October 11 Thanksgiving Sunday
My Cup Overflows
Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a boy from an ordinary family who became king. God was on his side and he prospered. He was blessed with a lot of war victories and sons. One day, one of his sons rebelled against him and it led to a civil war. The poor father was fighting his son’s army and running for his life. He was heartbroken and grief-stricken. It might easily have been the darkest time of his life. During this time of danger and heartbreaks, instead of complaining to God why this was happening to him, he wrote the following poem; “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
Yes, this is the story about our famous King David writing Psalm 23. Well, nobody is 100% sure how and when this psalm was written but the story I just told you is considered a very likely background of this psalm. Imagine for a second; you are a king (or a queen) and your own son rebelled against you and is trying to kill you. Oh the betrayal and heartbreak! According to our human nature, we should be crying out to God, “Why are you doing this to me? Haven’t I been a good servant? How can you do this to me?” But our David wrote a poem of thanksgiving and praise, of love and trust. His son sent an army to kill him and he says, “My cup overflows” and “goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.
David is not the only super human who responded to a devastating situation with praise and thanksgiving. What did we hear from the Book of Habakkuk today? The guy’s got nothing (no fruit, no flock) and he is rejoicing in the Lord! Uh! How can he?
Today is Thanksgiving Sunday, and we are meditating on being thankful. Do we thank God when we are blessed with a lot of good and attractive things in our life? Well, of course we do! But the real question is, what about when things don’t go as we want? We can be such arrogant children to God that when things don’t go our way, we cry out, “Why me” or “What did I do to deserve this?” But have you ever cried out “Why me” and “What did I do to deserve this” when really good things happened? Or are we so arrogant as to think that good things, we naturally deserve but bad things are unfair?
Both the stories of King David and Habakkuk teach us that we can be joyful and thankful when bad things happen to us; that is what mature faith looks like. We can be joyful and thankful, not only “because of” good things but also “in spite of” bad things. How can we be joyful and thankful when things are bad? The answer is in the gospel text we read today; because we trust that God will take care of us. And this kind of trust requires mature faith. Think of when we were children. When our fathers came home from work, our joy depended on whether they brought something good or not (my favorite was ice-cream). That’s because we were young and immature. But now that we are adults, we are happy just because our spouses or partners came home safely. This is maturity. Our relationship with God is the same; when our faith is immature, we are only happy and thankful when we receive good things, but when we are mature, we can be happy and thankful even when we don’t receive good things, or things that we want. Because we trust God completely, we don’t worry about every little thing, and we can just appreciate the gift of our relationship with God without expecting anything. Having God in our lives and being loved by God can be enough to bring us joy. Last week, I mentioned the name John Wesley, our Methodist father. His last words before he died were, “The best of all, indeed, is that God is with us”. I also read to you a psalm that King David wrote in his old age, Psalm 131, where he says, “O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. 2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother”. This is what happens when our faith matures. Our soul experiences peace, we don’t fret over small things in life, and we are able to say, “God, you are enough for me”. As we have read in today’s gospel text, God already knows what we need, so we can just trust God and not worry about mundane things.
This is a repeat, but how can we achieve this kind of mature faith and strong trust in God? By maintaining an intimate relationship with God. I have said, think of our relationship with God as the same as our relationship with friends, and learn from it. The process of building an intimate relationship includes spending a lot of time together, both talking and listening (we know the importance of being a good listener in our human relationships, and it’s the same with God), and letting ourselves gradually resemble God as a result of the relationship (remember, when we build a relationship with someone, we gradually resemble each other). I kept saying “to be continued…” concerning the details of how to build an intimate relationship with God; but today I will teach you one type of prayer that is especially good for developing a strong trust in God and will lead to peace of mind, joy, and thankfulness. This prayer is called silent prayer. Silent prayer is not about praying silently in our head. The practice of silent prayer involves shutting down our thoughts and mind as well as our mouth. In any kind of meditation, you will hear leaders say, “Empty your mind”; this is what silent prayer is about. We empty our thoughts and mind, and even our senses so we can experience the presence of God. Close your eyes in silence and imagine yourself floating in the middle of a big ocean. All the waters and air around you are God’s presence. Just chill and hang in the presence of God, and you will experience peace, and become more trusting. You will be able to understand King David’s words, “My soul is like a weaned child with its mother”.
So as a conclusion, I pray that we will be able to maintain an intimate relationship with God, become more trusting as a result, and be joyful and thankful no matter what God gives or doesn’t give us. Praise be to God our creator, parent, and friend for the love and relationship we share. Amen.
Rev. Sunny Kim