Preparing for Worship – Darren DeMent, associate pastor.
I have a lot of songs in my iTunes library. So many, in fact, that I often forget what songs are even in there. So, occasionally I just set the player to shuffle and enjoy the surprise that comes when some long-lost song resurfaces unexpectedly. As I was playing this game of iTunes roulette the other day, I was delighted to hear my favorite version of one of my favorite hymns, “I Love to Tell the Story.” It’s a duet sung by Emmylou Harris and Robert Duvall from the soundtrack to the 1997 film, The Apostle. The Apostle also happens to be a favorite film of mine for several reasons: It stars Robert Duvall, an actor whose work I love, it is set in South Louisiana, a place I’m deeply connected to, and it has a killer soundtrack filled with roots and southern gospel music … quite a trifecta.
The film explores themes of temptation, vengeance and redemption as it tells the story of Eulis “Sonny” Dewey, played by Duvall, a complicated and complex character — a Pentecostal preacher who is equal parts sinner and saint. There’s a scene early in the film where we see Sonny praying late at night in an upstairs room at his mother’s house. Well, praying is a gentle way to put it. We actually find Sonny shouting at God in what amounts to an angry one-way conversation. As he rants and raves, asking for a way to see reason in the hardships that have befallen him, neighbors begin to call the house to complain. His mother answers the phone and delivers this memorable line: “That’s my son, that is. I’ll tell ya: ever since he was an itty-bitty boy, sometimes he talks to the Lord and sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight, he just happens to be yellin’ at him.”
I don’t know how many of us have the audacity to yell at the Lord in our prayers or honestly express our anger, but there is certainly evidence for doing so in the Scriptures, especially in the Psalms (go look at Psalm 44 for proof). The Psalms give voice to the full range of human emotions, from joy to sadness, hope to despair, comfort to pain. But whenever some of the rawer emotions are expressed, they are regularly followed up by a proclamation of continued trust and faith in God.
Psalm 62 is a good example of this balance. In the verses that immediately precede our reading this morning we find the Psalmist lamenting attacks that have been launched against them. But that lament gives way to the affirmation that we read together this morning that God is our rock, salvation and fortress.
We have had reason to despair over the past year. Our resolve has been tested and our faith may have even been shaken. So may the words of Psalm 62 bring you comfort this morning as together we remember that God alone is our hope and our refuge.