So, I didn't.
Was that presumptuous of me? My apologies. That rarely happens to me, but it did this morning. When it does happen, I have learned that I need to "listen to what the Spirit is saying to the church" rather that what the church is trying to say to me.
Here's the portion of the Psalm that touched my heart and has been buzzing 'round my ears:
It's a bit chilly this morning on Rehoboth Bay. It usually doesn't get this chilly this soon. I remember a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner a few years ago out on the deck with everyone in short-sleeved shirts.
I closed the windows and turned the heat to 65 this morning.
When I dressed for church this morning, I wore a wool shawl over a corduroy dress and, when I came home, changed into sweatpants, a turtleneck shirt and put on socks for the first time since mid-Spring.
I've traded sipping on ice water to lingering over a hot cup of tea, finding myself placing the warm mug next to my face when my fingers aren't wrapped snugly around it.
It's not that cold, really. It's just a sudden, unexpected change in the weather.
How does that happen?
I know. The calendar says it is Autumn. It's been such a rainy season that the usual glory of the leaves has been muted at bit. They seem to be simply falling to the ground in a soggy, brown mess, weighted down by the rain and blown off by the wind.
The meteorologist reported this morning that it snowed last night in Western Maryland. Just an inch, she said. But, it's Western Maryland. And, it's only the second day of October!
The Psalmist sings:
One day tells its tale to another, *Is that how it happens?
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
Is there some secret language in the cosmos by which trees communicate to other trees? Is there some code in the air which telegraphs to birds to begin to migrate, or some mysterious script in the waters that interacts with fish and shellfish and other creatures of The Deep?
Is it just merely a happenstance of the earth spinning blithely on its axis or is this evidence of the handiwork of God in the firmament?
There is, I think, an order and a logic to the universe that simply surpasses human knowledge. I think we try to imitate that order by ordering our lives with rules like the those in the "Ten Commandments" which I heard in the first lesson in Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20.
I don't really know how what Paul was saying had much to do with the Ten Commandments or the Gospel about the Wicked Tenants, but I did find myself chuckling at the Pharisees who were so self-absorbed that it took them a few minutes to realize that Jesus was talking about them.
Except, Paul did say this:
Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."....forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead...."
It is an utterly human thing, when one is in pursuit of a goal, to put the past behind and press on. And yet, given the Psalmist's song, it seems quite "unnatural".
I think what happens to the Pharisee in me and the Pharisee in you (because, if there is a Jesus in me and a Jesus in you, there is a Thomas in me and a Thomas in you, and a Pharisee, too) is that we sometimes forget that our stories are part of the larger story God has to tell. We don't listen to the rhythm of the earth and are not part of the natural cycle of the earth.
We think what's here and now is all there is, so we store up treasures for ourselves, thinking that, as long as we keep the rules, we'll be safe. Secure.
Safety, I have discovered, is just an illusion.
Creation knows this little secret. After a winter of discontent comes a spring of new beginnings and a summer of recreation, until the cycle repeats itself.
The story of all of creation - like the stories of all our lives - are part of the ever-unfolding story of God's handiwork in the firmament.
When we lose sight of that bigger story, we fall. We fail. And, the temptation to sin - to miss the mark - becomes almost too much to resist.
I don't know. Maybe that's exactly the message the preacher had for the church this morning. If he did, I missed it because I wasn't listening. Instead, I was still listening to that amazing Psalm, which ends with these words: