showed me around the office, he proudly pointed out a poster on the wall. He advised me to keep the poster so students would know I wasn't "soft." I looked up at the poster and read: "Yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I Shall Fear no Evil, For I am the Meanest S.O.B. in the Valley!" But it did not have any abbreviations!

I have to admit that I didn't keep the poster on the wall. That was NOT the message I wanted to give students. It WAS funny. But not the way I wanted to relate.

I've often thought about that poster. I think many people try to get along in the world following the advice written there. Our culture often pushes us to believe this is how we have to be. We have to rely on ourselves. We have to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and "suck it up," if there are problems.  When trouble comes, "take care of it with extreme measures!"

But one of the key problems with having to be the meanest "so-and-so" in the valley, is that you are relying on yourself to get through the hard times. It means that when trouble comes, you just have to be harder.

But sometimes that's just not enough. Sometimes the valley just seems too dark. Sometimes there's a meaner so-and-so lurking in the shadows--be it cancer or wildfires or hurricanes or whatever.

That's where the Twenty-third Psalm comes in.

What this psalm actually asks us to do is:  trust God.

That's actually pretty radical.

TRUST God.

The majority of Psalms are prayers of lament--prayers that explain our need or concerns to God. And praying that way is okay. Praying with our sorrow and concern and lament is natural.

But this Psalm--the Twenty-Third Psalm--is pure emotional trust.

In fact, one marketing scholar claims that the Twenty-third Psalm is actually the greatest advertisement of all time. It's not about reason. It's about the human heart connecting to God.[i]

In the midst of trouble, we put our trust in God.

This Psalm reminds us that we are not alone.

"You are with me, Your rod and your staff they comfort me."

We're not alone because we walk in the faith of God's presence in our lives.

We have God's comfort as we comfort each other.

"You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me."

At St. Andrew's, we know about spreading a table. We spread a table as well as anyone I've ever seen. Whether it's our weekly Sunday breakfast table, or our regular potluck meals together like the awesome Oktoberfest last week. Or the monthly pack-a-lunch meals we prepare, bless, and send out to our homeless neighbors. We also spread our table with great feasts like the thousand-plus hotdogs we'll prepare and serve at Trunk-or-Treat later this month. And of course, we have our most sacred table--our coming together at the altar to share in the bread and wine--the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We understand God's table bringing us together.

We cherish it. God blesses us at the table.

The Psalm also tells us our cup runs over.... Our cup overflows.

God's love is abundant.

Our cup is always full, whether we know it or not.

This month at St. Andrew's we are focusing on stewardship. And stewardship starts from an understanding that our cups are overflowing.

Even in the midst of tragedies, heartbreaks, and disasters in the news, when we pause to trust in God together, we can see that our cups overflow.

This is not a transaction. We don't pray to God in order for God to then bless us....in order to fill up our cups...

GOD HAS BLESSED US. OUR CUPS ARE OVERFLOWING!!!

We are blessed at St. Andrew's with an abundance of talent and beauty and compassion and love.

And we are called to give of that which God has given us.

All that we have comes from God.  

We give of our time. We give of our talent. We give of our finances to the betterment of God's creation and to the work of the church. We realize that we are part of something greater than ourselves.

Together, in communion and community, we come to know that God is with us always.

We're not in the valley alone.

We are comforted by God's presence. We bring that comfort to others.

For "surely God's goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our lives.

And we WILL dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  Amen.

[i] James Wallen, "Emotion and Style in Advertising Copy," The Untold Story of Advertising, by Albert Lasker and Edited by Dr. Robert C. Worstell, (Midwest Journal Press), see pp. 72-73, found at https://books.google.com/books?id=xqGpBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA80&lpg=PA80&dq=23rd+Psalm+perfect+advertising&source=bl&ots=S2Sjk95oqn&sig=i36Hz3zvm2_I6c-dRvkI9IHzbQc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSsbHS8ejWAhUI2IMKHX2fCYQQ6AEIYTAN#v=onepage&q=23rd%20Psalm%20perfect%20advertising&f=false