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Two Ways in One

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Psalm 1

©2021 Rev. Dr. Elisabeth R. Jones

Intro to Scripture
Scripture
Sermon

Let me begin with a question for you:
Which are you, one of those who sees the world, and likes to order your own part of life
in simple contrasts; right/wrong, good/bad, in/out, yes/no, highway or byway….?
Or, are you more likely to see the world, and your own living of it as “It’s complicated..”?

If you are the first sort, you’re going to love this psalm as it sits, calmly,
settled on the page, clearly delineating the fate of the wicked
in contrast to happiness of the good.
If you’re the second, you’re wondering
how on earth I’m going to squeeze any juice
out of this solid as rock song of right and wrong.
The likelihood is, that this Psalm, like the best of Scriptures,
is going to unsettle both sorts before we’re done,
leaving us much to ‘chew on’ for days to come…
which is its point!

Let’s begin by going with the flow of the song.
There are clearly two ways of being human;
You want to know how to be happy, blessed, successful,
how to prosper?
Then meditate day and night on,
gnaw and chew on,
align one’s whole being,
living, acting, speaking,
upon the teaching and wisdom of God’s Dream
as laid out in Torah – in Scripture.
Follow God’s rules, and the fruitful life is yours.
Done. Easy!

OR, as the psalm makes abundantly clear,
you can follow, march in step with,
hang around with, settle into the habits of
“the wicked, the scoffers, the sinner.,”
If you do, you’ll end up being as inconsequential
as spent wheat husks blown by the wind,
you’ll be unable to stand up at all
when faced with the judgments
of this world, or the next.

But hang on… we know that this picture is not real!
For God’s sake, we have to know it’s not that simple!
Some of us have gone down,
our children have, our parents have, our friends have
gone all the way into the living hell of failure,
of addictions, or mental breakdown,
the sorts of lives that this psalm seems to toss on
the chaff heap.

And, some of us have done the righteous life,
the prayer, the good works, the devotion,
and still, our marriages have failed,
our jobs ended, our bills are mountain high,
our loved ones have gotten sick or died.

Oh I could go on… and on…
Life as we know it is not as simple as this Psalm’s
piously simplistic equation, is it?
What’s worse is that too often, a simplistic,
literalistic, so-called “prosperity gospel”
reading of this psalm has been used
to pile compounding guilt upon humans,
who for all sorts of reasons,
don’t fall into its characterization of the blessed ones.

You may wonder, then, why I chose to pick this text
over other, richer, more hopeful texts offered up by the lectionary this morning.
The reason is because Scripture is better than that, and we need to be too.
Scripture is not to be reduced to moral codes
with which we humans condemn others.
It is first and foremost a mirror by which we can shape our own living,
align our code, our ethics, our values,
according to the Dream of a Loving and a Just God.

This Psalm, when we go deep with it,
is not about us and them.
It is about the two ways we find, mirrored in life,
but more importantly in our own individual lives.
We are both/and
aligned, and scattered.
happy and scornful
blessed and cynical.
And we, this psalm begs us,
get to choose how those two Ways
shape our living, our loving, our faith,
not once, for all, but umpteen times a day!
This psalm chose to be preached today,
especially in a world were either/or simplistic siloed thinking
threatens the health of humanity and the globe.
Where cancel culture is creeping like quack grass
into the way we think about and speak out
other human beings, other children of God.
We as people of a progressive, life-affirming faith,
need to be better than that,
for the sake of God’s Dream for our world.

But rather than point a finger at others,
let me use myself as an example
of these two ways in one.
A few years ago, having found myself
outraged that someone
(who seemed to me to be the epitome of
“the wicked”)
had been elected to daunting power,
without seeming to be aware
of its concomitant responsibilities,
I found myself falling into the trap
that this psalm wants me to see in the mirror
as well as in others:
I scoffed, and I scorned,
I relished finding fault.

But I have no business doing so.
If my way is aligned to the Dream of the God of all goodness,
then my enemy is my brother,
whom I get to love, not hate.
my enemy, at times is me.
And at times, my enemy looks back at me in the mirror,
bitterness and cynicism cause me to slouch,
and weaken my capacity to love.

I have since committed to not maligning
that or other human souls,
who like me, are complicated,
who are a daily jumble of failure and fruitfulness.
I am the ashrei ish of this psalm, as are you.
I also at times do things that end up like chaff on the threshing floor.
The two ways, entwine in me, like I imagine they do in most of us.
And my days, and even my nights, especially some nights
I need to chew on, meditate, murmur, parse and peruse,
study and strain over the Way of God’s Dream,
in order for it to redirect my steps back onto its path.

Now, those of you, who like it simple,
I’m sorry if I made it complicated.
But life is…
I’m going to step back for a moment
and let a better preacher than I will ever be
turn this psalm for us in the most stunning
way to show us its deepest truth;
we’re all Two Ways in One,
and the gaze of God is always zeroed in
on every single fumbling step we make to follow God’s Way.

He said, this preacher, Jesus of Nazareth his name,
on a hillside overlooking Galilee, one day,
“Blessed is he, Happy is she,
Aligned is the one
who is poor, poor in spirit,
is she who mourns,
he who is humbled by life,
she who longs for mercy and justice,
and the ones who beg for peace,
for theirs is the Dream of God,
theirs is God’s mercy,
these all, are God’s children.”
And that is no threat, to those of us
who are both/and, two ways in one,
it is a promise.

One I’d like to share, will you?

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