August 5, 2018 Pastor: Series: Summer Sermons
Topic: Christ's Love & Power Scripture: Psalm 139:13–139:18,
I was involved in a couple activities when I was in high school. I sang in the choir from 7th grade until I graduated. Proud tenor one, right here. I lead Bible studies before school started and even coordinated the See Ya At The Pole prayer gatherings for my high school. I went to football games and dances, but there was one thing I did in high school that was my absolute favorite. Probably the most fun I had in all of high school. The musical. I didn’t ever have a major role or anything like that. I was always a part of the chorus and extras. But it was a blast. Senior year we did Fiddler on the Roof and it was just awesome. And it really got me into musical theater. I’ve seen many of the more well-known musicals but my favorite is WickedFor those of you unfamiliar with Wicked, it’s the story of Elphaba – the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz. Throughout the production you learn about her upbringing, her time at university, how she met Glinda, and (of course) how she became known as the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m guessing many of you have at least heard of it and some of you have probably even heard a few of the songs from the show. Songs like “Defying Gravity” and “For Good” were and still are wildly popular. But I want to talk about one of the lesser-known songs. It’s actually sung by the Wizard of Oz himself and, in it, he tells the story of how he became the Wizard and how he ended up being so widely loved and accepted by the people of Oz. Seeing as how I’d like you all to keep coming to this church, I won’t sing the lyrics, but I do want to share some with you. This is the Wizard…
“Wonderful. They called me Wonderful. So I said Wonderful – if you insist. I will be Wonderful. And they said Wonderful. Believe me, it’s hard to resist cause it feels Wonderful. They think I’m wonderful.” Elphaba presses the Wizard for lying to the people. And then the Wizard has a line that really hits you. He says, “Elphaba, where I’m from, we believe all sorts of things that aren’t true. We call it…history. A man’s called a traitor or a liberator. A rich man’s a thief or a philanthropist. Is one a crusader or ruthless invader? It’s all in which label is able to persist.” And then he says, “They call me Wonderful…so I am Wonderful.”
Now, I’m not just trying to pass my love for Wicked onto all of you. Not entirely, anyway. This morning, we’re going to look at one of the more well-known Psalms of the Old Testament. It’s a Psalm written by everyone’s favorite giant-slayer and king, David. It’s a Psalm that speaks of the intimate attention the Lord gives to all of us and, similar to the song from Wicked I spoke of, the Psalm shares with us how we should view ourselves and what we are told. Mary Ann already read the first part of Psalm 139 and I’ll read the next part. I’m starting at verse 13…
* Read Psalm 139:13-18 *
When we read this Psalm, it doesn’t take long to really see the deep meaning and value it holds. It is ancient poetry written centuries ago and yet, at the same time, has a personal resonance with the human soul that is so very timeless. And I believe that’s because this Psalm, maybe more so than any other portion of Scripture, speaks to a part of our existence that we all measure and examine frequently: our worth and value. And Psalm 139 declares our value in the eyes of God and reveals our basic, intrinsic worth.
The first part of the Psalm reveals the wild and encompassing value we possess in the eyes of our Creator. God has searched us and knows us, all of us. He knows the things we’re proud of and are happy to display to the world, but the Lord also knows the darker parts of who we are and all the things we try to hide in shadow or hope no one ever finds out. He knows every doubt, every insecurity, every pride, and every gift. God knows all that there is to know about each of us. And His response is love and pursuit. God’s love for us is so strong and reaching, that we are told there is nowhere we can go from the presence of God. No height, no depth, no realm, nor darkness is out of His reach. And in verse six, David says that such knowledge is too wonderful for him and for us. And that’s not the only time David would use the word “wonderful”.
When we get to verses 13-18, we see it again. David proclaims that God’s works are wonderful. And it just so happens that David is focusing on and speaking about a particular work of God: us. David poetically declares God’s presence and power as the Creator of each person.
God created our inmost being. The qualities and faculties that make us who we are. Everything from the variations in the color of our eyes to our sense of humor. Every direction of thought and each aching within our heart is fashioned and placed there by God before we are born. God does this even before we are aware of His work. Verse 13 says, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb” and later David says we are made in the secret place. God’s creative love is expressed to us and used to shape us long before we are born. Before we take a breath on our own, God has breathed beauty and meaning into us. Before we see our first glimpse of light, the Light of the World has loved us and declared us wonderful and given us purpose.
In this Psalm, we are told an unbelievably important truth: that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. And that as a work of the Creator, we are wonderful. If we were to seek out the most foundational truth of our existence, it is this. That before we are told or shown anything else, that we are wonderful, beloved creations of the most high God. And today, that is a message and a truth that is tragically absent.
Unfortunately, when it comes to trying to assess our value or our worth, we rarely lean into the intentions and designs of our Creator. Instead, we allow shallower voices with greater volume to shape the image we have of ourselves. We judge our worth based on the opinions of peers or faces we’ve only ever viewed on a screen. We calculate our value using our bank accounts instead of taking into account who it was that made us. We make the work we do the end-all-be-all instead of remembering the wonderful work that we are.
This is true for virtually all ages, locations, and demographics. It can be as broad as gender stereotypes and as specific as the street we live on. We have our worth and value declared by others based on their opinions of who our parents are, our appearance, by what job we hold, or even what car we drive. Throughout our entire lives, we have voices that barely know us who seek to determine and set our worth based only on their cursory glances or their fragmentary understanding of who we are.
Teenagers get an unholy amount of this. In my years of student ministry, I had to sit with heart-broken students who questioned their value because of the comments of peers, adults, and voices in the media. I was with young women who developed eating disorders because voices told them their value was summed up in the number on a scale. I supported high schoolers who felt they had no purpose because they didn’t get accepted into the one school everyone told them was their future.
But we’re fooling ourselves if we think this is something only teens deal with. Adults from every corner of life are susceptible to this. A careless word from a friend or significant other can distort our image of who we are. Being let go from our job or passed over for an opportunity can leave us reeling, feeling like we have no value or no way to contribute to this world. And, more often than not, the voice within our own mind whispers all the doubt and discouragement we need to find ourselves wondering what we’re worth.
And that’s where that line spoken by the Wizard of Oz comes back to me. He said that people are defined with plenty of titles but that “It’s all in which label is able to persist.” For him, it was the people calling him wonderful that persisted. Unfortunately for us, it is normally the most current or the loudest label that persists in our minds. But they do not always represent a voice of truth. No, the voice of truth comes from the One who made us. And do you know what our Creator thinks of us? It’s right there in Psalm 139. He thinks we are wonderful. We are formed by the one who shaped galaxies and gave the oceans their limits and it is we who are described as being fearfully and wonderfully made.
And it is that same Holy God that formed us, not merely out of obligation but with precision and purpose. Our frame was not hidden from Him in the secret place. God knew the shape of our face and our stature before we were born. God created our inmost being and gave us the sound of our laugh, the warmth of our heart, and the spark of our mind. And our Creator formed us with the holiest reverence for a purpose. All of our days were counted and given meaning and saturated with potential.
That is the label, my friends, that needs to persist. That is the voice that needs to ring truest in our hearts. For it is this truth, given to us by God’s Word, that defines our value and our worth. We are not merely the sum of our experiences or the mistakes we’ve made the accomplishments we’ve compiled. No. We are a work of the Almighty God and we are Wonderful.
And so, I want to ask you to do two things with the truth of Psalm 139. Both are difficult but both are also desperately missing in this world and could create a great deal of good. The first thing I ask of you: Believe this truth for yourself. I know this is a tall order and much more complicated than checking “yes” on a survey. No doubt, you have had lies spoken about you and some have seeped in. Whether it entails something said when you were young or something about your appearance or a mistake you’ve made or the achievements you’ve collected in this life…I am willing to bet that something or someone has tried to tell you what you are and what you’re worth. The only voice that matters is that of the One who created you. And in the eyes of God, you are a wonderful creation.
And the second thing I’m asking of you: Share this truth with those you encounter in this life. A word of encouragement and tenderness is never a word wasted. But what I’m asking goes further. The words of Psalm 139 are for every fearfully and wonderfully made creation of God, every person. The clerk at the store. The server at the restaurant. The person you count as an enemy as well as the people you try to avoid. And this certainly entails how you talk to and encourage your friends and loved ones and the folks you see day-in and day-out. Sometimes it is those we see most often that are most in need of this reminder. Displaying and speaking the value of a person to that person can fundamentally transform them. Whether it’s your children, your spouse, a stranger, yourself, or any other human being…remember the word Psalm 139 uses to describe each life: Wonderful.