Chapel - Dr. Marjory Kerr

Marjory Kerr

This week we are honoured to have Tyndale University President Marjory Kerr, Ph.D., speak to our community. Dr. Kerr’s message is entitled, “I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me” and is based on Psalm 13:6.

Speaker: Dr. Marjory Kerr
Chapel Date: Tuesday March 23, 2021
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Podcast Transcript

Good morning, everyone. It is wonderful to be speaking to you in real time, even though still from a distance. Progress is progress, and I'm thankful that this represents progress.

I know that this is a very busy time for everyone, students, staff and faculty alike, as you count down to the end of another semester. And so I want to thank each of you for taking time to be part of our gathering today. And I want to say thank you to Dean Sweetman and Dr. Michell as well, for so quickly establishing a sense of hope, and worship, and calm for our gathering this morning.

As I was preparing for today, and actually going back about probably five or six weeks, I had decided I would speak on this verse from Psalm 13 verse six. I'd actually spoken about this text a couple of years ago in a different setting, and I found myself going back to this song and the message from that time, reflecting on where we are now, and how that might be appropriate to bring forward for today. And then more recently, a couple of parallel thoughts were going through my mind as I prepared specifically for this morning. The first is fob, probably fairly obvious. Just a couple of weeks ago, on March 11, the world acknowledged a solemn anniversary. It was one year since the global pandemic was declared. Of course, March 11 wasn't the beginning of COVID-19, but it is a central date that changed the past year for all of us. A lot has happened since then. It's been a hard year.

It's been a devastating year for many people around the world, and within our own city, and country. And this doesn't take into account the normal ups and downs of life that continue to happen apart from COVID-19. Although in many instances, I think COVID-19 probably made those normal ups and downs that much harder as well. So this is one of the things that has been on my mind this anniversary, as I'm sure it has been for many of you.

The second line of thought is that we are now on the back end of this Lenten period. We're looking ahead now to Holy Week, followed by Easter. Through this Lenten season, I've been following the daily reflections that are published by Lutherans Connect, and this year, the realities of COVID have been woven through many of the daily readings. As week five concluded this past weekend, I was challenged by these questions. Who have you lost or missed over this past year? How might you dedicate the last week of your Lenten journey and the following Holy Week to them, in your desire to live through grief to a time of abundant life? How will this next part of your journey prepare you for doing God's work in the world? And so this season of COVID, and lent and life are interrelated for me, and I wonder if in your unique circumstances, something similar may be taking place for you as well.

Psalm 13 verse six, "I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me." I want to speak about this verse, and the concept of God's goodness over the next few minutes. If you have access to a Bible, I invite you to take it out so that you can reference some additional Psalms we will look at as we consider this theme. And if you don't have a Bible nearby, that's all right too, just participate through listening. I need to say from the start that as a young person, as a young adult, I really didn't understand or appreciate the Psalms. I knew that they were very meaningful to many people. I knew they brought comfort. And I knew it was often verses from the Psalms that people knew from memory. But really, to be honest, they just didn't resonate with me in a meaningful way.

It wasn't until I was in my 30s, that I started to get it with respect to the Psalms, and from where I stand now, I honestly think I just needed to have gained more life experience, to have known more of the ups and downs that are part of life for all of us. The ups and downs that are sometimes from circumstances, sometimes come from others, and sometimes are the result of our own decisions and actions. One of the things I now enjoy about the Psalms, is the different voices we hear from the various authors. We have the writings from David and Solomon, Kings, powerful men. We hear from Asaph, a Levite. He was a musician and a poet composer. We have compositions from the sons of Korah, and from Moses. We see David's Psalms, quoting Moses's Psalms. We see Asaph being quoted in a song that's not linked to a specific writer. And we definitely see the ups and downs of life.

The text for this morning, from Psalm 13, is actually one of David's Psalms. “I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” Take a moment and think on those words, and the ways in which God has been good to you. His goodness in your life. And let me ask you the question, as I have asked myself in recent weeks, how has God shown his goodness in your life? How has he shown it in this past year of COVID? How is he showing it now? Because we need to remember God's goodness for ourselves, but we also need to share it with others, to encourage and remind each other of God's presence and action in our lives. But as I've been thinking, on that verse from Psalm 13, I was reminded of another important lesson, joy, and praise and steadfastness during difficult times, as well as the good, reflect a decision, not wishful thinking, not denial of real struggles or sadness, or the useless advice to just be happy.

Singing to the Lord also doesn't necessarily mean singing happy songs all the time. Let me give you a couple of examples. First, Psalm 13 verse six comes at the end of five verses in a short chapter, and I want to read them again, repeating the words that Dean Sweetman read just a few minutes ago because I think it is worth hearing once more this morning.

"How long, Oh Lord, will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, oh Lord, my God, give light to my eyes or I will sleep in death. My enemy will say, I have overcome him, and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love. My heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me."

Let's look at Psalm 42, and 43 for a moment as well. These writings are attributed to the sons of Korah. They're Psalms that were written in a time of grief and struggle, in which the writer is feeling that God is a very long way away. Right from the beginning of Psalm 42, we feel the writers grief, longing, and sense of separation from God, and this is carried through the two chapters. Chapter 42 starts with words that may be familiar to some of us, "As the deer pants for waters, so my soul pants for you, oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Just a few lines later in verse nine, we read, "Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy." And these same words are repeated in Psalm 43, verse two. And yet three times, in these two short chapters, we also hear the writer's challenge to himself, "Why are you downcast oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour, and my God." The writer pulls himself out of the immediate, to remember the bigger picture, the longer term view, that includes past, present, and future. When we're able to do this, that is when we remember God's goodness.

This is why we sing to the Lord, for his goodness in our lives. It is not because we are unaware of the reality around us, or that we are hopelessly naive. It's not that we don't seek help and support from trusted people and resources, when we need it, to help manage the challenges we may be experiencing. But in the midst of that, it is also about choosing to remember God's goodness to us. And this is why we need to remind each other of God's goodness, for those difficult times when it can be hard to see it for ourselves. There are so many Psalms about choosing to trust, choosing to be faithful, and choosing to be steadfast. There are Psalms simply of praise and thanksgiving. There are Psalms that bring us to understand more fully, God's character. And there are Psalms that bring us to worship.

I don't know all of the circumstances represented in our Tyndale community today, none of us do. But within this virtual gathering, on this Tuesday morning, it is quite likely that we have some who may be relatively new in their faith journey, and some who've been on the road for a long time. Some who have been saved from much, and some who have been protected from much. Some who are dealing with significant concerns, some who are in the midst of great joy, and some who are in that middle place of relative calm.

Regardless of the circumstances, and encouragement from the Psalms, which I hope we will each keep with us, is about choosing to remember God's goodness and knowing we can rest in that. We need to remember to take time, to remember. One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 139. And I know it's a favorite for many people. It begins with the statement that God knows us in a very individual and intimate way. Verse one says, "Lord, you have searched me and you know me." It then reminds us that God has a plan for our lives, and that nothing can separate us from him. Verse 16 says, "All the days ordained for me, were written in your book before one of them came to be." That includes today, among that all. And then the Psalm concludes with a prayer, an invitation for God to insert himself into our lives, and to lead us.

The words from verses 23 and 24 say this, "Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive weigh in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." This is the request of the writer. But you know, we can take a little bit of liberty and paraphrase those words a little bit this morning, to reflect what God might be saying to us. Put your own name at the beginning of verse 23, as I will mine, and hear God's word to you this morning, Marjory, David, Kathleen, put your name there. I have searched you, and I know your heart. I have tested you. And I know what makes you anxious. I have shown you what needs to change in your behaviour, and here's the promise, and I am leading you. I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.

Let's pray together. Father God, thank you for your presence among us. Thank you for the writings of your people through the centuries, that encourage and inspire us in our walk with you. Thank you for your goodness, in the blessings during the hard times that we face, and in the daily dailies that we all experience. Help us to remember to invite you into our circumstances, in good times and bad, recognizing that you are already present. And then help us to remember your goodness in our lives. And we will sing to you, knowing you are good to us. Amen.

Amen, and God bless you

— End of transcript —