Living Words

 

Psalm 30

pentecost

Last weekend was exceptional.  It also didn’t rain at the Glastonbury. Music Festival!

And so, it was in warm sunshine that Barry Gibb, the surviving Bee Gee, sang:

 

 

It’s only words, and words are all
I have to take your heart away

Well, since then I have had a week of meetings. And so, I have also had a week of words. Some crucial, some important yet others were rather uttered as routine.  For, we in the Church, have a habit of saying the most awe-inspiring words almost as clichés – the result being we really don’t think what we have said nor do we realise what we have heard. As examples, I give you the often carelessly used words of gospel and grace and mission.

 

That’s why I approach the words of today’s Psalm with such trepidation. For it would be too easy to reduce them to the arid words of God forgets me, God gets angry with me and then God sorts everything out. Thanks be to God. That’s why I must introduce three literally awesome words here and truly mean them. That’s why to get to the heart of what this Psalm means to you in your situation and me in mine, I must prefer to it as ‘The living Word’

 

Oh, you say, surely the whole Bible is the living word? And I would reply it depends on how you read it.

For some will read the bible like a legal or academic text. We can read it as merely a dusty tome of ancient history and lofty moral advice.  We can even read it like the highway code. Put more bluntly, we can look at its words without imagination or empathy. But when we do that, we do not see its uniquely personal message to us. We do not hear Christ’s voice uniquely speaking to us. We do not even believe that the living word will change our situation. Therefore, in the end, an unemotional reading of the bible leaves unfilled and unfulfilled.

 

Take our Psalm of today.

 

If we do want to get away from it being the minutes of some discussion with God, we must engage its words with emotion.  For then in its lines we find all the turmoil of the faithful mind. We sense the mental struggle between unbelief and belief in the words ‘I called and I cried to you’. We feel the emotion of drifting, of being unguided and of being abandoned. Here I am thinking of – you hid your face from me. Moreover, we join the psalmist in his fear of an angry God bent on retribution even if for a moment.

And, surely, we all know these passions in times of trial and distress.

 

Yet if we read with feeling, then the words start truly to live. They genuinely start to speak into our troubled hearts. We hear Christ calling to us in new and reassuring and liberating words. Consequently, we do grasp that, with him, our enemy whatever that might be, will be defeated. We do comprehend his healing and favour and faithfulness. Indeed, we do rediscover the word of life in the emotion of being helped to the point of dancing. Hence it is for all these reasons that the psalms, and this one in particular, sing in our hearts and make us feel better.   That’s why the psalms are not so much the word of God but the music of God.

 

Returning to the Bee Gees. Now, of course, Barry is the last surviving member of the group formed with his brothers. And you would think that being on his own and 70 years old, he would want to retire. Well this is what he says:

“I thought, That’s enough now. My bones were creaking, my knees were hurting and with everything that had happened, I thought, maybe it’s just time to be Grandad and not worry about it anymore. But music has to be played and I wanted to keep the music alive.”

 

Today we each have been given the living word music in the psalms of God. Through his living word in scripture, we each have been given encouragement to go on singing his praises in all emotional weathers. Above all, we have been given a one word more – God’s unbreakable word – his final word to us – the eternal word of Jesus Christ.

 

So, let us this morning hear God’s word to us in a modern-day psalm. For in the sunshine with rain clouds threatening, Barry Gibb sang on:

Smile an everlasting smile

A smile could bring you near to me

 

This world has lost its glory

Let’s start a brand-new story

 

Talk in everlasting words

And dedicate them all to me

And I will give you all my life

 

A single word I say

It’s only words, and words are all

I have to take your heart away

 

It’s only words, and words are all

I have to take your heart away

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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