Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Watchnight Sermon: Psalm 90 Teach us to Number our Days
We’ve come to the last few minutes of 2014, and I can safely say that time is flying. It seems like no time at all since we were here for the watchnight service a whole year ago. Christmas came round quicker than ever. Just when we’ve finally got used to writing 2014, now we have to remember to write 2015 instead.
Time flying struck home with me the other week when I heard of one of the boys I taught in Sunday School, who, in my mind, must only be about 15, but he has recently qualified as a dentist. Where has all that time gone?
Here in this building, we’re aware of the passage of time. On the walls behind me are memories of my predecessors, including Morris Davies (rector a century ago). Generations have come and gone, and this same building has stood as the meeting place for the church family. Yet if that’s true for a building just over 200 years old, which seems so permanent to us, then just think how you would describe God. You would need the words that Moses says to God in verse 1: ‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.’ In every generation from our first parents, God has been there. He has been the background, our dwelling place. But more than that, ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’
From everlasting to everlasting you are God. As we mark the changing of the calendar, it’s good to remember that God is eternal, our dwelling place no matter what year it is. Moses draws out this truth, that God is eternal, in three distinct ways.
1. God is the one who calls time (3-4). It’s not just that we come to the end of our life and die, but that God is active - ‘You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man.’’ He is the one in control, ruling over the length of our life. He sees the end from the beginning. Even what seems like a very long time to us, a thousand years, God sees it just like yesterday. God is ruling over time.
God is the one who remains when all is swept away. Moses uses two pictures - a flood, and the grass. A flood sweeps away all in its path - just think of the images of the Boxing Day Tsunami (hard to think it was 10 years ago). He also points to the grass which pops up, flourishes in the morning, but then fades away by evening. Why does this happen with us? Why are the generations swept away? ‘For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.’ It’s not what we want to hear. Yet Moses draws out the anger and wrath of God. But what makes God angry? Why does he need to be wrathful? That brings us to:
God sees our sins. Sometimes we can do a good job of hiding our sins from other people. Sometimes we can look respectable. But God sees. God knows. God’s anger burns against sin - not an unpredictable anger that could lash out unexpectedly; but his settled, determined opposition to everything that is against him and his glory in creation.
Life in our sin-infected world is under God’s wrath. Our seventy or eighty years (or more, or less) are toil and trouble, quickly passing. The years fly by, and we fly away. With each passing year, our time is coming closer. Yet the key question comes in verse 11. Because life is like this: ‘Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?’
If life under the fall is set up like this, to remind us of our mortality, then how many actually stop to consider that? So many people are caught up in life, merely passing through without a thought of God, or of the purpose of life. So they party, get drunk, begin another new year with another hangover, resolving that this year things will be different.
But change only comes as we consider our short lives in the light of the eternal God. The answer comes with the plea in verse 12: ‘So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.’ Help us to see our time is short, and to take refuge in you, the everlasting to everlasting God. In this way, we become wise with God’s wisdom. So let’s begin the new year with this as our prayer. Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Show us that we aren’t God. Remind us that we can’t do it all ourselves. Take over when we try to manage the universe and take your seat, Lord. When we do this, then we can be satisfied with God’s steadfast love, morning by morning. To know that we are not God, but that the everlasting God loves us, and will keep loving us, this is where joy comes from. It will change our work, as we see God’s work and our place in it, and his grace on our lives. From everlasting to everlasting you are God. Lord, may we take refuge in your eternity; and find you sustaining us in our mortality, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
This sermon was preached at the Watchnight Service in Aghavea Parish Church on Wednesday 31st December 2014.