Lectionary Year A
June 16, 2002

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Contemporary Address

Step VI - Contemporary Address

A. Goals

(JFC) A sermon from this Psalm might assure pew sitters that we can rely on God to bring us through life's troubles and lead us to worthy praise of such a Most High Deity.

B. Describing the Audience

(JFC) Any congregation having difficulties with illnesses, problems, conflicts, etc., could surely benefit from a proclamation from this Psalm.

C. Address

(JFC) A sermon, entitled for this working draft, "Getting Through Troubles To Praise God"

Problems run rampant these days. Wars escalate. Too many people get sick. Troubles abound. Psalm 116 leads me to conclude, "Problems are for solving, wars are for peacemaking, troubles are for surviving, conflicts are for resolving". Let's see.

I. Love

A. This Psalm begins (v. 1) with the phenomenon of love. Initially God loves. God loves us first, before we can love or do anything else, for that matter. God's love frees us "from distress and anguish," in James L. Mays' words (Interpretation Commentary).

B. In response to God's love for us, we love God, ourselves and others, both friends and even enemies, too. God's Word tells us to do so and Jesus shows us how to do so.

II. Supplications & Prayers

A. God creates us so we can pray. The Apostle Paul (I Thessalonians 5:17) instructs us to "pray constantly". Whenever we face sickness, persecution, affliction, despair and/or bitterness we can take them to God. When we suffer, struggle, get bewildered, etc., at least we can call out to God. God enables, encourages and expects us to do so.

B. God listens to and hears our prayers. The Psalmist says, "God inclines an ear to us" (v. 2). Well, that, too. God listens for our prayers, listens to them and hears them.

III. Praising

A. The Psalmist offers a thanksgiving sacrifice (v. 17). That's a way Old Testament believers found to express their appreciation for God's leading them through troubles, like the Exodus from Egyptian slavery.

B. The Psalmist teaches us to find in God's love and listening a motivation for us to want to keep our vows and promises. When we joined the church we pledged certain services.

C. Psalm 116 concludes with the imperative to shouting praises to God (v. 19), to sing alleluias to the Sovereign who creates, sustains and provides for us. We do that best when we gather in church to worship corporately, with fellow believers and pilgrims trough life's difficulties and challenges.

God is loving. God is listening. It is our turn to speak up in prayer and praise. Let's do it. The legend in the Talmud with which Henri Nouwen begins the last chapter of his The Wounded Healer might serve as a fitting conclusion to this sermon. It inspires readiness for helping others.

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