Live Deep, Not Fast... by William Challis
Thank you, Shawn, for that challenge in this morning’s sermon (still available on Catch Up…), and thank you also for taking us to Psalm 33.
As a newcomer to Combe Down, I learnt a lot through visiting the Museum of Bath Stone a few weeks ago. What longer-term residents know all too well is that some years ago a massive project was undertaken to fill up the old mine-workings underneath our community to prevent catastrophicsubsidence. A key moment seems to have been the time a Government Minister was persuaded to go down into the old mine workings to see for himself what a huge space lay empty under our homes. Everything seemed ok, solid and stable on the surface, but, when people looked deep underneath, it was clear that homes, businesses and institutions were in imminent danger of collapsing, possibly taking lives with them. Going deep enabled that Minister, along with many others, to see the scale of the problem, the disaster coming down the line.
So, how can we use the current time to go deep with God and avoid the weakness of a faith built on shallow, hollow ground? Going to the Psalms, as Shawn did this morning, is a great place to start, because the Psalms show us both the depths of who God is and the depths that may lie in us. Psalm33 itself reminds us that God is the Creator of all things (vv.6-9), the lover of righteousness (v.5), and the One who is ourhope and our shield (v.20). There is so much more about God in the Psalms; that is why they constantly burst out in praise, culminating in Ps 150. The prayer book of the Bible, which is what the Psalms are, refuses to reduce God to a one-dimensional being; how rich, how deep is our grasp of God himself? Go to the Psalms.
The Psalms also take us deeply into ourselves, allowing us to share our deepest thoughts, pains, joys, attitudes and delights with God. They allow us to ask ‘why?’ (Psalm 2). They allow us to come to God at our lowest point (Ps 88) whilst still allowing us to call God ‘you’ – whatever we experience or wherever we are, we can tell God how it is – and the Bible allows us to do this – it is Biblical to share our deepest hurts and joys with the God who is personal and present, the God who is always ‘you.’ Go to the Psalms. I am reading a novel I was given as a (possibly ironic) retirement present – So Much Life Left Over by Louis de Bernieres. I can’t tell you how it will end, because I have only reached p.75, but so far a strong theme is how people’s lives have been damaged by their experience of the First World War, and how things get worse when they keep those pains to themselves and refuse to share them. When we think God isn’t interested in the depths of our being, or are scared to open those depths up to him, we may be making things worse for ourselves by not ‘living deep.’ Go to the Psalms.
A lot of these ideas about the Psalms come from a book by Walter Brueggemann, The Psalms and the Life of Faith, which is a revolutionary read, even though it is a collection of articles, some of them more accessible than others. We can get into the Psalms more through using The Bible in One Yearand the CofE’s Daily Prayer App, which take us through the Psalms over the year. We are going to try and join in Daily Prayer through Zoom this week alongside others from our church community. Never used Zoom before…but Daily Prayer is always a brilliant way into the Psalms, and allowing them to show us how to live deep, not fast.