Series: Psalms for the Summer
The Place of Peace
August 13, 2023 | Peter Rowan
Passage: Psalms 62:1-12
If there is one thing that most everyone longs for it is peace. We want to know that we are alight, that our kids are alright, that the future is alright. We stay up late and are restless in bed with the worries that occupy our minds. We dream of winning the Mega Millions with the thought that if we had enough money all of our worries will go away. We don't forgive because what will that demand of us? What kind of place will that bring us to? In the beginning of Luke, John the Baptist is preparing the people for Jesus, he is "guiding their feet into the way of peace." At the end of the gospel, Jesus shows up to a fearful group of disciples (and comes in with the door locked!) and the first thing he tells them is "Peace to you!' And all along Jesus speaks of his healing others and his forgiving the sins of others as bringing them peace. Psalm 62 invites us to silence and to stillness and to find that the only place of peace is in God alone.
We are in Psalm 62 this morning. I want to begin this sermon with two minutes of silence, keeping in mind that there are children here and all.
I want to ask you all how that went, but I have a sense of how it went. Let me tell you like this:
Two nights ago we camped out with the Tanis family at Raystown lake. It’s was an eventful afternoon with lots of play and we had a campfire and played Rumikub under lamps lighting up our well-worn campsite table. But it was now time to go to bed. Our kids all decided they wanted to try their hand at sleeping in hammocks, so we tucked them in, prayed with them, and hoped for the best. Melise and I then made our own way to our tent. Henry was soon snuggled between us. Then we could hear a few campsites down the way a generator start up. Then our neighbors immediately to the south of us who had pulled in late and just got all settled decided they wanted to go for a late-night swim, so we began to hear some splashing around. Then the immediate neighbors to the north of us who had also got in late decided they wanted a fire so as we are laying our heads down to sleep we are hearing the bugs chirping away, the splash-splash of playful swimming, the generators low but very constant hum, and then just the cutting of seemingly piece after piece after piece of firewood. And in that moment laying there in this tent I was reminded of Jim Gaffigan’s brilliant stand up bit on the phrase “Happy Camper”. “Has anybody really been a happy camper,” he asks, “because when we use that phrase we are always being sarcastic. ‘He is not a happy camper.’ Why don’t we just call him a camper?” “Hey, want to burn a couple vacation days sleeping on the ground outside?”
Anyway, to the lull of the generator, the chirping of the bugs, the splashing and banging of the neighbors, somehow we fell asleep. Until we were woken up. By rain. And the remembrance of two of our children still outside in hammocks. I just up to get Lillie and find that Dave Tanis already has James. I stick Lillie in above Henry between Melise and I and a few minutes later James comes over through the rain and wants to snuggle, so he somehow finds the little crack that is left between my body and the outside wall of the tent. Kids everywhere. Again, Jim Gaffigan in my hear whispering, “If it’s so great outside why are all of the bugs trying to get in my house?”
Is that how your silence went? We are in church, we have come to be attentive to God, to be present to one another. To dwell in the divine. But we know that our minds are jittery, our thoughts are bouncing around. Our hearts are restless, our desires are jumpy. Our bodies are in almost constant motion like little toddlers.
If we are able to be silent, well, peace is something altogether far off. One of the reasons why silence is just so hard is because peace seems so far. Peace, the great Hebrew word “Shalom”, the rightness of all things. All things being right. The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom. . . In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. . . Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way it’s Supposed to Be
David in this Psalm knows how hard this silent stillness is and how peace seems so far off. Verse 1 he says he is in silence, but by verse 3 he is starting to recount the things that break peace, that bring stress:
Stress in the midst of silence:
3 How long will all of you attack a man
to batter him,
like a leaning wall, a tottering fence?
4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position.
They take pleasure in falsehood.
They bless with their mouths,
but inwardly they curse. Selah
Selah.It means pause, rest, take a moment.
We don’t know what David was dealing with. He doesn’t say. We know there were plenty of times when he was truly attacked, battered. His life was sought after. We know there were times when people lived the life of a lie, a life of falsehood. We know there were times when they flattered to get what they wanted out of him.
Monday night I was up from 12:30-3:30. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I was up in the middle of the night for that long. My brain was racing. Honestly, I was mostly thinking about our church here. I was thinking a lot about our building - about AC units that break down, about an elevator that doesn’t work, about long conversations with insurance folk, and on and on. I was thinking about visitors who come and don’t come back. I was thinking of friends who used to be a part of this fellowship who are now gone. And it seemed as though I just couldn’t turn it all off.
And I know that you aren’t much different. Maybe your mind really is racing and your heart really is restless because of some people that want to attack you, but it’s more likely that you wonder how your children are doing, if they will come back to the Lord in faith, if you will be able to pay that rent check or if you will get that eviction notice. It racing with questions of forgiveness. Can you forgive and heal? Will someone else forgive you and will your relationship make it through the infidelity? Maybe your heart is restless simply out of overwhelming sorrow. Next week would have been the 65th anniversary of Ed and Anna camp. What a gift, but what a loss. Don Koller as been in the hospital now for 9 days. He went in for difficulty breathing, but he’s now had a surgery for blood clots and was - thankfully just temporarily - on dialysis. He hasn’t spoken since his surgery a couple days ago. The doctors are hopeful, but the heart is heavy. Maybe you wonder with me how we can best train our children up to love and serve the Lord with their whole heart and mind and body and strength and how do we do that with the resources that God has given our little church. Can we care for the teens of this church? Who will serve in that way? How are you going to pay for school? Why do migraines hurt so much? Can we get an ESL program started to love our neighbors? Why do thieves break in and steel and rust and moths destroy? Why do buildings and bodies have to age and why do medical bills have to be so so expensive?
You know, when you start to sit for a bit the cacophony of our concerns and the whirlwind of our worries can be overwhelming.
And you know, just like your own prayers and your own times of being present to God and to his ways as we stray in our stress and our lack of peace, David calls us back to God in verses 5-8. But then, in verse 9-10 he speaks right to the places where we want to go to secure our peace.
If there is stress in the midst of silence and stillness, well there is also the temptation to look to vain shadows for our salvation:
The first shadow is people.
9 Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Now, honestly, I’m not really sure why the English Standard version gives us this translation. I almost never say this, but it seems odd to be. What it maybe should be translated as, though it is certainly a bit clunky, would be:
Man, generally (Adam), just a breath.
Man, specifically (ish), a lie.
But here is what is going on: David is saying that our temptation and his temptation is to think that what we need for peace is found in people. Maybe we just need more people on our side (more people in his army, more people in our congregation, whatever). Or maybe, what we need is specific people. Maybe your shadow of salvation is thinking that if you just had your neighbor as your spouse instead of your spouse, you’d have more peace.
But this is like the wind, like a breath, there is nothing to it! And it’s a lie! It’s a lie that that neighbor will bring you peace!
The first shadow is people.
The second shadow is possessions.
10 Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them.
Man, doesn’t this hit? How many of the preoccupations of our minds that rob us of stillness and peaceful silence with God have to do with what we have or don’t have?
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.
How much of the restlessness of our sleep do we believe will be cured if we just have certain things? A new house? A new job? A bigger retirement account? More money? If riches increase, set not your heart on them. Friends, these are just shadows. They are not the substance. They are shadows. They will not be your salvation, they will not bring your shalom?!
Believe me, would I like our church to grow? Yes, I would. Would I like us to get the grants that we have applied for for the upkeep of our building? Yes, I would. But if we have all of the people and all of the money and we do not have God, there will be no peace. In fact, if we have those things and we do not have God I will guarantee that stress will only increase, our restless hearts will only grow more restless, our coveting minds only more covetous!
I love this psalm. I really do. It reflects so well the movements of our hearts.
Wait in silence for God!! He alone is your salvation!1
Man, let me tell you about how stressed out I am!
Wait in silence for God. Trust in him!
Man, let me tell you about how much I am tempted to look to other people and possession for my salvation!
No, he’s said this, he’s said it again - can he underline it any more clearly! - peace is only found in God!
Peace is only found in our Lord. As Saint Augustine said, “Your heart will be restless until you find your rest in him.”
In my studies this week, I was struck by just how clear the story of Jesus is the story of bringing peace.
John the Baptist in Luke 1 was to guide our feet into the way of peace, into the way of Jesus.
In Luke 2, the angels and hosts of heaven are singing “Glory to God and on earth peace!
Later on in that chapter when Jesus is presented at the Temple, Simeon is able to depart in peace because he has seen Jesus.
Later on in chapter 8 Jesus is touched by a woman when he was in the middle of a large crowd. That woman had had a discharge of blood for 12 years. She’d be estranged socially and spiritually. But she touches Jesus and he calls her to himself and he said “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
There is another story where Jesus is eating at a Pharisee’s house and a woman “of the city” a known sinner comes in and has a false of ointment and she pours it over Jesus’ feet and wipes his feet with her hair. And Jesus declares her sins are forgiven and he said, “God in peace.”
In John 14, in the Upper Room, Jesus tells his disciples:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
When Jesus meets with his disciples after his resurrection he first tells them, “Peace be with you.” And he tells them again, “Peace be with you!”
And why is he telling them this? For the same reason John the Baptist prepared us, and the same reason the angels and host of heaven sang, and the same reason Simeon could depart, and the same reason the women were healed and restored. Why? Because God was with them!
He alone is your rock and your fortress.
On God rests your salvation and your glory.
To the Lord belongs steadfast love.
He is your rock, he is your salvation.
Friends, your hearts, my heart, will be restless until they find their rest in him alone.
Every summer Peter and an occasional guest speaker take us through the Psalms. Of the Psalms Luther said " the Psalter is a book of all the saints, and everyone, whatever his situation may be, finds psalms and words in it that fit his situation and apply to his case so exactly that it seems they were put in this way only for his sake..."