Psalm 91: 1-12
Claiming God's Promises
Many of you know that I like to write. So when Cheryl asked me to fill in today I immediately said yes. My first thought was, “Oh good, I’ll get to write a sermon!” My second thought was that I would also have to READ it. That part was a little scary. But since I’m used to giving children’s sermons, I decided that this would just be a very long children’s sermon.
And if you’ve ever heard one of my children’s sermons, you know that sometimes I include songs as part of my message. I couldn’t help it. I had to put songs in my adult sermon as well. You are welcome to join in singing any one you recognize.
A few years ago Cheryl invited members of the congregation to submit a Prayer of Confession to be used in a morning worship service. I wrote one and it was printed in a Sunday bulletin. It is also the Prayer of Confession we read today.
Right after I wrote that confession, I began to use it as a daily prayer, which I still use today. Every morning I wake up and say this, “Lord, I claim the promise of your presence, your protection, your provision, your power and your peace, for Kristina and Kevin, for James, for Pete and myself throughout this day.”
Now this is not the only prayer I say, but it’s the first prayer I say. I talk to God often during the day. Then at night I say a prayer that includes more family and friends, issues of concern, and Summit Presbyterian Church.
Let’s start with God’s PRESENCE: We read in Matthew 28:19 & 20: “Go ye, therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”
This scripture brings to mind a song I learned many years ago. “Never alone because I know my Lord is with me. Never alone, He’s always standing by. Jesus has promised to take my hand and lead me. Never alone. No Never alone am I.”
I know some people who are very scared of being alone. Very scared of being totally by themselves. But since I was a child, I’ve been very aware of the presence of God in my life and wanting to be very close to God. When I first met Pete and told him that, he said, “What are gonna do, be a nun?” He was glad when I said no, because otherwise we couldn’t have gotten married.
God is, as He promised, always with me. And often I can feel that presence. God keeps His promise to be present in my life.
Now, the PROTECTION of God, which the first scripture reading today was all about. I chose this passage because it has a special meaning to me. My favorite part of the Psalm is verses 11 & 12: “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
Isn’t that a beautiful picture?
When I first moved from Lancaster County, PA into North Philadelphia, I was shown to a very small bedroom on the second floor of the Teen Haven Center. The very first night there was noise, commotion and violence outside of my window and as I laid there listening, my first thought was “What have I gotten myself into?” But then, these very comforting verses came to mind and I rolled over and went to sleep.
A few years later, while I was living at the Broad Street center, I woke up one morning to discover most of our electronic items were missing. When the police officer came and looked around, he showed me a pile of burnt matches right outside my bedroom door. “This is how they saw to get around without turning on the lights,” he said. Later that day when I went outside, a guy I didn’t know yelled to me, “Hey, I liked your little green pajamas!”
Wow, I thought, he had been right outside my bedroom door looking in. I wondered what would have happened if I’d woken up. Once again, the verses of Psalm 91 came to mind. God kept His promise to protect me.
Now on to God’s PROVISION: Matthew 6:31-33: “Therefore, be not anxious, saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or with what shall we be clothed? For your heavenly father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Who knows this one? “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Allelu. Alleluia.”
While I was working at Teen Haven in North Philly I wasn’t making much money, but then I didn’t really need much. I lived at the center and drove one of their cars and ate there every day. So, when somebody in the neighborhood needed some money I would often just give it to them.
There was a kid who was starting a gospel group and he needed a set of drums. I only had about a hundred dollars to my name, but I gave it to him when he asked. I secretly told myself that was a really stupid thing to do, give away my last dollar. But just a few days later I got a nice big check in the mail from one of my family members and I knew I had done the right thing. God kept His promise to provide.
Now, let’s talk about God’s POWER: II Timothy 1:7 one of my favorites. “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
When I turned 21, I was taught to drive Teen Haven’s 77 passenger school bus so I could drive to our camp on the weekends and the male staff could have time off. I was a skinny little thing then, believe it or not, a size 10. And when I first got behind the wheel of the bus I was truly terrified.
It was a stick shift and it wasn’t easy to drive. So, I did what I’d learned to do in new and uneasy situations – I prayed. I prayed the whole way out to camp and I prayed the whole way back. After a few trips it became routine, and parents stopped following the bus out of the city to make sure I could handle it. But God did indeed, give me the spirit of power to overcome my fear. God kept His promise of power.
Who remembers this one? “There is power, power, wonder working power in the blood of the lamb. There is power, power, wonder working power in the precious blood of the lamb.”
And then there’s this one: “There is power in the name of Jesus, (3x) to break every chain. To break every chain. To break every chain.”
Lastly, we find the promise of God’s PEACE in Philippians 4:6 & 7. Another of my favorites: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and mind through Christ Jesus.”
(“I’ve got the peace that passes understanding down in my heart.”)
We also find the promise of peace in John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
What a comforting scripture. And there’s a song for it too: “Peace give I to thee. Peace give I to thee. Not as the world gives, give I to thee. Peace give I to thee.”
Most of you know that I have a son with mental health problems. There have been times when I didn’t know where he was. Times when he was in prison. Times when he was living on the street. Times when he was in the hospital or institutionalized. Times when his drug and alcohol use made him very scary and made it impossible for him to live with us.
I have often been angry at God for not healing my son. I’ve thrown my fist into the air and shouted, “Why don’t you just fix him??” Oh yes, I have been very angry with God. But there have also been times when I felt the undeniable, overwhelming peace of God which passes all understanding.
James had not been miraculously healed. The storm had not passed. The clouds had not scattered. The sun had not begun to shine. But, the still, small voice of my God could still be heard. And it said, “Peace, be still,” to my heart.
The Bible is filled with the promises of God. They are ours to claim. They are ours to proclaim to one another. My prayer is that we never need to confess that we have fallen short of believing them. Amen.