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Psalm 1: 1-6             “Trees by Streams”               May 13, 2018                                                        Boardman UMC              Rev. Jerry W. Krueger              Mother’s Day

The Bible’s Wisdom writings include Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Job, and the Psalms. All 150 of them.

The Psalms are appropriate for us to address on Mother’s day. Because if you are a Mom, a foster mom, a sister, Dad, sibling, grandparent that has had to fulfill the duty of a mom, you know that you pray, all the time. All kinds of prayers.

The Psalms are prayers thanking, praising, and affirming who God is. These are prayers imploring God to act against those who harm us. They are imprecatory prayers, demanding God exact judgment on those who dismiss, and despise God.  They are written in the Hebrew vernacular of plain speech, and are not particularly eloquent, or elegant.  The Psalms are prayers spoken by God’s people in all emotional and spiritual states, physical, and economic states, addressing a particular need to God.

This opening prayer from Psalm 1: 1-6, is about thriving.

Where do you thrive in your life? What are those things or activities that fill you with joy, and a sense of completeness?  Who are the people in your life that help you thrive?   

When plants, trees, or lawns don’t thrive, it’s related to a few key things.  Poor soil. Poor nutrients, and lack of water. When a person does not thrive physically, it can be attributed to poor diet, chronic illness, and unclean water.

Failure to thrive spiritually is tied to these verses in Psalms1:1.  Hear The Message translation. “How well God must like you.  You don’t hang out at Sin Saloon, You don’t slink along Dead- End Road, and you don’t go to Smart-Mouth College.

To thrive spiritually, we align with those who model what we desire to be spiritually.  We sink our spiritual roots deep into the soil, and allow the underground spring of life to feed into us, to sustain us, to prosper us, to allow us to delight in God’s word, and to think of it throughout the day.

As a kid, my Mom dispensed truth and wisdom to me daily.  “Mind your manners. Open the door for others. Don’t always think of yourself first. Say “Yes ma’am, and no ma’am.” Live within your means. Be kind. Be grateful in all circumstances. Enjoy life. Work hard. Dance and laugh. Cherish your friends. Remember whose you are, and who you belong to.”

You all want to thrive in all areas of your lives. But reality is sometimes, a family can be stifling. A work environment can be life choking. Perhaps a friendship is fraught with another’s negativity that draws you into life, in an unwanted way.

Our world today is readily able to focus its needs on itself over another. Our world often says, “Yes, me first.” The Psalmist indicates that our happiness is leading a God centered life.  

How do you define happiness? Just getting what you want? A mega Million’s lottery winner 3 or 4 years ago was asked by a reporter, what they were going to do with their after tax winnings of $220,000,000. As the woman prepared to reply, the reporter interjected essentially with his own desires, “I bet you’re quitting your job, buying a huge home, taking a 1 year world vacation, buying a beach home and expensive new cars.

The woman said, “My husband and I are happy. We’ll keep working in the family business and have money for our kids to go to college debt free. We might upgrade to a new car and we’ll take a nice vacation.  But the rest of the money will be in a trust that helps in our community.  We are people of faith, and will use the money for others.”

The reporter’s disappointment was written all over his face.

This Psalm is about choice. We may choose to be self-instructed and self-directed, or we can choose to open ourselves to God’s teaching, and to work at being “teachable.”

My Dad brought a co-workers “unteachable” dog home when I was about 10. They no longer wanted the too stubborn, too dumb, too unteachable dog. Three days later, “Buster”, a beagle, spaniel mix, could sit, lay down, come to you, run after a ball and return it. And he and I went everywhere together.

“This dog is teachable,” dad said, “it was the owners who were stupid. They were unwilling to do the work to teach and train their dog. Buster’s failure was their failure.”

I wonder, Do we, do I ever have an unteachable attitude toward God? Do we only see and say, “Woe is me? Why did this happen to me? I blame God. It’s all God’s fault.”

Sometimes we are not in the right frame of mind to thrive. Something bad happens, and we blame God. “I don’t know why God was so cruel to Sally Sue. She had a husband a two kids. Why did God make her die of emphysema and lung cancer?” Well, she was a two pack day smoker for 18 years.  And sometimes, we act as if we don’t know why things happen.

You can follow God’s leading and still have heartache in your life. You can have serious illnesses impact you or your family, even if you live a good life, exercise, pray and eat right.

This text is not so much about following God out of fear, but it is more about loving God who provides for us in ALL instances.

Where do you plant yourself? If lost in the desert, look for clumps of trees growing. There you will find water by digging with your hands. Water of life sustains us, if we will allow ourselves to choose life giving friendships. To thrive, perhaps a vocational change is needed, because we are stagnant in the job. Maybe we have become heavy laden, burdened, and serving in an environment that does not nurture or grow us?

Everything can’t be about what suits us. But there is an accounting here. If your work life is just about getting a paycheck, then you must thrive in other parts of your life, to overpower the mundane or negative.

Happiness as we read about in Psalm 1, is NOT incompatible with suffering and persecution. Matthew 5: 3-11 spells that out for us. Jesus wants us to live, to thrive, but and calls us to know that judgment does come to all of us. And some will risk harsh judgement by hanging out mentally, emotionally, physically, temperamentally at Sin Saloon, Dead End Road and Smart Mouth College.

The ones who persist in creating mayhem and havoc in family, school, work and society will receive an accounting. They are un-anchored and blown about by society like dust in the gutter.

For those who struggle, work, praise God, cry out to God, listen to God, love God and neighbor, God charts your path. God lights your way with the light of Christ. The way, truth and life.

The people who would drag you off the path into the depths of their mean spirited diatribe, the cold hearted accusations, the ugly teasing and minimalizing unkind language, they will answer for their bad behavior. And you don’t get to judge, God will do that. As my Mom used to admonish me, “Jerry William Krueger, you worry about you. Don’t worry so much about your sister.” Yes ma’am.

People of God, we who chose the living Christ as Lord and Savior, and who try to live out our lives daily in a way that brings glory to Christ, we are following a path that the Lord watches over. He watches over the ways of the righteous.  But he will account for your negativity, your whining, or complaining or gossipy trouble making.

Wisdom teaching lets us know  we should choose to thrive and live near righteous streams of life giving water that nourish us, sustain us,.  And we can live in the life giving presence of Jesus Christ and the love of the Father, and in the power of the Spirit.

As you leave today, here is your challenge for the week.

Think, pray and reflect upon if there are changes needed in your life, so that you may thrive. Would a change in lifestyle, eating and drinking habits, work environment, associating with certain friends, in dealing with family relationships, help?

Read the Psalms, and hear the sovereignty of God’s grace and love for each of you. In Jesus holy name we pray.   Amen.