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"In Your Light We See Light"

Presented on The Lutheran Hour on August 19, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Dale A. Meyer, Guest Speaker
(Q&A Topic:In Your Light We See Light)
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries

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Text: Psalm 36

I invite you to join me in prayer. O Lord, help us meditate upon Your loving-kindness. Our feelings are so often in turmoil, but You promise us peace. Teach us the way to peace. We are often upset by much in life that is wrong, so very wrong. Lead us to center our lives on Your righteousness and justice. When events tempt us to despair, turn us to Your Word and assure us of Your faithfulness. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" Draw us to You. Amen.

Taking time to meditate is not in the spirit of our age. If you've ever tried to sit for a time, devices off, and do nothing, you may have found it very challenging. That was my experience last month when Diane and I went to visit our daughter Katie and her family outside of Washington D.C. I was worn down by work and decided the week would be vacation, no emails from the seminary, sleep as long as I wanted, disconnect. Easier said than done, but I did it. Well, pretty much did it. It turned out to be a soul-searching time because I am so in the habit of working. Taking time to meditate is not in the spirit of our age. An article in the Wall Street Journal was helpful. Bradley Staats tells the story of Thomas J. Watson Sr., the man who built IBM into a global powerhouse. Mr. Watson got frustrated when good ideas were not being suggested in a meeting. He complained, "The trouble with every one of us is that we don't think enough. Knowledge is the result of thought, and thought is the keynote of success in this business or any business." That was the same sentiment that Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, my predecessor on The Lutheran Hour, once told me. Dr. Hoffmann said, "You have to take time to think." And meditation is time to think.

Permit me to share with you some thoughts from my own meditation. This summer I spent time meditating upon Psalm 36. You might want to look at Psalm 36 after this broadcast. You can also contact us to get a copy of today's message. Psalm 36 starts with four verses about evil people. For now, I'll skip over those verses. I promise we'll get back to those flagrant sinners, but now let's look at the heart of the psalm. The heart of Psalm 36 is the loving-kindness of God. Verses 5 through 9 say,

"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep. O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light."

These verses are a prayer to the Lord, our prayer to the Lord. What picture do you have in mind when you hear the word "Lord"? "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens." When I think about Diane, I have an image in mind. When you talk about people, you have their face in mind. What face do you have in mind when you talk to the Lord? Christian meditation thinks about God in the light of Jesus Christ. John 1:18 says, "No one has ever seen God." Think about that. When you pray to the Lord, what image do you have in mind? "No one has ever seen God," but in John 14:9 Jesus says, "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father." And in 2 Corinthians 4:6, the Bible teaches, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." That means, and this is an important point to help you in your meditation, that means we read the Old Testament in the light of Jesus Christ. The ancient church father Augustine said, "The Old (Testament) is in the New revealed, the New (Testament) is in the Old concealed." So Christian meditation looks at all the Scriptures, including the Old Testament, in the light of Christ. With that in mind, let's meditate again on the heart of Psalm 36, and this time meditating on the psalm in the light of Jesus Christ.

"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies." Lord Jesus, You ascended into heaven and are in the full glory of God. You fill all things with the sureness of Your love to us.

"Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep." Lord Jesus, You brought righteousness into our fallen world by Your holy life, Your death on the cross as punishment for sins, and Your amazing resurrection. Like mountain peaks and ocean depths, Your justice commands our attention.

"O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings." Lord Jesus, Son of God, You sustain all creatures because Your mercy is upon all that You have made. Mankind and animals, our lives are dependent upon Your continuing loving kindness.

"They feast on the abundance of Your house; you give them drink from Your river of delights." Lord Jesus, in Your house, in Your faith, in Your true church Your Holy Spirit feeds us. Through Him we feast in abundance and "drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light." "The Old (Testament) is in the New revealed; the New (Testament) is in the Old concealed."

As I said, Christian meditation is different than other kinds of meditation. While we were in the Washington area, we went to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. While our grandsons were at the playground, I walked through the gardens. It was peaceful, I needed that, a great place for meditation; we all need that. The Brookside Gardens have a labyrinth. It looks like a patio, but it's designed for meditation. It's laid out with a spiral path that you follow toward the center. As you walk you are supposed to disengage from your daily worries and focus your mind on what's most important. This particular labyrinth has a plaque that tells you how to use it. It says,

"Before you start your walk you may want to pause and take a few moments to quiet your mind and release the thoughts and feelings that are distractions of everyday life so that you can focus and be present in the moment. ... As you begin your walk, find your own pace; pause for reflection whenever you wish. Be open to any insight or feeling you may have. When you reach the center, be still and aware of what thoughts or feelings you may have. Stay as long as you wish. Using the path, the journey out from the center can be seen as a return to one's life. Reflect on any insight with a sense of empowerment and a refreshed spirit."

Did you catch how it tells you to focus on yourself? Christian meditation is different because it is focused outward, focused on God who meets and leads us through Jesus Christ. Jesus promises, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:7). By the way, I'm not opposed to labyrinths! You can use it in a very Christian way. Dr. Travis Scholl, my colleague at Concordia Seminary, wrote a book titled, The Labyrinth. In it he writes, "The path of the labyrinth is Christ. Christ is the path. Because He is the path ... any one of us can find Him in the singular walk that is our own life. Or rather, He finds us. Come, follow Me."

But what about the problems and difficult people in your life? What about the sin and evil that is multiplying all around us? Meditating upon all the loving kindness of God gives us confidence in the final victory of God's righteousness and justice. Let's go back now to the first four verses of Psalm 36. They say:

"An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong."

The psalmist was upset about other people, and it wasn't simply the wrongs they were doing. He was bothered because they showed no fear of God. The fear of God is awe that the unseen God is our Creator, He will judge us for how we have lived, and-here is the psalmist's only hope and ours-since your life hasn't measured up to God's standards-mine hasn't either-your only hope is the righteousness our loving God brings us in His Son Jesus. Now here's a significant thing about Psalm 36. After complaining about people who show no fear of God, the psalmist immediately turns his thoughts to God. The natural thing would be to complain about others and then say, "But look at me. I fear and love God. I lead an upright life." But no, the psalmist doesn't turn from the wicked to himself, but he turns straight to God. The psalmist isn't preoccupied with himself and his problems. His thoughts turn to all the loving kindness of God. Quoting from the psalm, the person who doesn't fear God "commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong." And now, the turn: "Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens," and so on. In Christian meditation we do get things off our chest. We do vent about problems and evil, but you'll find the attitude changer is when you turn from yourself and other people to the loving kindness God gives us in Jesus Christ.

Every time I meditate upon this psalm, I come away with two feelings. The first is shame at the smallness of my faith. The words of the psalm describe a pureness of faith in Jesus that I should have, but when I look at these words honestly, O me of little faith! My faith in Jesus is smaller than it should be because my trust in myself is greater than it should be. Could it be that you and I find our self-worth in what we do or try to do, rather than finding our worth in our God and Savior? This question also applies to us who are zealous in our spiritual life and active in church. Revelation 2:10 says, "Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life," but it's not our faithfulness that merits the grace of God. "Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling." As I said, meditating upon Psalm 36 shows me that my faith in Jesus is smaller than it should be because my trust in myself is greater than it should be. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24).

Second, meditating on this psalm, this talk with the Lord Jesus never fails to expand my little mind. Do you, like me, imagine that the church is simply that building down the street? Do you have to go into a sanctuary to think about God? Meditating on Psalm 36 puts the loving-kindness and faithfulness and righteousness of God in greater perspective than just a building and a Sunday service. Hear how the psalmist compares the magnificence of God's loving kindness to the greatness of creation.

"Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Your justice like the great deep. O Lord, You preserve man and beast. How priceless is Your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of Your wings. They feast on the abundance of Your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights. For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light."

Do you hear it? God's creation all around us is amazing, and all His loving-kindness God is even more magnificent. The Sunday service in that building down the street should focus you and me on God's words of love and faithfulness and justice. You and I are living in God's cathedral of creation and His Word leads us to focus all God's goodness in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 36 concludes with this prayer: "Continue Your love to those who know You, Your righteousness to the upright in heart. May the foot of the proud not come against me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away. See how the evildoers lie fallen- thrown down, not able to rise" (Psalm 36:10-12). With these closing words of meditation, we pray the deeds of others will not pull us away from trusting all the loving-kindness of God. And when the psalmist says, "See how the evildoers lie fallen-thrown down, not able to rise," how shall we understand that? The answer is by faith, trusting that God's justice and righteousness will finally prevail. Since "God's love reaches to the heavens" and His "faithfulness to the skies," since His "righteousness is like the mighty mountains" and His "justice like the great deep," we trust Him for the ultimate victory of good over evil.

The dear hymn, "Abide with Me," talks about God continuing His love to us this way:
"I need Thy presence ev'ry passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter's pow'r?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me."

Meditation is time to think, and Christian meditation is "a lamp to our feet and a light to our path" (Psalm 119:105). The light that illumines our way through the labyrinth of life is Jesus Christ. He tells us, "I am the light of the world" (John 9:5). So be assured! "Our Savior, Christ Jesus... has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). "In your light we see light." Amen.

Reflections for August 19, 2018

Title: In Your Light We See Light

Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour, and we just heard Dr. Dale Meyer. Next, we'll talk with Pastor Ken Klaus, and he joins us now from his home in Texas. Hello there, Pastor Klaus!

Ken Klaus: Hello, Mark. A pleasure to be with you, Lutheran Hour listeners, and a joy to have been tuned in to another of Dr. Meyer's messages.

Mark Eischer: He talked about taking time to think. So, what did you think?

Ken Klaus: You want me to reflect on Dr. Meyer's message on reflection? It sounds like a trick question! My first reflection would be to say that I am always amused by his complete candor and honest asides.

Mark Eischer: Like what?

Ken Klaus: Dr. Meyer said he and his wife went to visit their daughter. He felt worn down by work, was looking forward to disconnecting and stepping away from the phone and the e-mails. Mark, you have to admire a man who is so in control of himself that he can turn off all those work switches, shift down into a low gear, and take time off. He admits it's easier said than done, but he did it. Then comes the aside: he said he pretty much did it. Mark, tell me what that last sentence means.

Mark Eischer: To say he pretty much did it means he didn't really do it.

Ken Klaus: Yeah, he may have tried. He may have wanted to, but it didn't necessarily work out like he intended.

Mark Eischer: To say, "I pretty much did it" is about the same as saying, "I pretty much failed."

Ken Klaus: And why wasn't Dr. Meyer able to shut things down as thoroughly as he intended?

Mark Eischer: He said it was because he was so "in the habit of working and taking time to think is not in the spirit of our age." He had good intentions, but something prevented him from making good on those intentions.

Ken Klaus: If I remember correctly, St. Paul said much the same. In Romans, chapter 7, he confessed, "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing." Later on, he adds, "So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand." Then St. Paul concludes by asking the question, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"

Mark Eischer: Okay, Dr. Meyer's story wasn't as dramatic as that of St. Paul. Still, both men were looking for some sort of peace.

Ken Klaus: Peace. How are you ever going to find it? That's a universal question. Going back to Dr. Meyer's message, finding peace seems to be part of the purpose of that labyrinth, Brookside Gardens he talked about, that place with the spiral path leading to the center. Do you remember the labyrinth's instructions?

Mark Eischer: Some of them said that people on the path should first pause and clear their minds, release distractions, focus, and be present in the moment, whatever that means.

Ken Klaus: Mark, speaking of people who were "on the path," do you remember what Christianity was called before it was called "Christianity"?

Mark Eischer: In Acts 9:2, Christians were called followers of "the Way."

Ken Klaus: The labyrinth in Maryland has you following a path and looking inside yourself for peace. In contrast, Christianity would have you follow the Way, that is, follow Jesus, who is the Way, and we receive God-given peace.

Mark Eischer: How did those early Christians get that name?

Ken Klaus: Well, Jesus said He was "the Way and the Truth and the Life." Now, clarify this for me: did Jesus say He is one of many ways?

Mark Eischer: No, He said He is the Way.

Ken Klaus: Did He say He is One of many truths?

Mark Eischer: Once again, there is only one Truth. Jesus claims to be that truth. Of course, there are those who will say that kind of talk is bigoted and narrow-minded. How would you reply to those who think there ought to be other ways and a bunch of different truths?

Ken Klaus: Well, I would say they are free to look. Look at the rest and then come back to the best or the only Truth and Way there is. Mark, it's this way. All of us are sinners, there are no exceptions. Right?

Mark Eischer: Right.

Ken Klaus: And the penalty for being a sinner is what?

Mark Eischer: The Bible speaks about eternal death, eternal separation from God.

Ken Klaus: We all suffer from a spiritual illness which is terminal. Naturally, we look for a cure. Who better to go to than to the Lord who has made us and knows all about us. We ask, "Are there any cures for what's ailing us?" And God says, "Well, actually there is a cure." He tells us, "Believe on the Lord, Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." He continues, "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin." He finishes by revealing, "There is salvation in nobody else, for there is no other name under heaven which can save." So, the Lord says, "There is the cure" but the world says, "We don't like that one. Give us another one."

Mark Eischer: And God says, "Faith in Jesus is the only cure."

Ken Klaus: And we ask, "Is it expensive?" And the Lord replies, "To you the cure is free. But to obtain the cure and make it available to the world, it cost the life of the One who gave this cure to sinners." We can recommend this cure to anyone who's listening, but God will not force anyone to receive it. So, what will it be? What will you do with Jesus and the gift He offers?

Mark Eischer: And Pastor Klaus, that is the ultimate question for meditation and reflection. Thank you for being with us today, and tell us a little bit about your topic for next week's message?

Ken Klaus: Well, we are going to talk about discerning what is best.

Music Selections for this program:

"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.

"O God, My Faithful God" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)

Change Their World. Change Yours. This changes everything.

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