Patterns and Emotions
Psalm 13:1-6 and Revelation 21:1-6
Good Morning. As I was thinking about the sermon for today, I was reminded of two seemly completely unrelated things, the idea that this passage shows both logical patterns and the illogical and unpredictable nature of human emotions. So of course, when I think of the intersection of these of patterns and emotions, I think of Mr. Spock from the original series of Star Trek. Mr. Spock is half human and half Vulcan. Being half Vulcan means that logic and patterns come easy to him and he is comfortable when people and things follow logical patterns. Mr. Spock’s is much less comfortable with his other half, the human half, is where he feels emotions. He constantly struggles with finding the balance between these two parts of himself. This struggle and the two halves of his nature cause him to be uncomfortable situations. He is made to face things that he would not prefer to face and be in emotional places that aren’t easy or comfortable. Today’s Psalm reminds me that perhaps we are all a little like Mr. Spock in both the ways he faces patterns and emotions.
Our lives both individually and corporately are made up of patterns. As individuals, you probably have a pattern to your days. Perhaps the pattern of your day starts with making a cup of coffee and reading the paper before heading to the metro. Or perhaps you have established a pattern in your life that on a certain day you visit a certain restaurant, sit in a certain booth, and order a certain thing. The bill is always the same and you can pretty much predict that it will be a good experience. This is comfortable, safe, and you don’t necessarily have to think. . This is just the way that it is, the way that you have ordered and patterned your days.
As a denomination, we are known for doing things “decently and in order”. One half of our denomination’s constitution is the Book of Order. It dictates the pattern of how we act both as individual churches and as a denomination. It spells out specific steps and patterns and process that we follow when we face with all sorts of situations, both good and bad. Yet, this book is not just about committees meetings and forms but also how we worship. The order of our worship has an order to. Here at Western, we follow this denomination’s ordering of worship, which is known as the four-fold order of worship. Each individual act in worship is part of one of these four folds. First we gather and enter into God’s Presence by greet one another, participating in hymns and confessing our sins before God and one another. Then we move into the Word- a time where we listen for God’s words as it is revealed thru scripture reading, song and sermon. We then respond to the word thru our offerings, prayers and songs. Finally we are sent out in the World, to continue our Worship as Christian living as witnesses in Christ.  While some might call this boring, I believe that it is comfortable. Worship is a place where we can find routine and live with and be with these texts in a place that that is both comfortable and peaceful. God is in these moments of routine, of comfort and peace, where everything follows a predictable pattern and runs exactly how we would like it to. God is in the place of comfort and peace. The title of today’s sermon isn’t just patterns though, it is patterns and emotions. The Psalm for today exist at the intersection of pattern and emotion. While it follows a typical pattern of the Psalms as far as the way that it is written, it also starts with the Psalmist in an uncomfortable and painful emotional place.
Going back to Mr. Spock for a moment, in an episode titled,” Devil in the Dark”. In this episode, Mr. Spock is tasked to do a mind meld with an alien creature called a Horta who is in extreme physical and emotional pain. In the mind meld, he is forced to take on the motions and thoughts of another, in this case a wounded and emotionally distraught Horta. As soon as the mind-meld starts, Mr. Spock is almost unable to bear the pain. He is in a place where he is fully feeling fully wounded both emotionally and physically. He is in a place where it is all he can do the cry out in pain and can barely make the words that help him to explain what it is that he is feeling thru is meld with the Horta. The Psalmist today is in that same sort of place. Although we don’t know exactly what has happened, it is clear that the Psalmist has is facing very real pain and rejection. The version of the Bible called The Message puts it in this way, “ Long enough, God—you’ve ignored me long enough. I’ve looked at the back of your head long enough. Long enough I’ve carried this ton of trouble, lived with a stomach full of pain. Long enough my arrogant enemies have looked down their noses at me. Take a good look at me, God, my God; I want to look life in the eye, So no enemy can get the best of me or laugh when I fall on my face.” They are in such a broken place emotionally and physically that they feel as though even the Divine has turned completely away. Perhaps some of us are in that place today. The patterns that are so easy and comfortable have broken down . Maybe an illness or injury has turned your life upside down. Maybe loss of job, home, income, or a loved one has made you cry out and be live in places of strong emotions and feelings of rejection. Maybe it is a combination of things that feels like God has turned God’s back on you. Maybe, like Mr. Spock and the Psalmists, it seems that all you can do is cry out in pain, to curse those people and things that have cause you that pain. There is hope, even in the midst of it all. We, like the Psalmist, don’t have to stay in this place forever.
In the Star Trek episode, the viewers are left with Mr. Spock crying out in the pain of the Horta during a commercial break. Yet, as the episode returns, Captain Kirk quickly rushes to his aid and helps Mr. Spock move out of this place of pain and into a place of action. As people of faith, we sometimes need help dealing with this place of pain, hurt, and rejection. Our helps comes not from the fictional Captain Kirk but from our faith community. As a community of faith, we are called to support one another when difficult times come. As you can see from the length of our prayer list, there are many who a re hurting who we offer up our prayers for strength and healing. We can offer prayers and give the gift of presence to those who are hurting. Yet it not just other imperfect humans that we have to lean on in difficult times, when unpredictable and strong emotions overwhelm us.
As believers we also are have the ultimate source of strength to lean on, God. Psalm 12 asks, Where does our help come? The verse answers that that our help comes from the Lord. Pay attention here to what Psalm 12 doesn’t say. It doesn’t say that as Christian things will magically be easy or that our lives will suddenly be perfect. It doesn’t say that we will have completely predictable lives. Instead, it says that God is our strength when those times of trouble do come. When we pair chapter 12 with today’s chapter, 13, we see that God is there in the times when all we can do is cry in pain and anguish.
There is a saying that I have never particularly been fond of that says attitude changes things. I’ve never really believed it. There are definitely times in life when having a good or bad attitude doesn’t really seem to change things. I’ve never seen any one smile their way out of getting chemo or frown their way out of getting a Nobel Prize. But, maybe there is some sort of truth in this saying. Perhaps if our attitude shifts away from the being woe is me, then maybe we would be able to find some sort of comfort, some sort of strength. It is the leaning on God. This shift is the proverbial letting go and letting God, knowing that things will not magically be easier or better. God is not a god genie or god santa. Instead, God is a God of strength hope and persistence. That maybe just maybe we can continue to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving, to find that new pattern. The Psalmists makes this shift. WE don’t know if any thing actual changes with their situation. Perhaps it is just that they remember that there is a God who is there when the chaos, the sadness and the reject comes. The then can call out boldy that ,” I’ve thrown myself headlong into your arms I’m celebrating your rescue.I’m singing at the top of my lungs,I’m so full of answered prayers.”
God is the God of the patterns and comfort and a God of feelings- both good and bad. As I thought about today’s verse, I was reminded of a song by REM “Everybody Hurts’, in reflects the intersection of patterns and emotions and the idea of reaching out . At the beginning of the music video, the people are taking part in something is probably in the pattern of many of our days- sitting in standstill traffic. As the camera pans around, subtitles show what the people in the cars are thinking as they sit in traffic., people are thinking about things in their life that are the burdens Some are angry and scared. Some are thinking about difficulties with both themselves and their families. No one is talking, even if they are in the same vehicle. Instead, they are stuck in the places of hurt and anger. Towards the mid- point of the video, a beautiful change happens. All of the sudden there is this mass realization that they are stuck in both physical and emotional places but that they have the ability to change at least part of this.. As REM repeats “Hold On” people get out of their cars and begin to embrace, cry, and talk, leaving their cars sitting there. They break out of their patterns of pain and reach out to the arms of others, as today’s Psalmist urges us to do for God. As someone who frequently drives on 66, I certainly do not recommend this as a realistic solution. Please don’t abandon your car in the middle of rush hour. But, I do challenge us to find those moments where the patterns and emotions intersect. Where are the places where we can be aware that God is in the comfortable and God is in the uncomfortable? Where are the places that terse two things meet? And more than that, where is God in both patterns and our routines? Where can our faith and trust in God help give us strength to hold on? As our passage from Revelation of the great hope that is given to us is that there will be a time when, “‘God will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away….God is making everything new!…. God is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty God will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
 From https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/theologyandworship/pdfs/one_page_ordo_explanation.pdf  Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 Episode 25  The Message Psalm 13:1-6  Adapted from The Message- Revelation 21:1-6