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Outcasts and Gates

. 4 min read

3-4
Feb 2018, Christ Mountain Top, The Lord’s Table
Call
to Worship, Psalm 147
Children,
Mark 1.29-39
Message,
Psalm 147, read from The Message
Psalms:
      Hymn book, prayer book
            Prayer schedules for morning and
evening prayers, 30 days
      Voice of another becomes our prayer
            To read another prayer – a
God-inspired prayer
Last
week, Psalm 111
      Praise for God’s works in Creation and
Redemption
      God’s Word Works
      Poetry: Parallelism (the rhyming of thoughts)
            African-American preaching &
this rhythm of Hebrew poetry
He sends out his command to the earth;
his word runs swiftly.
He gives snow like wool;
he scatters frost like ashes.
He hurls down hail like crumbs–
who can stand before his cold?
He sends out his word, and melts them;
he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
      Vv 15-18

This
week:
Problems
in the psalms, from the perspective of modern suspicions. They exist in the
psalms as a matter of their history, and they are there as well as a matter of
our humanity – the problems we so easily encounter, the pitfalls into which we
so easily trip. We think we are worshiping God, but we are really falling into
a subtle and powerful trap. I want to lift up the tension in this experience
with two words from the psalm – outcasts and gates.
      Gates are often part of boundary language.
Who is in? Who is out? Who is out-cast? Who is us? Who is them? Right now, it
is the language of politics in our nation, as divisive as possible, even within
the political parties. “We’re the real Democrats. We’re the real Republicans.” No
matter how we vote, we are all praying and hoping for solutions for Americans and even for the world.
      Gates are often part of boundary language.
Outcasts are part of boundary language. So, where does God live? Inside the
gates or among the outcasts?
Psalm
147:13-14
 For he strengthens
the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.  14 He grants peace within your
borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.
1. Problem of Privilege:
      In our worship we so easily turn to
worship ourselves
Psalm
147:20
 He has not dealt thus
with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.
      Privilege – and gates that keep others
out.
2. Problem of Power:
Psalm
147:4-5
 He determines the
number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names.  5 Great is our Lord, and abundant
in power; his understanding is beyond measure.
Didn’t
you hate it when your parents responded with “because I said so”?
Psalm
147:12
 Praise the LORD, O
Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion!
Praise
without reason. Is simply a
validation of the world that is, of empire. If all we offer is a summons – come
and worship – without a why, a reason – we have lost the “authenticating
experience” and focused only on the “authenticated world” (Brueggemann, Israel’s Praise: Doxology Against Idolatry
and Ideology,
91).
The
reason for “Israel’s praise” is
always two-fold: creation (the world as it is) AND redemption (the world as it
is meant to be). Without the voice of the slaves, liberated, we are only the
voice of empire. Without the presence of the outcast, we are an imaginary
elite. J
ürgen Moltmann made this remark, “A church without persons
with disabilities is a disabled church.”
So,
I love how this psalm, despite the presence of these problems, which persist in
all human worship …. I love how this psalm includes the reason for our praise in the outcast:
Psalm
147:2-3
 he gathers the
outcasts of Israel.  3 He
heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Psalm
147:6
 The LORD lifts up the
downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.
So,
when the psalm speaks about the strong bars of their gates, we’re not talking
about gates that keep out everyone who doesn’t share our privilege, about gates
that bar admittance to everyone who doesn’t have our power. These are the gates
of a city for outcasts, the gates that give security to those who had been most
at risk from everyone else with power and privilege.
Why
do our children and grandchildren, raised in the church, end up without an
active faith? Lots of reasons for that, many individual stories. One of the big
reasons for it, sociologically, is because it is so easy for church, for
religion, to be an institution or habit – and that’s all. A good way to pass on
values and tradition, but once you’ve got your values, who needs it? We sing
hymns, we pray the psalms, but we might as well be reading the dictionary or
phone book. We’re not being transformed by an encounter with Jesus.
Sometimes
I think that I need to have things mixed up. New songs every week – ones I
don’t know at all, ones that force me to struggle with the words. In my Bible
reading, I change the translation I use each time I read through so that I do
not become so familiar with the Holy that I forget I am dealing with the Holy
One who gathers outcasts and heals the brokenhearted. And I forget that I was
outcast, that I can only meet Jesus when he comes among the outcasts. In my
privilege and power, I miss Jesus entirely.

This
is why we come to the Table today – to meet with Jesus, to celebrate
redemption, to be gathered as outcasts into the city of God.