I was taken up by the opening words of Psalm 127 and then struck down by them as I reflected upon what they really say. How often have you heard this Psalm used as a bit of prooftexting in a sermon to speak of vision and 'working with/for God'?
But have we really ever stopped to think about the emphasis and impact of the passage as I've scribbled it below:
Unless God is behind it - we labour is in vain.
Unless the Lord defends it - we guard it in vain.
Up early and bed late - working with God or because we don't trust Him?
Unless we are in step with God, we labour in vain. The problem is that we don't seem to do a lot of listening to God when it comes to what He wants, in fact whenever I find myself in a 'vision' setting it seems that the majority of the process is about telling God what we want Him to do! The people around me know what God wants and so never bother to ask Him or listen for an answer and that all-important direction.
Last night I saw a programme where a man was setting out to restore/develop a castle yet had no drawings or plans, everything was in his head and eventually (through a number of factors), the project stalled, stumbled and failed. How many times have I seen this sad reality enacted in the world of Christian endeavour that is mission?
Who is the architect of the building we seek to create?
Who has drawn up the plans?
Who is the project manager for that which we seek to build?
Moving on the next line smacked me around the head (in a nice 'God awareness' sort of way - Thank You Lord!) as I recalled something I have recently read by a man who turns science upside down to make it look like his ideas of what God has done, and wants, are supported. But unless God defends it, any defence we create is defined to fall and, as in the case of this man, damage the reputation of the God we serve.
Isn't God big enough to defend His own Church?
Now I'm not saying walk away and leave the ramparts such that there is no defence, but conflict has always been about taking stock of the situation, gaining intelligence and listening to orders from the chain of command. Too often I find no one is listening to God (or reading the book He so kindly gave us) but instead are setting out to defend what is undefendable in a ways that look like war crimes!
So let us cease fire and gather round the Boss of an orders meeting (which we call 'prayers' in a military setting - ironic that, innit?). We should be fighting intelligently and with an obvious integrity!!!
Then comes a sour, barb, thorn and concern for me. I get up early to do my daily Office (the prayers I promised I'd do when I was ordained) and more often than not hit the sack when tomorrow has become today: what does this line do for me?
Am I trying to prove something or seeking to 'outlive God'?
Are my actions working with God or working hard because I don't think God is up to the task?
'God gives His faithful people rest,' that's what it says in the Psalm. Well I get enough rest (usually) so I can breathe a little easier here I guess. But we do need to make sure that, once again, what we do comes out of listening to God.
How do those three lines at the top work for you?
Are you listening in the same way as I, and others, obviously aren't?
Failure to do so might just render our action to be not just in vain but perhaps vanity.
All yours Lord.