Sylvania United Church of Christ
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The sermon for week November 02, 2014

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With Exceeding Joy

Sermon Outline
Scripture: Psalm 42-43

Text for today was to be Psalm 43, but in researching it I discovered that it really is a part of Psalm 42. Then when I read Psalm 42, I received a better understanding of the 43rd Psalm.
But also some helpful things to know to get into the spirit of this Psalm

1. Written by one in exile. Assyrians came and destroyed the temple and carried away the leaders into exile.
2. Temple leader who led worship there. Compare to this church, destroyed and taken to a foreign country to live as a slave.
3. Belief - Temple was where God resided. Only magnifies the grief and despair. Separate from God.
4. But yet, a word of hope…

Intro: We are in the autumn time of the year, when the Northern Hemisphere of the world is entering the dark half of the year. The days are much shorter and the nights longer. Time change is a clear sign of the darkening days. The ancient Celtic people believed this time was a time of thin space, where heaven and earth whispered to one another across a luminous veil and those who walked before us are especially accessible. It is in this thin time that we gather today to remember those that walked before us. It is in this season that we celebrate All Saint’s Day –November 1, and All Souls Day – November 2, - times of remembering. Let us consider what this thin time may mean for us.
Here in the Ohio Conference of the UCC, there is a minister by the name of Howard Storm. But he was not always an ordained minister. He lived most of his life as an atheist, but had a near death experience that caused him to turn to the Christian faith for guidance.

One part of his story following his time of recovery involved finding his way into a Christian church on the outskirts of Cincinnati. (I heard his story on NPR, as I was listening to it, realized that I know this church. It was one of our UCC churches in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. I had worshipped there one warm summer morning.) Well, he said that he arrived just after the service was under way. The first hymn was being sung as he entered the sanctuary. What he saw upon entering the sanctuary literally caused him to stumble and fall to his knees. He did not trip on anything, one can only say what caused him to fall was a vision that only he could see. While the congregants were joyously singing the hymn, he saw floating above them angelic like beings that were also joining in the song. This goes far beyond what my scientific mind is willing to grasp. But as people of faith gathered this day, with many of us believing that death does not have the final voice, we can join in his vision knowing that through faith that there are many more singing these songs with us than we can see.

– Greek Orthodox Monastery – monk friend. Small monastery of 3 members. Services 2 daily. “If we cannot attend, the saints will say the prayers and sing the songs for us.

Today, during this thin time, we join with those who came before us. We remember them again and give thanks for their lives. I am one of the fortunate ones, my list is long of those I remember with thanksgiving. I have had good mentors. I have been surrounded by good people.

Movement for despair to hope.
Three times – refrain-
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God. (Psalm 42:3; 42:11; and 43:5)

The Situation: Separation from God
This psalm is a song for those moments when one doesn't feel like singing. It is a poem of faith for those cold nights when one doesn't feel the flames of faith flickering too warmly in one's soul. It is a psalm for those times when one feels separate from God.

What person of faith hasn't felt like that?
The poetic "location" of the psalmist is separation from God. The psalmist longs for God as a thirsting "deer longs for flowing streams" of water (42:1). The psalmist expresses separation from "the face of God" (42:2).

The mocking oppression of the psalmist's enemies is summed up in the haunting taunt: "Where is your God?" In ancient times, the taunt was often spoken by military victors to their defeated captives (see Psalm 79:10; 115:2; 42:3, 10; Micah 7:10; Joel 2:17; cf. also Isaiah 10:9-10).

Not surprisingly, the psalmist asks God, "Why have you forgotten me?" He wonders why a faithful servant who once marched gladly in the procession in the house of God, must now "walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?" (twice: 42:9 and 43:3). He asks, "Why have you cast me off?" (43:2). Such questions aimed at God are not the sign of a weak faith or an absent faith. Rather, such questions are typical of the tenacious faith of the psalmists. Indeed, such challenges to God should be understood as one of the characteristic marks of true biblical faith. Such questions hold God accountable for the promises that God has made. That promise of God's presence that is extended through Jesus Christ -- who promises to be with us always, to the end of the ages.

But that taunting voice does not have the final say. Notice the refrain in three parts, but this voice is only uttered twice. It has lost its edge as the Psalmist gains confidence and hope.
The Hope: Send Out Your Light and Your Truth
By the last refrain, I hear a very different voice, I hear hope in this question

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

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