Psalm 112 and Baptism
Some of the most famous or exciting films have centred around a really important choice that the central character has to make.
One of the most memorable scenes that stands out in my mind is from the The Matrix, when Morpheus offers Neo a choice:
- blue pill (carry on living in the virtual reality world, safe, mundane, oblivious to what’s really going on).
- or red pill (be freed from this false world, fight the good fight to free others, but it will be dangerous).
Baptism is a little bit like taking the red pill… it’s a decision for truth, willingness to speak out and stand up for the truth.
It’s a conscious declaration where we say “no” to darkness, corruption, destructive attitudes; and “yes” to holiness and goodness – turning towards the light.
Living in the light means the darkness is exposed, which can sometimes be painful or risky.
But that light is life-giving, good, and healing, and ultimately, by living our lives in the light of God, we change the world for the better.
To choose baptism is to say,
“I choose that way; I choose the light.”
And for those of us that are already baptised, however long ago, every day after that point we are faced with the challenge of choosing to remain in that light.
Psalm 112 describes two possible routes/ ways to live, two possible routes, and it commends living in the light. Those who do so are ‘blessed.’
What are they like?
- (v1) …they fear the Lord. That doesn’t mean they’re scared of God. God doesn’t want us to be scared of him anymore than we want our own children to be scared of us. ‘Fearing the Lord’ means awe and reverence; honouring and respecting God; caring more about what God thinks than about what others think.
- …they find great delight in his commands. Having a genuine desire to hear what the Lord asks of us and put it into practice, having a sense of fulfilment in doing so. Jesus: “those who love me will obey what I command.” (John 14)
- (v5)…they are generous and lend freely; (v9)… They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor. These people aren’t stingy and self-centred, but look to the needs of others, and open-hearted.
- (v5) ...they conduct their affairs with justice. They will take the time and effort to do things lawfully and rightly, with great integrity, nor turning a blind eye to wrongdoing.
- (v4) ...they are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Those same words are used to describe God throughout the Bible. People who are gracious and compassionate and righteous are good to be around; they make life better, and they are good for the world.
• Are they words that describe us?
• Are you known for your grace? Your compassion? Your righteousness?
• Something to aspire to, with the Lord’s help. Something to pray for in your own life and the world around you.
• Psalm 112 says, “Blessed are the people who are like that!”
What will their experience of life be?
- Their children ‘mighty in the land’ – in other words, the good example of the parents will bear fruit in the years to come when their children reach adulthood; it will stand them in good stead.
- (v3) Wealth and riches will be in their houses. We might take issue with the psalm at this point. There are plenty of people who have led exemplary/ holy lives who have had very little in terms of wealth and riches. But it’s worth noting that often when the psalms mention ‘wealth and riches’, it means good personal qualities (e.g. Someone has “a wealth of wisdom.”)
- (v8) Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear. There’s something about living truly in the light that gives us a very deep sense of peace and calm in our hearts – (v4) Even in darkness light dawns for the upright.
That’s an appealing list.
- But what about the times when it gets very tough to live that kind of godly life?
- What about if we’re tempted to throw it all in and take the other route instead?
- What about the people in the world who seem quite unholy, when they give us grief, take advantage of us, laugh at us, or seem to be doing better than we are?
So often it feels like that does happen.
Perhaps that’s why the Psalm makes a point of ending like this (v10):
The wicked will see [this holy way of life] and be vexed, they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.
It makes the point that in the end,
- Evil/ wickedness will not have its way in the world,
- it won’t win out;
- it won’t be able to gloat over those who have lived gentle, caring and holy lives.
- Because not only will it prove deeply unsatisfying, but will ultimately come to nothing.
So, Psalm 112 encourages us:
- To keep going;
- Not be discouraged when it feels like we’re losing out or missing out by doing and living righteously;
- Not to be tricked into thinking it’s a waste of our time;
- Because in the end, satisfaction really and truly comes from living a godly life– the life Jesus invites us to live.
There’s no clearer way of responding to that invitation than to choose baptism…
Sermon by Rev. James Pettit on Sunday 28th August 2016