November 19, 2017

Series: November 2017

Category: Faith

Speaker: Stratton Tolmie (Youth)

Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

 Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing. Know that the Lord is God. It is God that made us, and we are hers; we are her people, and the sheep of her pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to God, bless her name. For the Lord is good; God’s steadfast love endures forever, and God’s faithfulness to all generations.

 “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.” My fellow congregation members, it is clear the love of God everlasting pervades this room. Although the love and beauty of God are present throughout the world, we are among some of the blessed individuals that can enjoy the beauty of God from our front doorsteps. From the placid, simplistic beauty of the bay to sublime Mt. Tam hovering above us, with the mystical fog banks curling around its ridges like the love of God, which wraps around us every day in what I can only describe as a holy hug. Our community here at Westminster reflects the work and service of hard-working individuals who continue to strive for positive change in the Bay Area and society at large. And as we sit here on this beautiful Sunday morning, it can be easy to recognize all that God’s love and beauty have provided us. But, as we near Thanksgiving, I am not going to lecture you on the need to be grateful for God’s beauty and love. I believe that you are already aware of the presence of God’s love in your lives. Today, I want to remind you all to strive to be grateful to God in times when it isn’t as easy to show instant gratitude for God’s love.

 As we continue to be bombarded by sobering news of domestic and foreign terrorism, bigotry, and oppression, it can be easy to let our fear control us. While it is important that we recognize where society falls short, we must remember that the news largely focuses on the worst of the world and that society has more to offer than the brutality we read about every day. The ultimate goal of terrorism is to strike fear into the hearts of people, thus giving the actors power over others. As responsible members of society, we cannot waver in fear as these perpetrators hurt our brothers and sisters alike. We must look above these actions, letting the love of God comfort us and fuel us with determination to be the better people, as God would wish we do. As Psalm 23 states, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.” Let us go to God for love in times of hardship. It is time that we celebrate the precious time we are provided by God. As humans, we must endure pain throughout our lives, as life is inevitably imperfect. But ultimately, this pain can only bring us closer to God’s love, and truly demonstrates to us the importance of God’s love in our lives.

 I find this idea similar to running; this past fall, I participated in cross country at my school. Every day, I would run with my team up to nearby Phoenix lake. One such day, we ran 13 miles up and over Mt. Tam down to Stinson beach. Let me tell you, it was a grind. God had purposefully chosen the weather that day to be a toasty 95˚, and we soon found ourselves sweating profusely as we moved up the hill at a moderate pace. After an hour, we found ourselves nearing the highest point of our climb. Suddenly, a dreaded cramp pierced me in the side, and I was forced to walk to my great dismay. When I run, I usually look down at the ground, making sure of my footing first. When I was forced to stop, I looked up to see my surroundings for the first time. I was astonished. For the first time I realized where I was; below, I could see the glistening town of Mill Valley, Tiburon off in the distance, and the ever-present bay, glimmering in the afternoon sun. It was through this experience that I learned that sometimes we need to stop and look at things with a new perspective in order to fully enjoy God’s love and grace. It also taught me that sometimes we need to endure a little pain to truly recognize the value of God’s love and beauty.

 I would like to share a C.S. Lewis quote with you all today. “Though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” It is true that God’s “steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations.” Sometimes, though, it can be challenging to recognize that, especially amidst the media that surrounds us every day. Let us remember as we enter the new year that we are all the children of God and that He will forever bestow upon us his indefatigable love. Remember that even in times of trouble and fear, sometimes we must stop to walk, and look up from the ground to view what is truly around us. Let us also endure the uphills of life. Go to God for comfort and surround yourself with God’s love. Perhaps we can even help each other on this journey as well so that we can all reach the vista point and enjoy the beauty of God. After all, life is just too short to be lost in fear, afraid to enjoy the very thing that surrounds us every day. Amen.

 (Strat Tolmie is a freshman at Branson and a member of Westminster’s 2017 High School Confirmation class.)