The Secret to Security

1-21-18 Scripture:  Psalm 62

Theme:  What’s the secret to security?  Malware for the computer, health insurance for potential illness, pension plans for financial stability, locks on the doors and windows, cameras in the hallway, and law enforcement officers keeping us safe in our community.  But none of these are guaranteed; all have their shortcomings and failures.  In contrast, God offers a truer security, not dependent upon nor challenged by the conditions of this world – the one thing that can never be taken from us is God’s presence in our lives.  This is ultimate security.

          It has come to my attention recently that many persons have wondered about how pastors are able to do all the things they can do.  Is it training?  Seminary?  College degree?  Is it genetics?  Upbringing?  Environment?  Does it have something to do with a special relationship with God?  Particular biblical knowledge?  A gift such as prophecy, healing, or enlightenment to the eternal truths of the Creator?

         Today, I would like to settle these questions once and for all.  We clergy are enabled to do all that we do because of something that isn’t readily advertised, known, or ever fully understood.  It’s a kind of a secret.  I am here to tell you that we are enabled to perform all of our word, sacrament, and order duties, all of our tactful conversations, expedient directorship, and effective divine translation, because we are each given, on the day of our graduation from seminary, essential tools of our trade – known amongst my colleagues as CLERGY CREDENTIALIZATION CARDS.

         I’ve got them here in my wallet, and they look like this (overhead).  Several cards that, when pulled from one’s wallet, help one to address any number of pastoral situations.  Allow me to demonstrate:

 Witty Pastoral Comebacks

When the someone criticizes your sermon: “I’d love to hear the sermon you prepared on this text; let’s compare notes.”

When a parishioner questions your prayer: “Well, keep trying; that prayer was made for faithful ears, and I’m sure you’ll make it someday.”

When there’s a mistake in the bulletin: “We try to provide something for everyone; for those who are looking for mistakes, we provide them, too.”

 Immediate Comfort Scriptures

Anxiety:  Philippians 4:6-8, Psalms 46:1-3  

Courage;  Psalms 31:24, Philippians 4:13

Illness:  Jeremiah 17:14, Exodus 23:25

Peace:  Philippians 4:7, John 14:27

Suffering:  2 Corinthians 4:8-10 1 Peter 4:19

Wisdom:  Proverbs 2:5-7 Psalms 51:6

Guidance:   John 10:4 Psalms 25:9

 Creative Swearing Examples for Pastors

 “You are an abased, contemptible uncovered affront to God!” (II Sam. 6:20-22)

“May wormwood and gall inflict this mighty pestilence!” (Lamentations 3:19)

“They doted upon others like asses, and issued forth smells as from horses.”

(Ezekiel 23:20)

 Quick Motivational Quips for Parents of Teenagers

“Either clean your room now, or I come in with the backhoe”

When they say, “That’s not fair!” answer, “honey, the fair only happens once a year.”

“By saying “no” to me, do you mean “no” as in “no allowance,” “no movies,” and “no driving privileges for a month?”

 Clever Discussion Starters for Junior High Youth Group

If you put a slinky on an escalator, would it go on forever?

If you cross a four-leaf clover with poison ivy, would you get a rash of good luck?

If a book about failures doesn’t sell, is it a success?

Should bankruptcy lawyers expect to get paid?

Effective Pastoral Responses Helpful in Moving Violation Avoidance

“Well, you see officer, I was on a mission for God.”

“I’m sorry, officer, but I was so focused on the immediacy of the apocalypse, I didn’t notice my speed.”

“If you’ll forgive my ticket, I’ll forgive your audacity at stopping a servant of the most high God in his effort to serve his most unfortunate children.” 

 Quick Wisdom Quips to Impress Parishioners

“Forbidden fruits create many jams.”

“Coincidence is when God remains anonymous.”

“Most people want to serve God – but only as advisor.”

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.”

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your hope, as old as your fear.”

 Immediately Accessible Prayers for Pastoral Crisis Situations

When the main point of the sermon is lost:  O God, Help Me.

When walking into an unexpected situation:  O God, Help Me.

When the committee meeting has stalled:  O God, Help Me.

 That’s what works for me; how about you?  You know that advertising slogan that goes WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?  I think it’s advertising a particular credit card, with the message being, unless you have that particular card in your wallet, your life is not secure.  Well, the same applies for these clergy credentialing cards – if you want to be an effective pastor, you’d better have these in your wallet.

Don’t have any of these kinds of cards in your wallet or purse?  Would you like some; I have extra.  I’d be happy to share them with anyone who’d like them, but I must let you know one thing before I do:  THEY DON’T WORK.

For the person of faith, for the one who understands what it means to follow wherever God will lead, there are no cards for the wallet, no quick wisdom that applies anytime, no profound secret to security in life, no program or discipline or credentialing that makes us immune to the vagaries of existence.  It is actually no secret to gain security in life, for it has been proclaimed in many and various ways, and it reflected in our scripture lesson today:  “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.”  This is the only real security that exists.

Have you ever wondered why people seem so unsettled and frazzled when things go wrong, especially in these days?  It seems like our nation is presently undergoing a kind of nervous breakdown over what’s happening on the government level – moving between racist twitter messages, international conspiracies, fears of a nuclear war, and sexual misconduct allegations at the highest levels; and didn’t the government shut down over the weekend?  The opiod epidemic has gained national attention with the overdose-related deaths of Prince, Tom Petty, Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, and most recently Dolores O’Riordan, the lead singer of the rock group the Cranberries; she died from a fentanyl overdose.  The gender gap remains; healthcare costs continue to shoot through the roof; insults fly against other countries; white supremacy seems to be growing; mass shootings are increasing; and weather is growing more extreme.  Where in this mess can we hope to discover security?  How can we move toward something stable, sane, and life-supporting?

How often do we think such thoughts; how often do we strategize and maneuver and order our lives to make things work, to have them come out the way we think they ought to come out – and forget what makes all of life worthwhile is our trust in something bigger than ourselves, something beyond ourselves yet a part of ourselves?  This is not a truth limited to faith; it is a fact of any life that is out there, religious or not.  Those who cling too tightly to self, who aim at pleasing and serving and satisfying only their own needs and wants, who dwell too intensely on what they can do themselves, or what the world is capable of doing itself, wind up with the greatest insecurities.  But those who place their entire lives in the hands of Another, who allow the idea and the possibility of God to enter their reality, and hand over the uncertainties and anxieties to him – these are the most secure people I know, the ones who keep a level head and peaceful heart while facing terrible circumstances, who are able to meet whatever comes their way with steady resolve and a strength that seems to come from beyond themselves.  It is my humble privilege to know such people, who model to me what a secure life looks like – and their faith in God is the key.

I would like to close by reading a slightly varied version of our scripture lesson for today; this is the 62nd Psalm according to the PJV, the pastor John version.  And it goes like this:

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.

”Put not thy trust in convention, nor in the abilities of thine own hand; let not thy worship of self garner praise.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.

“Keep from the folly of Mastercard or Visa; put not thy complete trust in Triple A; beware the insurance card for its limited liability; dependest not too much upon that “buy-10, get one free” cappuccino card being filled; for it matters not what you have in your wallet, so much as what abides in your heart. 

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.

Let not the material of this world shake your vision of what lies beyond, below, above, and within all.  Let your trust in God be your guide in all matters, great and small.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved.”  Amen.