BIBLE READINGS 

Psalm 139:1-6;13-18 

John 1: 43-51 

 

SERMON 

There is something particularly powerful about the psalms. The imagery, the poetry of these ancient hymns has spoken and continues to touch countless generations of both Jews and Christians.   

 

Are there any psalms that hold a place in your memory? Any favourite psalm? 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. ​ (Ps. 46) 

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.​  (Ps. 51:10) 

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us.  ​ (Ps. 67) 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. (Ps. 90) 

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth. ​ (Ps. 96) 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. (Ps. 100)   

By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion.​   (Ps. 137) 

 

From joy and thanksgiving, to wonder and amazement, to despair and isolation, to anger and revenge.  Every emotion can be found within these ancient songs.  From praise, Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord to the gut  wrenching anguish of psalm 69, Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck...​  Ever felt like things couldn’t possibly get any worse?  The writers of the psalms echo human desperation, I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me

 

The psalms include emotions that are difficult to hear. Blessed is the one who bashes your babies’ heads upon the rock!​   What anger and hatred lay behind those words!  It was liberating for me to read those terrible words, in the Psalms, in Holy Scripture, and to come to the realisation that none of my emotions were off limits to God.  God is big enough to hear the depths of my soul, the dark places in my life.  Not to legitimize such violence, but to believe that God listens to the full range of human feelings. 

 

The psalms have been a prayer book, a songbook for thousands of years.  The Psalms would have been an integral part of Jesus’ worship experience and personal devotion.  Hence, in the final hours of his life, two of the gospels, Matthew and Mark record his words, My God, my God why have you forsaken me… ​ the beginning lines of Psalm 22. 

 

The psalms have been an important part of Christian spirituality throughout the last two thousand years.  Sung in worship, read as daily devotions, the psalms have given voice to the prayers of many.  It is said that as part of their monastic discipline the monks with Saint Columba in Iona, Scotland would wade waist-deep into the Atlantic Ocean and recite 50 psalms at one time. 

 

Unfortunately, more often than not, the only time we might hear a psalm is at a funeral or a memorial service.  The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want​. 

 

Our Psalm this morning, Psalm 139, is one of those priceless psalms.   O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 

you discern my thoughts from far away… 

and are acquainted with all my days... 

 

It is the voice of wonder and awe.  The psalmist writes with the understanding that nothing, nothing that he or she thinks or feels or fears is outside of the knowledge of God. What an incredible - what a fearful truth - that God knows all of us from top to bottom, inside and out.  God knows all of our innermost thoughts, our failings, our unspoken dreams - nothing escapes the mind of God. Our lectionary reading this morning left out verses 7-12 of the psalm.  I would like to read them to you, 

Where can I go from your spirit? 

Or where can I flee from your presence? 

If I ascend to heaven, you are there; 

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 

If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” Even the darkness is not dark to you; The night is as bright as the day; For the darkness is as light to you. 

 

Ever try to run away from God?  Can’t be done.  Jonah finds himself at the bottom of the ocean in the belly of a giant fish - and still cannot escape the call of God.  People try it all the time.  They run away by throwing themselves into their work.  Or their families.  Or a hobby.  Or the television.  Or alcohol or drugs….and yet even in the darkest moments - when we think we have finally outrun God - we turn and discover God beside us. 

 

It is trendy in churches to speak of those who visit church as seekers.  They may be someone who grew up in church but drifted from the church for one reason or another.  Or they may be seen as someone who is looking for spirituality or meaning for their lives, but for whom the institutionalised church may not be a place they go to in order to experience the Holy. 

 

It’s funny we use this word seeker; I think we’ve got it upside down.  We think of our spiritual journeys as some sort of quest we take - seeking high and low for a meaningful experience of the Divine.  We may take classes in centering prayer or spirituality of everyday life.  We may read books or journal; buy the latest guru’s videotape.   Always searching for God.   On an endless search for God. 

 

And all the while, it has been God who has been searching us out.  

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; 

you discern my thoughts from far away…  

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me…. 

 

God seeks us no matter where we might be. God seeks us. 

 

In our gospel reading from John this morning, Nathanael goes, rather reluctantly, with Philip to see this Jesus… Philip is giddy with excitement, “Come and see… the one that was written about in the law and the prophets… we’ve found him… come and see.” 

 

Nathanael is not easily persuaded.  Where did he come from?  Who is this person?  How do you know he is the one we’ve been waiting for? 

 

And Philip, bubbling over with glee, says, “Oh, it’s Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” Well that about does Nathanael in.  “I know Nazareth,” he replies, “and nothing good ever comes from Nazareth.”  He shrugs… not investing too much in this foolish trip of Philip’s.  Surely nothing life-changing could come from a place such as Nazareth.  No one of any consequence would have a common name like Jesus.   

 

And yet, Nathanael comes.  Why, we don’t know.  Perhaps because he’s been longing his whole life to see promises of God fulfilled.  Perhaps to get the exuberant Philip off his back.  Who knows.  But he comes.  He comes to see this Jesus, son of Joseph, of Nazareth.  Could what they were saying actually be true?   

 

We don’t know what happened when Nathanael first saw Jesus.  It is Jesus, and not Nathanael who speaks first. Jesus speaks, rather cryptically, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Finally, Nathanael finds his voice, trembling as he speaks, he stammers out, “Where did you get to know me?” We’re standing there by Nathanael too, you and I.  Holding tightly to our hopes and dreams... and yet for some reason hoping against hope that this Jesus, this child of Joseph knows us too. Knows us for what we truly are.  All of our disillusionment and cynicism.  The fears and deceit; the pain and the remorse; the love and the joy - all of it - everything that is within us that makes us human.   

 

It is the good news we hear today from the words of Scripture.  

 

Somehow, this son of a carpenter sees us.  

 

Sees everything we are; everything we could be; everything we dream to be and yet fall short of.  He knows us even before a word could leave our tongues. All this time we’ve been running around following the latest fad, listening to the newest expert; certain that all of our efforts will pay off and that we will find God.  And then when we finally lift our gaze, and we look into the eyes of Divine Love we discover that we have already been found.  

 

That the one who loves us fully, knows us completely. Only then, do we hear the song of the psalmist, from ages ago, singing, 

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.  

You know when I sit down and when I rise up...  

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; 

it is so high that I cannot attain it..