Wherever You Go

Delivered January 12, 2003 by Rev. Laura Crihfeld.

Theme: Reminding you and encouraging you that you are not, ever alone, because the God who created you is the God who loves you and walks with you.

Sermon Text:
Psalm 139:1-18

I invite you to follow along with me, whether in your Bible if you’ve got it in front of you or else on the screen overhead I believe, as I read Psalm 139 verses 1-18. Hear the word of God.

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in – behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.here can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is some of them! Were I to count them, they would out- number the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.”

Will you pray with me? Holy and loving God, thank you so much for your word. Thank you God that your word is as alive and relevant today for our lives as when it was written so many years ago. God I pray now that the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts together would be acceptable to you, our rock and our redeemer. Come Holy Spirit come and fall fresh on each one of us now. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Well, let me begin by telling you that it is a joy to be here today. It’s a privilege that I take very seriously and my prayer is that God is honored through my words that you would hear God’s message to you and that you would hear past me and hear what God is saying to you individually. I also have to say that along with the privilege comes a challenge. The challenge of preaching God’s word faithfully is huge in and of itself, but it becomes an extra challenge I think in my opinion when I realize that you really don’t know me and I don’t know many of you. So that becomes more of a challenge to figure out how to connect together as we discover God’s word. So beyond what Bob wonderfully introduced talking about me earlier and beyond what’s in the bio that is written, I want to tell you one piece of information about me that might give you a hint about a little bit of who I am. It’s a very important piece of information. Here it is. Are you ready? I love games. Anybody else loves games? Who loves games? I love all kinds of games. I love board games and card games and active games and I love watching games. Judd is a huge baseball fan. I have become a huge baseball fan. We watch just about every Atlanta Braves game. We are becoming Oriole fans. Right? But we still watch all of the Atlanta games. We love games. I love games.

And from the time I was little, one of the games that I remember playing and have enjoyed playing is hide and seek. How about you? Hide and seek? The object as you know is to hide well enough that whoever is it can’t find you, right? I remember hiding for what seemed like eternity, probably like three minutes maybe, it might have been two, but it seemed like eternity. Palms sweating, right, every muscle on your body on alert, ready for that moment when you are going to be discovered, but all the while hoping what? That you wouldn’t be discovered, that you wouldn’t be found out and that you would be one of the few who was liberated by those very freeing words and I said earlier in the earlier services, they have a slight ring, maybe different on the West Coast than they do on the East Coast, but on the West Coast it was Ollie Ollie all come free. Same? Liberating words weren’t they? You got to come out and you did it. They didn’t find you. Hide and Seek a wonderful game. It’s a game that if you are anything like me, you played it with friends, perhaps siblings, classmates, maybe your parents, neighborhood friends.

I want to suggest that even if we don’t play the traditional version of hide and seek anymore, although we all ought to because it’s really a great game, but even if we don’t I still think we play this game and specifically I want to suggest that we play this game quite often with God. Now we are in good company. Don’t be discouraged by that, because as far as I can tell, hide and seek was the very first game ever played by human beings. You know where I am going with this? If we were to open up Genesis, we would discover that Adam and Eve were busy playing hide and seek in the garden with God. Right? Like me, they thought or they knew, or maybe they just hoped, that if they could hide well enough from God they wouldn’t have to face the reality of their sin, the reality of their brokenness, and that God wouldn’t be able to find them and that eventually God would say those freeing words, “Ollie Ollie all come free.” They played hide and seek in the garden just like I play hide and seek today. I am guilty of this more often than I care to admit. Now I have to assume that I am not alone in this by the laughter in here this morning so far. I think all of us play this at times. We hide. Maybe it’s from our sins, maybe it’s from a challenge that we don’t want to face or maybe its from a reality that we don’t want to accept. We hide and we fool ourselves into thinking that we will never be found. That if we find just the right spot in the corner of the garden, that we will protect ourselves. And that we will be safely hidden from our creator. It’s foolishness, but I am so good at playing this game. Anybody else want to admit that they are good at playing this game? I am so good at this. And that is not something that I say proudly, but it’s a reality for me.

As with all of us there have been times in my life when I wanted to play this game more often than perhaps other times in my life. Things that had been happening in my life that I haven’t really cared about, as far as liking the way that they were happening. When my brother was dying of cancer in 1997, I wanted to hide. When struggles had been tough at the churches I had been serving, I wanted to hide. When I moved from and this is kind of a humorous one, but when I moved from Southern California to Peoria, Illinois in January, I wanted to hide. But I wanted to hide not only from the weather, but more importantly from the transition that that was, leaving everything that was familiar. I was single at the time. I didn’t know anybody. Those moments before I met Judd when I was not dating anybody and I desperately wanted to be married and I was very lonely, I wanted to hide. I didn’t like those moments. And while God has relieved me of those reasons for wanting to hide, I suspect like you there are many others that face me every day. They are new and different all the time. They are challenges that come before me and I just want to hide. I just want to curl up into that little corner of the garden and pretend that God doesn’t exist because I don’t really want to face God when those moments come and that everything is going to be okay if I just, you know how kids do it when they think that you can’t see them if they go like this? That’s kind of what we do, don’t we? I still have those moments. Those moments when I doubt. Those moments when I am not sure that God is really within my reach. And its at those moments, I don’t lose all sense of faith; I don’t want you to hear that. I had a very good head knowledge; I mean I have been to seminary. Come on, I have got it all up here. Well not all of it, but a lot. They like to think we have all of it, but we don’t. Do we? No. But getting it from here no matter how much we have up here, and making that transition to here down into our hearts, that is sometimes really tough to do. And I think that it is those moments that I most want to run and hide.

I don’t think we are alone with this, those of us in this room. I know that these feelings were very common to those in scriptures. Those who wrote the scripture that we now hold so dearly. Throughout the Bible we see honest vulnerable accounts of questions, doubts and fear as people searched for answers and questioned God about their lives. Its everywhere in scripture. Absolutely everywhere. And the Psalms are no exception and perhaps it is most clear in the Psalms. All throughout this collection of writings, we read of struggle and joy and heartache and certainty and questions and doubts and assurance. Just about every emotion and feeling come in to all of us and I think that is why I love Psalms so much. I love the Psalms. They are in my opinion the most gut level, heartfelt writings that have ever been written about who God is and to God about who we are. And what I love about the Psalms, aside from just that, is that I think they give us permission and a liberty to go to God with all that we are, I mean if the Psalmist can do it and that ended up in scripture, can’t we do it? Permission to be honest before God. Permission. The Psalmist knew how to talk to God in a very honest and vulnerable and heartfelt way. I pray we are able and I think it’s a learning process, so I would say that I pray that we learn more and more everyday how to do that.

Now that said, it’s crucial, I think, that we recognize something else that the Psalmist knew. It’s a simple but important reminder that I believe God wants for each one of us today. The Psalmist knows, as he clearly conveys in Psalm 139, the simple truth that God knows him completely. Totally and completely. God knows when he sits down and when he rises up. God knows all of his ways. He knows each of his words before they are even on his tongue and this is a scary one for any of us who has ever had thoughts we don’t really like. God knows his thoughts before he even thinks them. God knows every single thing there is to know about the Psalmist. And in the midst of the struggles of life the Psalmist understands and believes that it is God who hems him in. It’s God who goes before him and behind him and on either side of him and above him and below him and protects him and shelters him and walks with him and loves him. To the writer of Psalm 139 it becomes abundantly clear that there is nothing that he can do, no place that he can go to escape the incredible love of his creator. He can’t hide no matter how much he tries, he can’t hide. Because that love is everywhere. It’s all around him. Whether he is in heaven or on earth or below the earth, God is still there guiding him and holding his hand. He knew and lived in the assurance that we hear Paul write about in the Book of Romans, in his letter to the Romans. In his letter to the Romans, for many of us a very familiar text, Paul says, “I am confident of this, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation. Nothing will be able to separate us from what, the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen. That is a powerful promise to hold on to. A very powerful promise to hold on to.

But as I was thinking about this this week, I found myself wondering what is it that assures Paul and what is it that assures the Psalmist they could hold on to that promise? I mean it’s a promise and its true, but what do they stand on for their foundation in trusting that that promise is true? And so I kept going in Psalm. And if we keep going in Psalm we find out what it is that makes the Psalmist so confident. He believed despite all that life could throw his way, the truth that it was God who created him. God created him. It was God who loved him. It was God who was with him all the time and if we look again at the verses starting in Verse 13, the Psalmist says and these are powerful words, “For you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful.” And here is the line I love. “I know that full well.” I love the NIV’s translation of that. I know that full well. To know something full well, you can’t have any doubt about it, right? It’s just you are full of confidence about it. The Psalmist knows that God created him, God loves him and God is not going to leave him. It’s a powerful declaration of faith. From the very beginning as we are being formed in our mother’s womb, God is there, giving us the very breath that we need to survive. Steve Simms had everybody do this, the kids do this at the 8:15 service and I want to have everybody do it. Take a deep breath. God gave you that breath. You can let it out. That very breath is yours because of a God who created you and loves you and has given you the very life you breathe and he has been giving that to you from the time that you were in your mother’s womb. That is amazing. I hope that hits you as powerfully as it hits me. Because if God has created us and God has given us life and breath, we can stand on the promise that God is not going to abandon his creation. God loves us too much for that.

I was thinking when Joshua was born in August; we were pretty ecstatic when he was born. I probably don’t have to say that to you. Multiply that a million fold and I don’t think we get really, really close to just how excited God is with each of our births, with our existence. God delights in our existence. The Psalmist knew that, because the Psalmist knew that God created him. God is smack dab in the middle of our lives. Whether we want him to be there or not. He is there. He is not pushy and he is not forcing his way in where we don’t invite him, but he is with us whether or not we acknowledge that. And the Psalmist knew that. The Psalmist wanted to give us I think a word of reminder, that God wants to give us today as we look at that chapter. It’s a simple reminder. When I was asked earlier in the week, “What are you going to preach on?” I said that I had one thing that I wanted the congregation to hear. I want the congregation to be reminded and encouraged that they are not, ever alone, because the God who created you is the God who loves you and walks with you.

Now I have to give a little caveat that I gave at the first two services and I am taking a little bit of a liberty here because I haven’t been around this congregation very long. I have only been here since May. And I am not even officially a member, so you can throw this out the window if you want, but it’s a little charge and a little challenge that I have really felt compelled to say. And that is that, as God gives us individually the reassurance of his presence, he wants to give that to us as a congregation as well. That God created this congregation. God used people in that process, but it is God who is at work here. And Jerry is back today wonderfully, but Jerry’s been in California where it is warm full time. And as you know, the pastor nominating committee is hard at work, but I want to encourage you to believe this passage and the truth of this passage for us as a congregation. That even if we don’t see where God is at work, even if our patience is running out, even if we feel like it’s time or past time and okay God we are ready, we have been ready, let’s bring that new pastor. God’s timing is perfect. And we need to hold on to the promise that God is at work doing things that we can’t see to bring just the right person to fill that pulpit. That’s my little challenge; it’s kind of an aside. But I felt compelled to say it and I hope that it is heard with the care and compassion with which I say it.

It is hard to hold on, isn’t it? It’s hard to be patient, whether it’s personally or corporately and I don’t know personally, getting back to the personal side of it. I don’t know what is going on personally in any of your lives, I wish I did, as Judd and I are active here I hope that we can get to know more of you. But what I do know is that there are struggles that everyone one of us face. That there are things that come up in our lives that are hard to deal with and I am challenging you today, or God is challenging you today I believe, if I can say that, to believe the truth of scripture. To believe the truth of Psalm 139 and to believe the truth of Romans 8. That God is present with you always. That God is active. God is not a passive God who sits up somewhere and just watches as his creation flounders. God is actively involved and engaged in our lives. God is redeeming the circumstances of our lives, every single circumstance. Whether we feel his presence in those moments or not, he is redeeming every circumstance of our life. And we may not always see it, but it is very very real. And even in those moments of temporary blindness when we don’t see it, as we wonder perhaps where God is or what he is doing, when we play hide and seek and we try to put on that mask and we cover our eyes and we say, “Okay, God can’t see me, God can’t see me.” God is there. And I think the biggest challenge maybe is to remember that as a body of believers, we are called to remind each other of that. We are called to remind each other how much God loves us, and the fact that God has created us, God has redeemed us and God is sustaining us. That’s our job. That’s your job to remind those who are sitting around you. So I encourage you to do that. Remind me of that, I need to hear it. I will try to remind you of that. We all need to hear it. May each of us have the confidence of the Psalmist and the confidence of Paul. Trusting that no matter where we are, no matter what we are experiencing in life, that God is there hemming us in behind and before, laying his hand upon each on of us and saying to us individually, “You are mine.” God is saying that to each one of us. “You are mine. I made you. I am with you. I love you.”

Let’s pray. Holy and loving God, what a powerful reminder. What a wonderful reminder that the Psalmist gives us that you are with us, that you do love us, that you have created us, that you hem us in behind and before and that as Paul said in the Book of Romans, there is nothing, nothing that can separate us from your love. Holy God, help us to live that promise. Help us to live boldly. Help us to proclaim Jesus Christ boldly and to proclaim to the world the truth, that you are an active God, always engaged with your people. Help us to live that God, help us to believe it. Help us to take it from our heads to our hearts and to live boldly for you because of that assurance. We thank you God and we praise your name and we ask that you would continue to be glorified in our worship now. We pray in the name of Jesus and all of God’s people together said, Amen.