The Third Sunday After the Pentecost, Year B
[Texts: Genesis 3:8-15; Psalm 130; II Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35]
Like the Watchman
Please pray with me:
O Lord, take my lips and speak through them;
Take our minds and think through them;
Take our hearts and set them on fire with love for Thee. Amen.
There are a few categories that Old Testament scholars use to group Psalms together by the themes that show up in them.
the Psalm we heard this morning is an example of what scholars like to call a “psalm of lament.”
(Basically, those are the ones that were written from a place of despair and grief.)
And if you read Psalm 130,
you can tell right away
that it was indeed written from just such a place.
Listen to the ache in his words: “Out of the depths I call unto You, O Lord!”
And yet, he’s still writing a Psalm, isn’t he?
We don’t know exactly what he has going on in his heart,
but we know that he is desperately reaching out and crying out to God,
begging God to reveal Himself in the midst of this crisis.
Now look at verses five and six:
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in His Word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than the watchmen watch for the morning,
more than the watchmen watch for the morning.
Before we had high-tech security systems, cameras, burglar alarms, and things like that, cities and towns were kept safe by watchmen.
Basically, there were these tall towers– watch towers– placed in strategic spots along the city wall,
and it was someone’s job to sit in those watch towers,
generally armed with a bow and arrow,
and make sure nothing suspicious was going on.
Much like security guards nowadays, watchmen would take shifts.
Some watchmen worked during the day, and others worked at night.
It might be kind of cool to be a watchman who worked during the day.
You know, you’d be up high and you could see everything,
and you could watch the daily life of the city
from a vantage point almost no one else had ever seen it from.
I couldn’t imagine being a night watchman, though.
That might be in part because I’m a card-carrying morning person,
and I get cranky just thinking about having to stay up past 10 PM.
But I also think it would be kind of boring to have to keep watch all night.
Sure, every once in a while you’d have to deal with a situation,
but for the most part,
you’d just be sitting there
in the dark
for hours on end.
That doesn’t sound like very much fun.
Plus, it would be really hard not to fall asleep on the job.
But there were people who were night watchmen– that was what they did for a living.
They kept vigil over the city while everyone else was sleeping.
They sat in the darkness,
waiting patiently for the sun to come up
so they could go home and get some sleep themselves.
A watchman waiting on the dawn isn’t wondering whether the sun will rise,
or curious to see whether it will happen.
That was the one certainty in that line of work:
the sun would rise,
and a new day would dawn.
So, when the Psalmist says,
“my soul waits for the Lord, more than the watchmen watch for the morning,”
he’s not talking about a theoretical possibility–
maybe God is with me,
perhaps He will redeem my experience of grief and suffering,
I wonder whether I should continue to hope–
He is saying that God’s presence is,
to borrow a phrase from Beauty and the Beast,
“certain as the sun rising in the east.”
He knows that God is there
not only in our joy and comfort and security,
but also in the seasons of our lives
that make us want to scream,
“Out of the depths I cry to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!”
It’s a tale as old as time, truly:
But we know how the story ends.
We know how things turn out.
The cold, dead, barren grasp of winter
gives way to the first green shoots of spring.
The agony of the crucifixion,
becomes Easter triumph and Easter joy.
And in the darkest, longest night of our souls
we can rest assured–
even more so than the night watchman
who sits on the wall night after night–
that light will break through.
So, dear Christian,
Morning is coming.