given on Sunday, July 15, 2012–this may seem a little light-hearted, but the problems brought in by heat can make us act a little less than Christian.
Scripture base: Psalms 16
Every time I turn around, the thermometer reads 90 something. By the time I turn around and look again, it is edging up to 100 or even higher. It is simply too darn hot to think with a clear mind. It is too hot to step out and have a walk. Forget grilling, the heat from the grill would just add too much heat on the deck.
It’s just too darn hot. When it gets this hot, what happens? First everybody’s tempers seem to flare up. The news tells us what is going on: robberies, accidents, shootings, heat-related deaths, scorching pavement, even a plane’s wheels melt into the tarmac, and the list grows. The weather challenges our sense of joy and enthusiasm.
When the temperatures go up, so do people’s un-Christian behaviors. The struggle to maintain a Christian lifestyle is challenged when the world around us makes us very uncomfortable.
Reading through Psalms 16, I found hope once again. In a sense it was warm fuzzy—or maybe a better term would be an ice cold slushy—for another hot, hot day.
The theme for this psalm is the “joy and the benefits of a life lived in companionship with God” according to the Life Application Study Bible. On a scorching summer day, this reminder that God is good helps keep Christians focused on their faith rather than the heat. We take refuge in God whether the days are sizzling in the sunshine or shimmering with ice.
In that first stanza, we are reminded that staying with God keeps us safe, even cooled down so we do not overreact when others around us are. This is critical when our world seems teetering on the edge of disaster. The rain is not coming, the crops are baked beyond the seasonal norm, and the future of the year’s income seems only a winter’s daydream. Not much to feel joyful about in our current weather pattern.
It’s so darn hot that references are made to living in Hell or Hades. The misery is the theme of casual conversations, and it is easy to just keep adding our complaints to those of the others. We must remember that with God we are safe and secure:
Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance. (v.5-6)
We are all God’s children and we have chosen to follow him, believing in Jesus Christ. We know that we are to live according to that one simple law of loving one another, but we still find ourselves wavering from God when the heat is on (sorry for another cliché, but it can’t be helped in a record breaking heat storm and drought). For days we pray, we work, we pray, and we worry. We have so much trouble truly letting go and letting God manage for us.
So what do we do on these days that are just too darn hot? How do we stay Christian? How do we fill ourselves back up with the sense of joy we typically experience. The answer continues in the hope-filled words of the psalms. The verses 7-8 give us some instructions:
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me
Because he is my right hand
and I will not be shaken.
These instructions are so simple and we certainly need easy answers when challenged from the outside like we are this summer. Keep it simple, Scorched Ones! Love God with all your heart.
If that sounds familiar, good. That short version of the Ten Commandments that was the foundation of the Old Covenant is also included in Mark 12:29-31:
“”The most important one, answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all you strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
With Jesus’ answer to the religious leaders question, “Of all the commandments which is the most important” the New Covenant replaces the Old Covenant. The 10 Commandments dropped to just two and the only common factor in them is that we are to love God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength. That is keeping it simple!
The results of keeping these two simple premises are listed in the final stanzas of Psalms 16. We read them earlier in the NIV version, but hear them in the Message version:
I’m happy from the inside out,
and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.
You canceled my ticket to hell—
that’s not my destination!
Now you’ve got my feet on the life path,
all radiant from the shining of your face.
Ever since you took my hand,
I’m on the right way.
Oh, joy! Those words are overflowing with a sense of glory, a sense of grace, and joy! It is those words in that ninth verse—the one that says he feels good inside and outside—that causes my soul to leap for joy.
The weather may be too darn hot for us to be comfortable working outside; but with God by our side, what do we have to fear. By maintaining the Greatest Commandment that includes loving God with all you have, we do not have to worry.
What we do have to be conscious of is how well are we doing maintaining our own faith. Are we able to say we love God with all our heart and soul? Are we able to say that we have followed the commandment and loved one another? Are we able, even, to keep God in the center of our lives when we are struggling to manage the heat and the drought?
Knowing how to keep God at the center of our lives is not always easy. The fact that our immediate surroundings keep grabbing our attention and distracts us from keeping focused on loving God and loving our neighbors. As the heat continues on into another week and the crops continue to decline without rain, we are challenged to keep ourselves faithful. We are teetering on the edge of being Christian or not being Christian.
The weather conditions may be as hot as Hades, but we are not following false Gods. We follow Christ. We have nothing to fear, just like the psalmist says in those last few verses:
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
…you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Do not let the heat get to you. Do not let the naysayers drag you down. Instead, keep your life centered on God and loving one another. Your heart will be filled with joy.
The hot, dry days of summer are wearing us down.
Tempers flare, hearts weaken, bodies deplete, and more.
Each day we find ourselves slowing down, getting confused,
and frustrated that we can not do more.
Today we have stopped to worship, to find the renewal
Help us to release our worries and to refocus our lives.
Use the hymns, the prayers, the scriptures, and the fellowship
to put you back into the center of our lives.
As we depart, put the joy back into our hearts;
and let hope revive as we begin a new work week.
We leave knowing that Jesus is deep within our hearts
and will help us keep cool even though it is so darn hot.
Let each of us walk through the doors with peace in our souls
and know that we can be the church for others, too. –Amen