August 19, 2019
Psalm 62; Mark 1:14-20
Last Sunday after worship a few of us stood in the back of the sanctuary and talked briefly about how simple this all is and our tendency to make things way more difficult than they need to be. And there was a quote in the bulletin last week that kind of got at this point. This is something John Ortberg, a nationally recognized Lutheran pastor and author once said, “Some people would rather debate doctrine or beliefs or tradition or interpretation than actually do what Jesus said. It’s not rocket science. Just go do it. Practice loving a difficult person or try forgiving someone. Give away some money. Tell someone thank you. Encourage a friend. Bless an enemy. Say, ‘I’m sorry’. Worship God. You already know more than you need to know.” I like that quote. “It’s not rocket science…You already know more than you need to know.”
Psalm 62 does an admirable job of boiling things down to their very simple essence. The Psalmist writes, “One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving.” All our years spent pondering, all our books written on theology, the study of God, distilled down to God is strong and God is love. It’s so simple, it kind of makes you want to chuckle.
The summer following my college graduation I was working as a server at Red Lobster and living at home. Every day, I would take a walk and often those walks would turn into prayers. I remember struggling with a sense of purpose and feeling disconnected from God the first part of that summer. But then one of those prayer walks became a formative turning point. I was wrestling with God and talking to Him about the distance I was experiencing in our relationship when suddenly something clicked. I understood my faith in a new way and recognized how complicated I had been trying to make things. I’m given to introspection and tend to analyze things a great deal. That’s true now. It was also true then. I’d been analyzing my relationship with God very closely and the more I analyzed and picked things apart, the more distance I felt. I don’t remember what led to my insight, maybe I finally quit talking and started listening? But on that walk, I began to understand I was making complicated something that was beautifully simple. God loved me and desired me to have faith and to follow, end of story. I remember the relief and joy that flooded through me. And suddenly God was right there. I could feel God’s presence holding me. I felt cradled. As soon as my parents got home, I anxiously shared with them this experience I had had with God. That was a real turning point for me in my spiritual journey. That newfound closeness allowed me to then pursue a service assignment, that after a few twists and turns led me to work as a missionary for a year in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Unfortunately, at least for me, this has not been a one-time only experience. God has needed to teach me this over and over again. Part of what I’m talking about here is the separation of heart and head knowledge. Thinking about God is very different from experiencing God. When our relationship with God gets out of balance and shifts more to the head than we lose sight of what is intended to be simple.
When I read this Mark text, these are some memories and thoughts that came immediately to mind. Let’s face it. Our heads are bombarded by input of all kinds. We’re overloaded with information for our poor brains to try and sort through. Always so much more to read, so much more to learn ab