Today’s sermon. From Psalm 26 and Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
Webster’s dictionary defines integrity as moral soundness, honesty and uprightness; or, the state of being entire or complete, being in an unbroken state.
Another definition uses the words undiminished and undivided to describe integrity.
I like the definition that talks about being complete, or being in an unbroken state.
Complete. Whole. Unbroken. Undiminished. Undivided. These are good words to be on our hearts today, after a heavy week in our nation.
In my prayers at night I find myseh-lf praying for wholeness, for unbrokenness in our world, in our country, in our state, in our community, in the lives of people who mourn lost loved ones, in the lives of those who are sick and hurting, in my own life.
These words, complete, whole, undivided, unbroken, are also good words to be on our hearts today, of all days, as we celebrate World Communion Sunday.
Today, we have heard 2 passages of scripture that talk about praising God as a community. The writer of Hebrews says, in chapter 2 verse 12, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
Psalm 26:12 says “my foot stands on level ground, in the great congregation I will bless the Lord. Today, we bless the Lord for the wholeness and completeness we find in the house in which God dwells, in the place where God’s glory abides; confident that God will meet us here, to restore our integrity, to make us whole, complete, unbroken.
Psalm 26 is a psalm of lament- a psalm of complaint by someone who feels their integrity has been damaged in some way. Maybe someone has called this person’s honor into question; maybe this person has been falsely accused.
Or, maybe this is a person who has had their fill of tragic news headlines, or of people getting ahead dishonestly. Maybe the Psalmist has a serious health problem, or loves someone with a serious health problem. Maybe the Psalmist is just a person going through life, who wants to find some wholeness, some unbrokenness.
Whatever the circumstance, the writer of this psalm has come before God to proclaim his righteousness and integrity saying “I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.”
At first glance, it seems like the writer of this psalm is tooting his own horn, but if we take a closer look, we find a psalm that is less about proclaiming or preserving the Psalmist’s integrity, and more about acknowledging the Psalmist’s need for God.
This is a prayer asking for assurance that the Psalmist is really following God’s will; a prayer asking for assurance that the Psalmist’s faith will stand the test of time and circumstance.
When the Psalmist says “I don’t keep company with the wicked, with sinners and hypocrites, it means that the Psalmist has made a commitment to live a faithful life, one that will point others to God, without adopting the culture and ways of mainstream society.
The danger here is how easy it is to create dividing lines and turn them into oppressive barriers to keep those who are different from us at a distance, and to justify these barriers as moral boundaries.
There is certainly a time and place for moral boundaries, and the life of integrity calls us to clarify these boundaries in our own lives and hold to them, but not to shun others. We are called to be different, but we are also called to love.
All of humanity is broken in some way. If we were all whole, we’d have no need for God. People with deep hurts, who try to fill a God-shaped hole in their hearts with things other than God’s love, are the very people with whom Jesus shared meaningful meals and deep conversations.
With Christ’s help, the Psalmist’s commitment to be a part of God’s work IN the world but not conformed TO the world is one we can make as well.
We can take on the Psalmist’s confidence in God to make us righteous, and help a hurting world around us to see that sin is not an insurmountable barrier designed to keep sinners at a distance, but rather, a portal to be opened so that sinners might be reclaimed by a God of justice and love.
When we align our lives and our intentions with the pure, honorable, upright intentions of God, a God who continually and unwaveringly walks in integrity, we become gateways of healing as portals in a hurting world are opened and we, as a church, become a safe place where sinners poor and needy can come to experience forgiveness, hope, and new life.
Such is the mission of our church. Isolation because of health changes, challenges or limitations that come with getting older is something that many aging people in our church and in our surrounding community face.
Not too long ago, this congregation had the courage, the integrity to have some hard conversations and make some hard decisions that were painful, but that have also led to some very good things.
As we committed to God’s mission for us to be the presence of Christ to the isolated and alone, our faith, our vision, our calling was and continues to be perfected as we follow the way of Jesus, the way of the cross, the way of love that gives up life in order to offer life to all.
Christianity and the life of faith are, in the best possible way, intriguing conundrums shrouded in mystery and paradox.
Grace and truth, life and death, darkness and light, duty and delight are embraced BY and embodied IN us when we surrender our lives to the life of Christ.
In the Psalmist’s plea for vindication, in the Hebrew writer’s beautiful hymn that echoes another Psalm:
“what are human beings that you are mindful of them; or mortals that you care for them?”
we hear in these words the echo of our own pleas, our own hymns, and in this place – in
the intersection of prophecy and fulfillment, we find a majestic and holy God becoming earthy and human: coming to meet us, to touch us, to love us, to make us whole.
Because of this beautiful grace of God toward us, we can face our lives: past, present, and future with integrity.
When we are honest about our humanity, our sin, our shortcomings, we encounter God’s overwhelming grace; a grace that will never fall short, and a God who redeems our humanity over and over with love.
When we are honest about our doubts, when we vulnerably and honestly admit to our fears, we are washed over with the merciful realization that we can’t do it alone.
In these moments, God meets us in our darkest place and simply asks us to trust. Our adamant pleas for vindication are quieted as we are led by still and soothing waters, anointed with the healing balm of trust.
As we trust God to transform us and make us upright, holy and honest, we learn that God also trusts our hearts and the honest efforts behind the things we do to please God.
This is the kind of integrity we are called to walk in. We are not, by any means, called to be perfect. No. In fact, it’s much more lovely than that. We are called to bring all of ourselves before the throne of God.
We bring the best of ourselves, infused with that divine spark of the spirit of God within us; we bring the worst of our humanity: those fears we can’t let go of, those past wounds that still bleed, those mistakes for which we can’t forgive ourselves.
We bring it all to the throne of God, and God graciously takes it as a precious offering: an offering born of integrity; and then, God transforms each of our offerings into beautiful pieces of a larger story- each one important, each one serving a specific purpose.
And then, our stories, our individual pieces of God’s love story are woven together into a striking tapestry of grace and blessing.
Having the courage to tell our stories; to tell them honestly; to walk in integrity is God’s gift to us and our blessing to the family of faith.
When we become truth-tellers, we break down lines that divide us, release fears that consume us, and we discover that walking in integrity as a community, supporting each other and confessing to one another creates the kind of vulnerable honesty that lets us get out of our own way enough for God to work within us.
One of the most meaningful representations of God’s work in us is the Lord’s Supper, when we celebrate God’s grace and the way that God makes us whole, complete, and undiminished in the presence of Jesus Christ.
The sharing of the Lord’s table is our act of thanksgiving and reflection as a faith community.
Together, we share bread and juice, body and blood that represent deepest love flowing from a merciful God to a broken people.
At the table of the Lord, we remember God’s epic love story, we remember our own individual stories, and in the act of sharing communion together, we write the church’s story every time we eat this bread; every time we drink this cup, proclaiming life from death, forgiveness from sin; proclaiming our integrity before God, because of Christ.
Our spirits soar with this good news and we join the writers of Psalms and Hebrews in their praise of God:
“We will proclaim the Lord’s name in the midst of the congregation; our feet stand on level ground, in the great congregation, we will bless the Lord.”
Today, we join with Christians all over the world: to bless the Lord, to remember God’s love for us, to respond to this love with obedient love to our Savior, our Lord.
Just as the writer of Psalm 26 invites God’s probing eye to examine the heart, we do the same as we prepare to share in this holy meal together.
With honesty, let’s lift our confessions to God in prayer, as we prepare our hearts to receive God’s completeness for us, as we commit our lives to walking in God’s redemption, with integrity.
We bless you today, as individuals, as a congregation, and as part of the larger body of believers; the symbolic body of Christ in the world.
We confess to you that at times, our integrity falters; our honesty wavers, our trust dwindles, cares of this life chip away at our wholeness and we become prone to despair and worry, looking to things outside of your love to fill us.
Forgive us, God, when we fail; have mercy on us when, in our humanity, we forget your grace as we become anxious with the cares of the world.
Forgive us of our sins, and open our hearts as we prepare to meet with you at the Lord’s table. Take our brokenness, and make us whole; make us living chapters of your story.
We give you deep thanks for this wondrous love, that Christ would lay aside his life for our souls. We come to your table, expectantly, longing to see your presence, to meet with your grace. We are confident that you make us upright and complete when we eat this bread, and when drink this cup.
Bless us, O God, as your beloved children throughout the world join in this communion.