August 5, 2018 OPENING OUR LIVES TO GOD

 

 

OPENING OUR LIVES TO GOD

August 5, 2018 Psalm 139:23,24

When thinking about our lives the other day I was thinking that each person God has created is like a book. We begin at our birth, and it concludes with our death. In between are all those pages of our lives and all that happens. You know, the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. Some books are short, some are long, but they all detail our lives and are on a shelf, we might say, in God’s library and entries are made daily by his secretary angels, perhaps one assigned to each of us when we are born. They record all those things and when he is ready, God opens the book of our lives and checks it out, checks how we are doing and all that.

We might say that the book of psalms is King David’s life. It is an amazing book of his life, his struggles, his drawing closer to God, his becoming the man after God’s own heart. And through those psalms we find encouragement for our own lives. Though he was a man after God’s own heart, and singled out as the King of Israel, and was blessed over and over again, we also know of his failures. Our lives are like his life with many temptations, many wrong turns, many mountains to climb and also many joys and blessings from God. 

When reading the Psalms, you are able to have great help to one’s soul. Most of them are written by King David at one time or another. Some are confessional type Psalms like Psalm 51 where King David seeks forgiveness. That Psalm goes like this: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.” Skipping down a few verses, after David’s confession he says to God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit with in…restore to me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”

Talking to God about our lives, things we have done in the past, though forgiven, but sometimes not dealt with, we must go to him like the trusted physician he is, like the one that Michelle Seif is counting on at Penn State these next few days. God searches our hearts and souls when we open it up to him and say, here God, let me know if there is something I have not dealt with, that something that I’m holding onto that I need to let go of.

That is a great prayer for a communion Sunday, which this is. But the Psalm I chose this morning is a self-examination one that goes like this:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  

God’s words of grace for God’s people this morning when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

In other words, perhaps, we are saying to God check out our book, look through it and see the good things we’ve done, and let us know if you find any work we have done that has not been pleasing in your sight so that we can fix it with your help and through seeking forgiveness.

Three distinct things in this Psalm. Search, test, and lead. Three important things for us this morning as we prepare for communion, as we prepare to come to the altar of grace and love, three things we seek today in order to continue our journey of faith.

I wonder how many of us stop to do this? I mean asking God to check out our lives. It’s a tough thing to do. When we look around at others we can spot their weaknesses, but we sometimes think, well, I’ve never done any of that. But we forget, we are all sinners, and yes, we are saved by God’s grace but still we often sin, sometimes on purpose sometimes without knowing it. I confess I don’ do that often. I mean pray this prayer. But this Psalm stood out to me recently through a devotional and I thought what a great thought for communion Sunday. “Search me and know my heart….test me and know my anxious thoughts…lead me in the way everlasting.” Fantastic words for the Christian community, for Christians themselves. We need to stop at times and pray that prayer that can be followed up with Psalm 51 seeking God to create in us a new pure heart, restoring the joy of our salvation.

It’s amazing what we learn from the Scriptures if we read them, if we meditate on them, if we let them penetrate to our inner being. In our Psalm this morning we are allowing God to search our hearts. What’s in there? Is there hate? Is there hurt? Is there unbelief? Is there discouragement? Is there unforgiveness? Is their bitterness? Is there jealousy? Is there anger? Are there doubts? Are there walls that have been built to keep others out? Is there…. you fill in the blank for we are all different. As Scripture tells us we all have fallen short of what God wants us to be. You see, all that can affect one’s spiritual life. Those things sometimes lie deep within in and can separate us from God. They steal our joy. They steal our happiness.

We need to remember that God never goes where he is not wanted. He doesn’t bust down the doors to anyone’s heart, nor does he twist an arm, nor does he scream and yell. The Book of Revelation states that Jesus knocks on the door of each heart gently, I might add, not pounding to get your attention, in order to be invited in to sup with us, to have fellowship with us, to sit and have a talk about our lives. Then if we let him, he will take up residency and he will begin to work over or cleanse those places that need work. After all, Jesus is a carpenter and he can fix the broken places, tear down those walls that are built to keep him and God out. But in order to do that you have to open that door. You’ve all seen that picture or plaque where Jesus stands at the door and knocks. If you look closely there is no door handle on the outside. That door must be opened by someone on the inside. And if he knocks and no one answers, well, he might leave for a little while and maybe just go around the corner to the next heart and then return to give you another chance to open the door and let him in.

And while in there, if you let him in, and only you can let him, he will look around to see what needs to be repaired, tossed out, and then if you allow him, if you give him permission, he will send for his spiritual crew that will come in under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to remodel your spiritual home while Jesus goes on to the next place. In other words, he will give you a new spiritual heart.

The second thing it says is that the Psalmist asked him to put him to the test and know his thoughts. That’s kind of scary one would think. Have you ever wondered what someone next to you is thinking? As a preacher looking out at you every Sunday I sometimes wonder what you are thinking. Have I lost you with what I’m preaching? Have I turned you off? Are your thoughts drifting off to what you are doing the rest of the day? Are you taking a snooze, perhaps keeping your eyes open, but your mind is asleep? Have I messed up God’s message to you? Are your thoughts thinking I wonder when he will come to an end? God knows our thoughts. We might even say God knows what we are going to say, do, or what we are thinking before we even know. How? Well, God knows everything. After all, he’s God.

Test me, the psalmist said. We today don’t like that word. Test me could be replaced by the word ‘examine’ me. You know, one day we are going to stand before God and he is going to examine what we have done. He isn’t going to ask how many years we were in a Sunday School class, or how much we gave to the church, or how many lunches we have prepared. He is going to ask one question. How is it with your soul? He then will look in the great big book of life and see if Richard Francis Piscatelli’s name is written there and when he received his son Jesus as his personal savior. He isn’t going to check on how many wonderful sermons I’ve preached, or how many lives I might have touched, what he wants to know is who is living in my heart? Who is controlling my life? As I said, how is it with my soul?

Finally, when all the searching, all the testing, all the checking of our spiritual homes, comes the surrender, that renewal, that time when you once again commit to the one that has given you two lives, your physical one, and your spiritual one. “Lead me in the way everlasting” the psalmist writes.

Yup! That Good Shepherd, that top dog, that hound of heaven will not only search for you, not only remodel your spiritual home, but he will open the path, or cut away the brush in your wilderness journey, to point you to the yellow brick road that will lead you to the wonderful land of Oz in order for you to find your way home. In this case, the wizard is Jesus, the home is heaven, and it is an everlasting one where you will find joy, peace, and happiness for all eternity.

The elements of the Lord’s Supper are before you. In a few moments you will be invited to come and receive those elements. You are invited to come as you are, warts and all, with those anxious thoughts, with that heart that might still harbor bitterness toward someone because of something that happened one time, even long ago asking you to let go. 

But before you come, before you kneel at the altar under the cross, I want us to pause for one moment and pray this prayer found in verses 23 and 24:

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” 

And then from Psalm 51:10-12 let us join praying: 

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”

Now we are ready to come and receive God’s grace and mercy this morning. Come as you are. Go into the world a better you.

So, may it be, amen!

 

About Rev. Dick Piscatelli, Pastor

Reverend Richard Piscatelli, (Pastor Dick) has been serving this church since 2006 and has begun his 13th year at Williamsville. Dick is a graduate of Asbury College, 1980, now Asbury University, and Asbury Theological Seminary, 1983, in Wilmore, Kentucky. Originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, he and his wife, Carole, have enjoyed living in the Midwest and have made many friends here. Dick’s first appointment was to Buffalo/Dawson UMCs, a two-point charge, which he served for almost 8 years when he was appointed to Paris Trinity UMC. He served at Paris for 6 years and was then appointed to First UMC at St. Elmo in southern Illinois. Dick’s final full-time appointment was to Roanoke/Secor UMCs, a two-point charge. These churches brought much satisfaction and lasting relationships in each. Williamsville UMC has been a joy to serve as he actually began his first church in “retirement,” and is very much involved in all areas of ministry, as the Lord leads. Pastor Dick has a special gift for doing Celebrations of Life and comforting the family. He prepares uplifting, inspiring sermons in a more casual and relaxed style, using humor when appropriate, yet ever-mindful of the importance of bringing the Gospel message for the salvation that Jesus Christ offers to all.