3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Sunday, October 30th, 1938 at 8 pm was prime time for the golden age of radio. It was a common past time that millions of people across America would turn on their radios and listen to whatever show or music was playing. It just so happened that on that night Orson Welles was broadcasting an updated version of H.G. Wells classic the “War of the Worlds” on CBS. But right at 8:00 most Americas were tuned into NBC listening to ventriloquist Edgar Bergen and only switched their radio to CBS at around 8:12 only to hear the “War of the Worlds” well underway complete with sound effects and actors. A weather report broke off and the announcer took people to a music room where an orchestra was playing. When suddenly the orchestra was interrupted with a report that explosions had been detected on the planet Mars. Music played again. Then another interruption where a large meteor had crashed into a farmers field in New Jersey. Suddenly an announcer broke in describing the crash sight and Martians emerging from a large cylindrical metallic object.
“Good heavens,” he declared, “something’s wriggling out of the shadow like a gray snake. Now here’s another and another one and another one. They look like tentacles to me … I can see the thing’s body now. It’s large, large as a bear. It glistens like wet leather. But that face, it… it … ladies and gentlemen, it’s indescribable. I can hardly force myself to keep looking at it, it’s so awful. The eyes are black and gleam like a serpent. The mouth is kind of V-shaped with saliva dripping from its rimless lips that seem to quiver and pulsate.” Suddenly these Martians started annihilating people and whole cities. The result? Perhaps a million Americans panicked because they thought this was a real Martian invasion. People packed highways trying to escape New Jersey, in other parts of the country people wanted the electric company to shut their lights off, people pleaded with police for gas masks. Some apparently even attempted suicide.
Now certainly Orson Welles helped create some of this mass hysteria, but really, people panicked because of what they chose to believe. They chose to believe something that was simply not true, something that was fictional. The same thing is happening all over the world today- and is happening right in your life. There’s an invasion of lies. Lies that have been started by the father of the lies himself, the devil. And when we believe these lies it wrecks us emotionally, it wrecks our relationships, our work life, our families, even spiritually and physically.
Whether we like it or not, the truth is, we are all influenced by the things going on around us. We’re influenced by what we watch on TV or what we read on the internet. We’re influenced by our family members and our friends – that’s why it’s so important to regularly gather around Christian friends and family. But we spend the most time and are influenced the most by ourselves. By what we think, by what we tell ourselves, a counselor might call this “self-talk” but the more Biblical term is meditation. What do you spend your time thinking about, considering, chewing on, ruminating over? Where do you find your thoughts going when you have free time? What do you think about?
There’s a fascinating difference here between children and adults. My wife and I can be having a pretty intense conversation about something going on in our extended family, or with what’s happening in the world at large, or something related to the church. We can be worried, stressed, anxious, concerned and…my little daughter is calmly drawing a picture of a flower. Really? Why? How? Doesn’t it come down to the meditation of the heart? Young children don’t often get stressed, worried, frantic about the big things of life. Why not? Because they trust their parents have things under control and they can run, play, have fun, enjoy God’s creation. Whereas we adults worry, are stressed, think we have the world on our shoulders to take care of. Why? Because it comes down to a lie. We think it all depends on us. And what does that do to us? Emotionally we become worried and anxious and stressed. Stress- I’m learning more and more – wreaks havoc on someone’s body physically. And spiritually God becomes just a small compartment in our lives and we don’t have time for His Word, our worship is half-hearted, and our prayers cease- God becomes small and our problems become huge. For people whose meditation of the heart is so often wrong, so often believing lies, so often unacceptable to God, for people like you and me- God comes with truth, truth that frees, truth that settles and calms us and we’re going to focus on these truths in the next few weeks.
So what kind of meditation does God want us to have? The Psalm writer David helps us, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” There is God-pleasing meditation. It isn’t what you often see popularized on TV with yoga masters or some eastern religion sitting in some posture not moving or repeatedly saying some phrase. That’s not Christian meditation. The word “meditate” in the Hebrew is really interesting. It comes from the same word that’s used to describe the “coo” of a dove or the “growl” of the lion. The picture that comes to my mind is my dog when I give her a large bone to chew on. She lies there just gnawing on this bone, with this soft growl, just happy as a lark, she’s in dog heaven just thinking about and savoring and relishing and licking and enjoying this bone.
That’s what Christian meditation is: enjoying, savoring, relishing over and over in one’s mind something else: God and His Word. David models it in this Psalm. He begins by enjoying God’s creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” He’s enjoying God’s incredible creation. Then he moves from there to the “law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy.” The precepts, the commands, the ordinances of God. What is all that? That’s God’s Word. He’s considering God’s creation, He’s thinking about God’s Word. He’s like a dog with a bone, chewing, relishing, turning over and over in his mind God and His Word.
May this meditation be pleasing in your sight. Clearly there’s a pleasing meditation and a non-pleasing mediation to God. A meditation that is not pleasing to God would be turning over and over in your mind and heart life’s worries and problems and troubles. But what is pleasing? To what are we to direct our meditation? “O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Like a dog delighting over a bone we’re to delight over these truths.
Think about that. The Lord is our Rock. God is described as a rock. What does that mean? Why is God pictured like a rock? A rock is the best place to lay a foundation because it is strong and unmovable and unshakable. A rock can also provide protection – rain, hail, storms, sleet, even a hurricane can beat against a solid rock and the rock remains unshaken. A rock also provides protection against enemies that want to kill- bullets and arrows can’t penetrate a solid rock. The Lord is our rock, that means He is the foundation for our lives, He is our protection against every storm of life, He is our stronghold against every enemy. He is our strength. Think about that, meditate on that!
The Lord is also our Redeemer. Let’s chew on that one for a bit. The “redeemer” is a beautiful picture in the Old Testament. A redeemer was someone who was called into action when an Israelite was unable to help himself. For example, if you lost everything and were sold into slavery, a redeemer could buy you back to set you free. The Israelites as a whole nation were enslaved in Egypt, but the LORD their Redeemer came and set them free. You and I were also in a helpless state. You and I were enslaved in our sins and faced eternal punishment, but the LORD, our Redeemer, came and died Himself in our place paying the punishment of all our sins – even our sins of unacceptable meditation. You and I faced death, but our Redeemer, Jesus, came and died our death on the cross and then rose from the dead freeing us from death’s curse. The LORD our Redeemer stepped in when we couldn’t help ourselves and He continues to be the one called into action on our behalf in every struggle and every situation that we face. When we think about our Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer – that’s God-pleasing meditation.
Why does God want us to focus our mind and our heart on Him and His Word? Because it’s healthy. It leads to spiritual health- we grow in our trust in God as our Lord and Savior no matter what. It leads to emotional health because even though we face trials and troubles- we know God is our Rock, our protection and He remains our Redeemer the one who continues to help us in every situation. And it leads to health physically because trusting in Him leads to less stress and less worry and therefore less havoc on our body.
You see, when the meditation of our heart is off, when it is wrong, it has a way of making whatever our problem is huge. You see, when we think about something over and over, that problem becomes this huge, immovable mountain. But this is what the right meditation of the heart does: It makes God big. It’s amazed and the almighty power and strength of God. It’s amazed that God in love uses His almighty power to save and redeem us. It meditates on all the wonderful aspects of God and His grace. When God becomes huge to us, what happens to our problems in comparison? What happens when God’s Word dominates our thoughts? Our problems shrink and they become manageable. That’s what we’re going to be focusing on: making our Savior big, huge, awesome and letting his truth dominate our thoughts and meditation. And when we do our problems grow smaller and smaller and not worth worrying about.
Meditate on the truth. Replace the lies you tell yourself with the truth of your God and His saving love for you. Amen.