Preacher: Jeff Davidson
Scripture Reading: Psalm 34:1-8
Wherever it appears in the Bible, whenever I read the phrase “I sought the Lord” my mind goes to a song from 1965. I was too young to know the song when it was a hit, but it continued to be played on the radio a lot for several years and you’ll still hear it on any oldies station. The song was by the Bobby Fuller Four, and it’s called “I Fought the Law.”
I’m not going to try to sing the whole song, but the part of it that I always think of is repeated several times: “I fought the law and the law won. I fought the law and the law won.” My brain automatically changes the words to “I sought the Lord and the Lord won. I sought the Lord and the Lord won.”
Now that doesn’t make perfect sense, because “sought” is not a win-or-lose kind of a thing unless you’re playing hide and seek. “Sought” does not imply some kind of a contest or a battle or keeping score or anything like that. “”Sought” implies, well, seeking. Looking for something. Trying to find something.
It’s kind of an interesting word to use when we think about God, because as Christians we believe that God is always with us. In John 14:16-17 where Jesus is saying good-bye to the disciples, he promises that he will pray for the Holy Spirit to be sent to the disciples. Later in Acts chapter 2, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appears as tongues of fire, and Peter preaches about the Old Testament prophet Joel who proclaimed that the gift of the Holy Spirit would be given to all believers.
So we know that the Bible teaches that God, through the Holy Spirit, is always with us. We know that in our heads. Sometimes it’s hard to feel it in our hearts, though. Sometimes our hearts are heavy and we feel as if we need to look for God, to seek God’s presence, even though our heads tell us that the Spirit is always with us, closer than our own breath. God is with us. God’s Holy Spirit surrounds and is within us.
The other image in this Psalm that speaks to me is there in verse 8: “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” It’s not an issue for Ayuba yet, but sooner or later parents have to figure out how to introduce kids to different foods and how to have them eat foods that they may not necessarily like but that are necessary for good health and growth and development.
Sometimes it’s better if you don’t know what the food actually is. I watch cooking shows sometimes and they’ll work with Rocky Mountain Oysters. There aren’t actually oysters in the Rocky Mountains. They’re just called that because if you called them bull testicles no one would buy or eat them. Sorry, not interested. That might be the tastiest, most healthful dish ever. I might like Rocky Mountain Oysters better than I like popcorn with salt and lots of butter. It doesn’t matter. Nope, nope, nope, nope.
I find that is true even with things that I like, or that I once liked. When I was a kid mom would fry up some liver, and it was one of my favorite meals. I really enjoyed it. And when I was in seminary doing my intern year in Orrville, Ohio there was a cafeteria that had liver. I had it there and enjoyed it a lot.
Now? Not interested. Actually that’s not true. I am a little interested, but my head is filled with people telling me how gross liver is and although I used to enjoy it quite a bit I can’t quite bring myself to try it again. I tell myself that nobody can make it as well as my mom did, and that might be true. I don’t know if I’ll ever have liver again or not, but for now I am not willing to try it and see if it is good.
As a pastor you run across a lot of people who are that way with God. They have had a bad experience with a church, or they read about a Christian leader who has said or done something that is hurtful to them and they just have no particular use for the organized church. But still at important moments of their lives, like weddings or funerals, they want some sort of representative of God. They want a pastor or a minister of some kind to bring God’s presence into whatever the event is. They want someone to reflect on what God might mean in their life or their marriage or the life of their loved one.
I’ve been that representative in a lot of settings. As I think back over it, I think I may have done more weddings for people who are not a part of a church than for people who are. Sometimes those weddings or funerals lead people into a deeper relationship with God than they had before. Sometimes they even start attending a church and developing a support system of brothers and sisters who can help them develop and use their gifts. Sometimes that doesn’t happen.
Either way, it’s an opportunity for people to taste God. A chance for people to taste and see that God is good, that there is refuge in God, that God does not wish them ill. It’s an opportunity that each of us have in our lives as we live and work and talk and share with so many different people from so many different places religiously, emotionally, and philosophically.
Sometimes when people taste and see that God is good, they seek more. They seek after God in a way that they haven’t before. They find the refuge that David talks about in the Psalm. They find protection, and strength, and safety. We each have the ability to provide that taste of God. We each have the gift of the Spirit’s presence that can speak through us to those who are seeking God.
It’s a difficult week in some ways for people who are seeking God. We have the Unite the Right 2 rally going on here in DC today. At my workplace this past week we had a particularly difficult shooting call. There are many other things in many other lives that I am not aware of or that I don’t have time to mention. Each of you know of difficult and hard times either in your own life or in someone else’s that could lead one to wonder where God is, and where to seek for God.
Back in 1986 Fred Rogers wrote the following:
“I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels. For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.
There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.”
When we seek the Lord we can look to those who stand against evil, who demonstrate against it. When we seek the Lord we can look to those who try to save others from evil, even at the risk of their own lives. When we seek the Lord we can look to those that help, doctors and nurses, police and firefighters, volunteers, neighbors, and friends.
It’s not that they’re perfect people. They’re not. In other contexts they might be people we wouldn’t particularly like or wouldn’t particularly have much use for. It is entirely possible that there are people attending the Unite the Right rally that are in other contexts helpers that God uses. It is entirely possible that there are counter-demonstrators at the rally that are in other contexts people we would disagree with, people we would keep outside of our circle of friends.
This is no surprise. The Bible teaches that everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Everyone, from the worst racist to the most kind and gentle person you can think of, and everyone in between. Including us.
That’s one of the reasons it’s important for us to be among those who seek the Lord. We need forgiveness. We need mercy. We need grace. We need the Way and the Life, just as much as the worst person you can think of.
In the song, fighting the law didn’t work out for Bobby Fuller. He fought the law, and the law won. When we can say “I sought the Lord” it’s a different result. When God reaches out through us to others so that they can seek, and taste, and see that God is good, it’s a different result. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Amen.