Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Celebrating an Anniversary

When arriving at something as important as a thirty year anniversary of a church, you'd think that a good theme to commemorate the event would be something uplifting, a positive phrase that would rejoice at the past time and look forward to a strong future.

So you can imagine my surprise when I heard that the theme of my church's anniversary was going to be taken from Psalm 90.   Not exactly what I'd call uplifting! The Psalm starts out with a comforting reminder of God's might and care for His people, but it quickly heads into what might appear to be a depressing account of man's frailty. The brevity of our human lives is contrasted with the eternal timelessness of God; "the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty, yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away".

Yet this is a fitting thing to ponder even on the happy anniversary of our church's founding. Why? Because life is about time.

In the sermon on Sunday, our pastor outlined three things that Psalm 90 teaches. First, life is short compared to God's eternal glory. We come from dust and to dust we return. That fact alone is sobering enough. Nobody can argue with it. Secondly, our lives are marked by pain and sorrow. Think of the turmoil and poverty in other countries, or the natural disasters that have been devastating cities all over the world. There are troubles for all people, even those who have a relatively easy existence as middle class residents of the United States. Third, these troubles are due to a fallen world full of sin. Nature is imperfect. Our minds are corrupted. As a culture and an individual, we have defied God by following our own warped morals, meaning that we can never meet up to His holy, pure standard.

Does all this sadness mean that we should just live however we please and then die, because there is no hope? No! Foremost in this life we have the hope of being able to trust in the holiness of God. His character never changes. While He is the epitome of justice, He is also the heart of mercy. I don't understand fully how God can be both the righteous Judge and the Lover of my soul, but I am able to trust in God's divine plan.

The contemplation of death can clarify what is truly important for us. Knowing that God is in control is one step towards hope in life. Verse 12 of Psalm 90 gives us the next reason for living mindfully: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom". If our time is limited, then we must use the minutes, hours, days, and years carefully. You've often heard people say "don't waste your time".  This is a wake-up call to prioritize your existence!

So what does it mean to gain a heart of wisdom? Why would the Bible say that this is the most important thing a person can do in their short lifetime? Proverbs 9:10 holds the basic answer: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom". This is not the kind of fear that translates into terror, but the type of fear that inspires awe of the utter holiness of the living God. Awe is meant to lead us to wonder, which leads into searching out knowledge of God's character, that we might know Him better. We can be free in the wisdom of God to be who we are really meant to be, to serve our communities with our gifts, to change the cycle of selfishness, and to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

God is our true refuge in a world full of sorrow. The greatest mystery is that God somehow came down from His great height to provide us with a way off this merry-go-round of birth-pain-death. I am thankful for the time I have been given.

"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."

"Let the favor of our Lord God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!"

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