Psalm 61; Proverbs 2:9–3:20; 1 Corinthians 12:12–26

Psalm 61: This David psalm of prayerful praise includes four famous metaphors of God’s protection juxtaposed in just two verses:

For You have been a shelter to me,
a tower of strength in the face of the foe.
Let me dwell in Your tent for all time,
let me shelter in Your wings’ hiding-place. (4,5)

The shelter that God provides is not just a escape from the woes of the world, but protection from our enemies. Although the enemies referred to in the Psalms are primarily other people–and that was certainly the case for David–I like to think there are other enemies from which God protects us, including ourselves. I have been protected these past six years from the potential ravages of cancer. Yes, medical science has played an enormous role in that protection, but so has God’s shelter–especially emotionally and  spiritually.

This psalm is about more than protection; it is about being grateful that God is with us at all times. Speaking of David, the psalmist writes, “May he ever abide in the presence of God./ Steadfast kindness ordain to preserve him.” (8) To me, this means not just the simple reality that God abides with his, but that we be conscious of God’s presence. For it is in this consciousness that we will do as the psalmist does, “So let me hymn Your name forever/ as I pay my vows day after day.” (9) Each new day is a gift; the awareness of, and our joyful response to, God’s abiding and protecting presence is how we should begin each day.

Proverbs 2:9–3:20: The recurrent leitmotiv of Proverbs is ho following God will bring wisdom to us and we will thereby avoid the snares and traps of daily life: “wisdom will come into your heart,/ and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;” (2:10)

If we have wisdom, it will “save you from the way of evil,” specifically from companions “who speak perversely,/ who forsake the paths of uprightness/ to walk in the ways of darkness” and above all, from those “who rejoice in doing evil” and worse, those “who rejoice in doing evil.” (2:13,14) There’s little question in my mind that when we are surrounded by those who “rejoice in doing evil,” that we are likely to follow them. Which for me, anyway, explains the behavior of mobs and riots. It just takes one or two to inflame a crowd.

Then, there’s an explicit statement that if we’re wise, “You will be saved from the loose woman,/ from the adulteress with her smooth words…” (2:16). However, is it the man who is led astray by the woman? My guess it that the opposite is equally, if not more frequently, true.

In chapter 3, the theme turns to wealth and how we should use our resources, including the classic verse for a stewardship Sunday sermon:

“Honor the Lord with your substance
    and with the first fruits of all your produce;
then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.” (3:9, 10)

Will we always reap more than what we give? If we give because our motivation is to reap, then I think the deal’s off. We’re trying to control God. But if we give willingly without a thought to what will happen, then I really agree with the poet and our figurative barns will be filled–and often in ways we did not expect.

Then, there’s psychic reward of wisdom itself: “Happy are those who find wisdom,…/for her income is better than silver, / and her revenue better than gold.” (3:13, 14) As I age I’m beginning to actually understand this: there is far greater satisfaction and yes, reward, in seeing the fruits of wisdom than in worldly goods.

1 Corinthians 12:12–26: This is Paul’s famous e pluribus unum speech about how wildly different people with wildly different skills and gifts are congealed into a cohesive community by the power of the Holy Spirit. Even though many modern and post-modern pundits and politicians think they invented the concept of diversity, it’s right here in Paul’s almost 2000-year old letter.

But it’s diversity to the glory of God, to a far greater purpose than I think how modern American culture society defines ‘diversity.’ Diversity must have a goal beyond mere inclusion or achieving some government-mandated level of racial and cultural variety. True diversity happens only when it is bound together by a common purpose–and there is no greater purpose than to worship together and then go into the world together as tangible evidence of the incredible love of God.

The other key theme here in Paul’s message is that to our eyes some gifts appear to be greater than others. That the gifted preacher is somehow more greatly esteemed by Christ than the janitor who cleans the pews after the service. We may think more highly of the preacher than the janitor, but that is assuredly not how Jesus Christ sees it.

And there are pernicious effects to disparate esteem given (or not given) to different members of the Body of Christ. The preacher begins to believe all the wonderful things people are telling him, and he/she becomes self-centered, even narcissistic. In the absence of kind words, the janitor may see his duties as worthless and suffer the consequences of believing he himself is worthless.

No wiser words have ever been written about the real purpose of diversity in the church: “ If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (26). If we are neither suffering nor rejoicing together, we are only pretending to be a community in Christ.


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