For the Simplehearted
Please double check the bulletin. No, this sermon is not for the simple minded, but the simplehearted! Psalm 116:6 (New International Version), "The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me." The Revised Standard Version, from which we just read this psalm, translates verse 6, "The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me." I prefer "simplehearted" to "simple."
Psalm 116 is a hymn of praise and thanksgiving for deliverance from death. Evidently the author had almost died. "The snares of death, the cores of death entangled me," he wrote. He suffered distress and anguish, overcome by trouble and sorrow. In his need--worried, afraid, depressed, and helpless--he called on the name of the Lord, "O Lord, save me!"
He then discovered that the Lord is gracious and righteous, full of compassion, because he was delivered. He was saved. The author then proclaimed, "The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me."
Our theme this Lent is humility, "From humility to Hallelujah." Last week I defined a humble person, one who walks humbly with God, as one who responds to Godís call, responds to a need, without counting the cost; not for acclaim, reward or recognition, but solely because God calls and it is the right thing to do. A humble person is not meek, mild and self-effacing, but one who responds without counting the cost.
Today, our text gives us another definition of humility, a definition that describes our relationship with God. Humility means simplehearted. Sometimes we make trouble for ourselves. We seem to like complexity. We who are educated, hold down complex jobs, live complex lives by juggling priorities, commitments, activities, and opportunities also try to make our relationship with God complex and difficult. Actually, it is a simple matter; perhaps so simple we moderns have a difficult time grasping the simplicity.
What is a simplehearted relationship with God? Psalm 116 defines simplehearted as those who recognize their need, simply call on the name of the Lord and ask to be saved. Ask! Simply ask; donít make it so difficult, so theological, so ethereal, so mystical. Just ask. The other day in staff meeting, just as we were going to pray, the phone rang. We laughed. I said I was reminded of the country western song, "Operator, get me Jesus on the line." Well, the imagery of calling Jesus on the telephone prompted comments like: what if the answer is, "May I tell him whose calling, please?" Or, "Sorry, heís in conference; may I take a message?" Or, what about those electronic voices saying, "You have reached heaven. If you have a touch-tone telephone and wish to speak to Jesus, please punch #1 now." Or, what if you reached an answering machine, "Hi! This is Jesus. I canít come to the phone right now, but if youíd like to leave your name, number, day and time you phoned, and a brief message, Iíll get right back to you." Or, worse yet, "Iím sorry but all the circuits are busy. Please try again later."
Asking, getting in touch with someone, is complicated in our technological age. Is it any wonder we tend to make a relationship with God difficult? Iíve got good news! To reach out and touch Jesus, you donít have to dial, punch buttons, go through operators, secretaries, answering machines, or voice mail! Just ask! Cut through the bureaucracy. Cut through the barriers. Cut through the defenses. Ask. Call on the name of the Lord, "O Lord, save me."
This morning we are celebrating Holy Communion. Make your participation special. The service of Holy Communion provides a powerful setting to help you ask, to help you get in touch with your Creator. The service is full of imagery to speak to your spirit, full of actions to help you put yourself in the presence of the Holy Spirit.
First, make a sacrifice. Someone asked why we place offering plates filled with money on the same table with the Communion elements, with the representative symbols of Jesusí life, his body and blood. We place the offering plates on the Communion table because the offering represents our sacrifice. We donít bring lambs to be slaughtered and burned any more. Our financial offering is our sacrifice. There are many folks who sacrifice--deny themselves, give up something--to make a love and thank offering to God. The offering also represents our lives as we offer our lives in service to God. Money belongs up there on the Communion table with the body of Christ. I invite you to make a sacrifice this morning.
Second, come forward. Take a step forward. Leave your pew to come forward. As you come, as you walk, see yourself as walking to God, walking to the cross. Some kneel to receive Communion. Kneeling is a form of humility. See yourself bowing before God, bending the knee, bending your pride and self-will, submitting to Christ, surrendering to God.
Third, receive the life of Christ. Out of amazing grace, because of the self-giving, sacrificing love of God for you, Christ died, and asked us to remember him by eating bread and drinking the juice. You receive the bread by breaking off a piece. You make crumbs, you make a mess which represents our lives. But Christ takes the mess, takes the "crumbiness" of our lives, and restores us, saves us, and molds our lives into works of art and beauty.
Fourth, ask. Intentionally, consciously call on the name of the Lord and ask. Be simple about it. Be simplehearted. Just ask. What do you need this morning? Are you feeling helpless? Are you tired? Ask for strength. Are you ill? Ask for healing. Are you troubled? Ask for peace. Are you worried about a loved one, or your job, your future or death? Ask. Have you ever asked to be saved? To be born again? Are you a Christian? When did you intentionally, consciously ask God to take your life, save you, and make you one of his children? Do it this morning. Ask. Have you asked God to fill you with the Holy Spirit? Formulate your request as you sit in the pew. Ask it of God as you walk the aisle. When you kneel or stand to receive the bread and juice, give your request to God. Trust God with your request.
Come to Communion this morning in the confidence, in the faith, that the Lord hears and answers the simplehearted. Remember the psalmistís confidence, "when I am in great need, he will save me."
ã 1990 Douglas I. Norris