This post is adapted from a sermon I preached on Sunday August 25th at St Peter’s Church, Mowbray, Cape Town. This focuses on the twelfth of the Psalms of Ascents, Psalm 131 It’s best to read that first, and have it open next to you as you read the rest of the post.
For links to the previous posts in this series, scroll to the end of this post.
Ever done something you’re not really built for? Yes, so have I.
I’m not built to drive, to be honest. It’s a combination of a lack of spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination. So I don’t drive these days, but back in the day when I did I decided to be helpful. I attempted to move our large-ish car into our smallish drive. The result was expensive. I endeavoured not to help again. I’m not built to drive, so I choose not to.
Children often want to be like their parents – they’ll imitate they way they speak, the way they sit, the way they move. It’s a very natural thing to do, and perfectly healthy. As long that child didn’t try to drive, for instance. There are things he or she needs to learn first and ways the child needs to grow in order to do that like Mum and Dad do.
It’s an impulse as old as humanity. Whether you understand the Genesis telling of humanity’s flirtation and affair with sin as literal or metaphorical for this moment doesn’t matter; what it tells us is that we’ve always reached for things that are beyond us. People are given total freedom – just don’t try to be like God, don’t take on the capacity of judgement by eating from that tree. That way the burdens are too great, that way lies work as curse, relationship as a battle for power; we’re not meant to be gods, we’re in the image of God. Too often we don’t rest with what we have and keep wearing ourselves reaching for what we’re not built to carry.
Psalm 131 is a short, simple psalm which shows us what it’s like to rest with what we are and not worry about the rest.
I get on with doing what’s in front of me, as we learned in the previous chapter. The rest is God’s responsibility. Unbearably trite as it could be, there we have it. To know that is to be able to rest like a baby content in mother’s arms. Safe in the knowledge that Mum is there, that Mum will feed him. She won’t just go down the road to the shops, either. She’ll feed from her very self, from her body – and from her soul too. Mum is there, watching over the sleeping child. He needn’t worry. Mum is there.
That’s a picture, an image, a hint of God. So we can rest. we can sleep – not lazily, but safely, knowing that we do what’s in front of us to do, not what we can’t do but what we can. Because God watches, God feeds from us from His very self, of His very self in the shape of His Son and His word. God is Fatherly. He is. God is Motherly too. She is.
So we rest. We, God’s people, can wait and watch and hope like Psalm 130’s night-shift workers with expectation and hope. And we can sleep and rest too (verse 3).
This isn’t a Psalm to infantalise us, to make us forever spiritual babies who never grow up. No. A good parent wants us to grow up, discover who we uniquely are and build on the safety of childhood with meaning and independence. All the time knowing that he can return to Mum and Dad for a meal, for a talk, wisdom, prayer. At their best, our parents let us do that. When Mum and Dad are gone we can return to the best of our memories and feed on them still.
How much more with our perfect, unfailing, always present Heavenly Parent? Watching, walking, waiting, feeding, watering. Always willing us to grow up, always ready to listen, help and guide – wanting us to go deeper and further than we did last time. Always wanting us to find other children who could be adopted into this family as could.
For our Heavenly Parents isn’t stuck with the kids in this family. These kids are chosen. Desired. Wanted. Adopted.
So we work. But we rest safely too.
Sleep, dear child.
This series will return after a short break of a couple of weeks.
This post is adapted from the notes of a sermon I preached at St Peter’s, Mowbray, Cape Town on Sunday 25th August 2013. It’s not an exact text of the sermon as I don’t preach from a full script.
Also in this series: