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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Blessed to be a Blessing

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

July 2, 2017

Psalm 67

 

It started like so many evenings. Mom and Dad at home and Jimmy playing after dinner. Mom and Dad were absorbed with doing household chores, reading the paper, and watching TV. There was a full moon that night, and some of the light seeped through the windows, making it lighter than expected for this time of night. When Mom glanced at the clock, she noticed it was past her son’s bedtime and said "Oh, Jimmy, it's time to go to bed. Go up now and get ready for bed. I'll come up and tuck you in in a little while.”

 

Jimmy went upstairs to his room. It was so quite upstairs, his mother thought he must have fallen asleep. When she went up to check on him, to her astonishment she found her son staring quietly out of his window at the moonlit scenery. "What are you doing, Jimmy?" she asked.

 

"I'm looking at the moon, Mom." He said.

 

"Well, it's time to go to bed. It’s really late." She responded.

 

At that, reluctant boy hopped in bed for the night. He said, "Mom, you know one day I'm going to walk on the moon."

 

Who could have known that the boy who dreamed of walking on the moon, would fulfill this dream in 1971 as part of the crew of Apollo 15?  James Irwin, a true American hero, is one of just 12 human beings to have ever stepped on the moon's surface. Oh, the power of a dream!

 

His hope and vision of walking on the moon filled James Irwin with the determination to get the many years of training and experience needed to make that dream a reality. It even helped him recover from the crash of a test plane where he was severely injured and nearly lost a leg. From those injuries, he worked to regain health to join that elite crew of astronauts who made it to the moon.

 

Our psalm for today expresses a dream – a vision of hope for a future filled with blessings, a time when the whole world will be blessed and all will worship God.

 

I invite you to take out the blue Psalm 67 insert from your bulletin. We’re going to work through this psalm and think about what it means for us today.

 

You’ll notice that it begins with words that may sound somewhat familiar: “May God be merciful to us and bless us; may the light of God’s face shine upon us.” Do you recognize those words? It is a reference to the benediction with which we end our worship services each week: “The Lord bless you and keep you, The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious unto you, The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace.”

 

By beginning the psalm with this blessing, the psalmist paints a picture of future hope, a future filled with God’s blessing. By starting with this vision, the psalmist applies the principle “Begin with the end in mind” which was popularized by Stephen Covey as one of his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “Beginning with the end in mind” focuses your energies toward a particular goal. It mobilized people to take action to make the dream a reality. James Irwin used this principle to reach for the moon; the Psalmist uses it to seek God’s blessing.

 

But the psalmist seeks God’s blessings not just for himself, but for all people. In the second verse, this psalm becomes a prayer “Let your way be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations.” Notice he is not just asking for blessings for himself, or his family, or even his country. He is asking that God’s way be known upon the earth, as a way of saving all nations.

 

It is a prayer that echoes the promise God made to Abraham when God asks him to leave his home and go to the land he would show him promising: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

 

God blesses Abraham so that all the families of the earth will be blessed! What a powerful promise! What a vision of hope! The psalmist claims that promise for the blessings of all the nations. It is a promise that God fulfills through Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16). It is a promise to bring God’s Kingdom into its fullness, for the blessings salvation of all humankind. It is a promise that will come into its fullness when Jesus returns. God blessed Abraham for a purpose. God blessed Abraham so that all the world would be blessed.

 

We too, are blessed to for a purpose. We too, are blessed be a blessing. Until Jesus returns, the promise of blessing focuses our attention as we begin with the end in mind. It focuses our attention on that time of hope and promise, that time of blessings and salvation for all.

 

Then you’ll notice that word “Selah.” Did you ever wonder what “Selah” means? Psalms were generally sung. It is believed that Selah is an instruction to the singers. You’ll notice this word occurs twice in this Psalm, each time just before the words: “Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.” That functions as the refrain in this psalm.

 

People would also often dance when they sang. In many cultures around the world singing and dancing go very naturally together. White Americans, especially stoic Scandinavian and German Lutherans, are among the few who tend to stand still                                when we sing. But it’s a safe bet that those first people who sang this psalm in worship broke out into spontaneous song and dance at the word “Selah” singing and dancing God’s praises. It’s a dance break! It’s a time to joyously sing and dance God’s praises.  

 

That brings us to the fourth verse, which you’ll notice is in the very middle of this psalm. This psalm has a mirror image structure with the first two verses asking for God’s blessings and the last two verses confirming God’s blessings. Verses 3 and 5 are the refrain – the song and dance break where the people rejoice. That middle verse, verse 4, is the climax of the whole thing. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.”

 

It gives the reason for all this singing and dancing – because God judges the people with equity and guides the nations upon the earth. God acts with justice and fairness. God cares about all the people of the earth. God uses his wisdom and power to guide the nations.

 

And finally, the last two verses confirm God has already blessed his people: “The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us. May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.” This psalm was written for a harvest festival. Verse 6 tells us that “The earth has yielded its increase, God, our God has blessed us.” It is saying something any farmer can relate to: “The earth has poured forth its fruits.                                              The harvest is plentiful. Let us rejoice.” And the psalm ends with a prayer for God’s ongoing blessing: “May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.”  

 

As you think about the world today, do you share the hopes and dreams of the psalmist? Can you imagine what it would be like if all the earth revered God? As you read the paper and watch the news and listen to what is going on all around the world, do you long for God to jump in and make things right? Do you hope God will bring peace to the middle east? Do you hope God will bring peace within your family, or at your workplace, or in our community? Do you hope that God will bring plentiful food and clean water to those who need it? Do you hope for an end to poverty and despair? Do you long for God to use his wisdom and justice and power to guide all the people of the earth?

 

I sure do! I’d give that an “Amen!” I’m not particularly prone to breaking out in song and dance, but if I saw God guiding all the people of the earth with wisdom and justice, if I saw all the people of the earth revering God, I just might break out in song and dance! How about you?

 

This is the psalmist’s vision as he writes this psalm. It’s the same kind of vision that James Irwin tapped into as he set his sights on the moon. The psalmist knows that if God’s people sing and dance this vision, if they pray for God’s redeeming work in the world, if they do their part in bringing about God’s kingdom on earth, one day this vision will become a reality.

 

We don’t know exactly who wrote this psalm, but the author was one of the Israelites, one of God’s “Chosen People.” Those original Jews generally thought of God in nationalistic terms. They thought: “We’re the Chosen People. This is our God. You, from other lands, are outsiders. Our God is better than your god. Your “god” is just an idol, ours is the one true God with real power.”

 

It is a sentiment we can understand. Sometimes we get into that same mindset. We like to think of the United States as a Christian nation. We like to think God is on our side, that God has richly blessed us. We hope that God will continue to bless us. Sometimes we may even think that we deserve God’s blessings and others don’t.

 

In just a few moments we’ll be singing “God bless America!” It is a prayer asking for God’s blessings on our nation. But what about everybody else? Do we also hope and pray that God blesses everyone else? At our better moments, we realize that God is God of all the earth. We pray that God not only blesses America, but that God blesses the whole world. God is God of all people. God has richly blessed us, and blessed us for a reason – so that we might be a blessing to others. We are blessed to be a blessing.

 

As we celebrate the Independence Day holiday over these next few days, remember the vision of this psalmist. Let’s remember this hope that all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Let’s step back from the “Us or Them” mentality that divides us one from another. Let’s seek to be God’s agents of blessings, bringing about the vision of hope portrayed in this psalm. Let us know what it means that we are blessed to be a blessing. Let us live into that blessing sharing the good news of God’s love and salvation so that all the people of the earth might be blessed.

 

May God bless America, and may God bless all the peoples of the earth. Amen!