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Seen by God

with Rev. Laura Sherwood

June 2, 2024

We never have to fear being seen by the God who created us and who loves us always and forever.

The Scripture

Psalm 139:1-6; 13-18

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Read the Full Text

Psalms are part of a group of writings in the Old Testament called Wisdom Literature.  The Hebrew Scriptures, also referred to as the Old Testament are divided into three main sections: The Law or Torah (first 5 books); The Prophets and Wisdom.  Psalms are part of the Wisdom literature along with Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Job, and Song of Solomon.  Wisdom writings are often in poetic form with great symbolic meaning to help the faithful learn about God in a real way.  Wisdom writings know the often-harsh reality of human existence and write from that context to describe the character of God in relation to humans both in the course of everyday life and in the worst possible conditions.

Today’s Psalm is rooted firmly in that Wisdom tradition and is one of the most cherished psalms of all times. n this psalm, we get a glimpse not only of God’s eternity, but of our own.  God, the creator of all that is and ever will be, this God created each one of us, too.  And not only that, created us with a love and care almost unfathomable to our human minds. This belief about God’s authorship of our lives is central to the way we practice Baptism in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition.  Last month, we had the joy of celebrating two baptisms – one for an adult and one for a baby and we have several more baptisms to celebrate this summer.

We have no age restriction on when we baptize because of our belief that in baptism we are publicly acknowledging the act of God’s grace that has already occurred in the life that is before us.  It is our outward sign as a community of faith that God was at work in each of our lives before they began, and that God will be at work in our lives for all of time.  When we baptize a baby especially, we vow as community along with the parents and family, that we will help that child know that he or she has been fearfully and wonderfully made by the God of all creation and to help him/her grow up in the knowledge of God’s unending love for him/her as we have witnessed it fully in Christ our Lord.

Finish reading

The Wisdom of Psalm 139 reveals the character of a God who sees us and knows us intimately, in every circumstance of our lives, and within the eternity of God’s time.

1O Lord, you have searched me and known me.

2You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. 3You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.

The God who knows us to our very depths is the same God who created us.  This God knows our gifts and our limitations, our potential and our temptations.  Nothing about us is hidden from God.

This is a powerful statement that the psalmist is making – nothing about us is hidden from God.  Depending on what’s going on in our lives at the time, this could be the most comforting thought possible or the most intimidating.  God sees us and knows us – completely, always – in the joys of our lives, in the routine of our lives and in the deepest trouble of our lives.

God sees us and knows us – completely, always – when we are walking on the path God has set before us and when we have found another way to go.  God sees us and knows – completely, always – when our lives reflect the love and mercy of God and when our way of living denies God’s love for ourselves or for others.

The 23rd Psalm is another greatly cherished and well-known psalm of comfort.  It speaks of God’s constant presence with and protection of us.  It lets us know that not matter what we may go through, even the valley of the shadow of death, God will be there with us, helping us through it, Even in the face of enemies, God will be our good shepherd, leading us toward the place of peace, rest and refreshment for our souls.  The 23rd Psalm comforts us as we face the depths of danger and despair that life can throw at us by assuring that God is always with us.

Psalm 139 also speaks of God’s constant presence with us, but is this presence meant to be comforting?  Where Psalm 23 depicts God as a shepherd who is out there defending us from harm, Psalm 139 deals with the reality that we can often be the greatest cause of our own suffering.  This psalm knows that being seen for who and what we are at all times and in every circumstance may not be our first desire.  Here are 2 verses that were not in our reading for today:

7Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?

8If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.

Sometimes, being seen is precisely what we would like to avoid.

I remember as a very young child, maybe 3 or so, thinking I could hide from my parents under the table. Sometimes it was just playing a game, but other times it was not wanting to face them because of something I had done that I thought was wrong.  So, I would get under the dining room table, which always had a pretty cloth on it, and I would move all the way to the middle so that the cloth would block my vision.  All I could see then was legs walking toward the room to find me.  Then I would see the legs move to a chair and sit down.

I thought if I was still enough and quiet enough, the legs would eventually give up and go somewhere else and eventually forget that they had been looking for me in the first place.  Of course, what I didn’t realize was that if I could see the legs, the owner of the legs – my mother or father – could see pretty much most of me sitting under the table.  I was mistaking lack of eye contact for being completely hidden.  My parents could see me the entire time; I had only managed to hide whatever it was I was afraid of from myself.

I can still hear my name being called after some time had passed to let me know that I had been seen, which meant that I had to come out from under the table.  I remember the anxiety of coming out into full vision and having to face the consequences of whatever I had done.  Of course, looking back, I realize that the much deeper fear was that I might have done something so bad that I couldn’t be loved anymore by the people whom I loved the most.

That fear, which I am sure is a pretty normal in childhood, filled me until I was able to come out and look up into my parents’ eyes and see that the love was still there.  I was still their daughter, no matter what.  They had always been able to see me, even when I thought I was hiding, and they didn’t give up or go away, they just waited patiently until I was ready to come back into the light of truth that was first and foremost a light of love.

Today our Church is participating in the Buffalo Grove Pride Parade which was started in 2019 by a 13-year-old girl who wanted to support her friends and classmates who had been given a message that they had to hide their true selves, that they couldn’t be seen and therefore couldn’t be loved and accepted for who they were. She knew they needed to hear a different message – that they were fully seen in the light of love.

This is the kind of light by which every one of us is seen by the God who created us. A God who sees and knows all there is to know about us and who will always wait patiently for us to come out from under the table, or from wherever we have been hiding ourselves, to be seen in the light of God’s truth which is first and foremost a light of love.

4Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.

5You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.

6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.

The constant presence of God with us and God’s eternally intimate knowledge of us in Psalm 139 is meant to be comforting at the deepest level.  For in its wisdom, it reveals a God who always sees us in the truth of ourselves and who also always looks upon us with unending love. May God give us the strength to receive this message for ourselves and to share it with all whom we meet.

In the name of our Creator, Christ, and Holy Spirit. Amen.