Well, we have a Triple Crown Winner!! First time in 37 years that we have a horse that has finished all three races. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes. And American Pharaoh is the Triple Crown Winner – Woo Hoo !!!! Congratulations to all.
I’m not a horse person since I fell off of a horse back in ’66 or ’67, I can certainly appreciate a good run and a great race. I was excited to watch the Belmont last night and to watch the merry making in the win. But what captured my heart was after American Pharaoh triumphed and he was taking the obligatory laps. There was another horse that American Pharaoh stayed very close to. His head was nuzzled right close to this other horse. It was such a tender and vulnerable site for a Triple Crown winner it seemed.
I didn’t understand this relationship and so I quickly texted my rabbi (other than Jesus) - my real time rabbi who is also an equestrian when not at the synagogue. She agreed but she also had an explanation for me. She said, “race horses like American Pharoah are untrained babies, all they know how to do is run, but not to be steered. So these "ponies" as they are called, (the horse who accompanied American Pharaoh, who is actually a horse) is used to guide him around the property. The “Pony Rider” is holding the race horses head close to keep him focused on the pony and under control. Ponying is a very dangerous job - the racehorse could do a lot of damage to the Pony/Rider with his immaturity and spunk.
Hmmm. Well that got me to thinking about relationship between the novice and the old hand because who could not benefit from that type of relationship?
We began a sermon series last week entitled, “With a Psalm in Your Heart”, and we will continue this for the next five weeks. If ever there were a ‘book’ to tuck inside your heart it would be the Psalter, or the book of Psalms because there is a Psalm applicable for every occasion of your life. They are illustrative poetry on what your life can be when rooted in a deep and abiding relationship with God. And they are so readily available to you by yes, opening your Bible, or your Kindle, or your iPad or phone.
Last week’s Psalm for reflection was Psalm 1. The Psalmist shows us two roads that we can take in life - the good and decent road or the road to corruption and perdition. I hope that you chose the higher ground to walk on this past week. This week we will engage Psalm 113 which is known as a Psalm of praise or a ‘hallel’ Psalm (as in hallelujah) which is one of six praise Psalms sung during the three Jewish pilgrim festivals: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Jesus probably recited this Psalm during his Passover’s in Jerusalem with his parents or his disciples.
Let us now take a moment to read this Psalm together as found in your bulletin:
Praise the Lord!
Praise, O servants of the Lord;
praise the name of the Lord.
Blessed be the name of the Lord
from this time on and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations,
and his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
who is seated on high,
who looks far down
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
to make them sit with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a home,
making her the joyous mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
What the Psalmist is declaring is that as big as the universe is, God is even bigger! Stephen Hawking would have had a run for his money with the Psalmist and somehow, I think they both might have found a place of understanding – a believer and an atheist – the universe is vast and there are mysteries yet to be discovered in this still revealing world.
But the Psalmist is different, he asks, “Who is like God?” Of course no one is like God!
God can life up the needy and give barren women a home. While this is a packed and sensitive statement to us in the here and now, the Psalmist is imagining a God who is really counter-cultural. Back then the poor were blamed for their poverty and condition and a women’s sole function in life was to provide male offspring, as so if she didn’t she was deemed inadequate for the good of the community.
But God is saying NO to this, these are not my ways and we say no to this too! For a society that views status through a different lens than us, this is pretty big news for the Psalmist to declare.
In this Psalm God goes from being impressive, to super impressive, to super-duper-super impressive!
In essence God is infinite in all ways, God has no bounds, and is without limits, God is concerned for all people – the poor, the oppressed, the needy, the rich, the affluent. No one is like God and all people are cared about and loved, and given that extra measure of grace when needed. All people are guided by God, like American Pharaoh and his ‘pony’, because we need it, we need God’s guidance, we need to be nuzzled closely to the one who will walk with us around the track in our triumphs and in our defeats. Because there will be defeats.
So what does this have to do with us on the Baccalaureate Sunday when there is nothing but the future ahead? Well sometimes the future ahead can be scarry. You graduate, marking a milestone and then think what’s next? While you may know what is next tactically, like where you are going to school but do you really know what is next? Do we know what the path, that we have forged for ourselves, really entail? Nahhhh, we don’t.
And so we can keep the image of the pony and the racehorse in mind. We can keep the God of love as an image and a reality in our hearts to guide us and lead us to our ends beyond our wildest imaginations.