Psalm 148 1 Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above. 2 Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. 4 Praise him, your highest heavens and your waters above the skies. 5 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created, 6 and he established them for ever and ever—he issued a decree that will never pass away. 7 Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, 8 lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, 9 you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, 10 wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds,11 kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, 12 young men and women, old men and children. 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. 14 And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Last week we started remembering the Summer — Summer when life is different. Life is supposed to be easier, more relaxing. Summer is usually vacation time, and the living is easy. We heard the song from Porgy and Bess by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. We resonate with those words. Ah! Memories of Summertime when we were much younger.
Several years ago, Ann and I had a very unique experience. We were on the Florida west coast down near Fort Myers. We were able to walk along the magnificent beaches of Sanibel Island. Sanibel is known for the thousands of different seashells that always wash up on the beach. Everywhere we would walk there are pristine beaches covered with seashells. Sanibel Island even has a museum of seashells — fascinating!
Ann and I would walk along in the warm sea and sand and pickup shells. Some are large, some are small. Some contain crabs, others scallop and some oysters. Ever held a conch shell to your ear and listened for the noise of the sea? Ever eaten conch or abalone? — excellent, but different and chewy.
Dream with me – you can remember the sea – and the breeze and the smell of the salt air. Remember as the waves come in to the shore and then recede – you see the sand crabs scurry around and then exit into their hole as the tide returns. Or you feel the sharpness of the shells on your feet, hoping that you will not be cut by the sharp edges while you feel the warmth of the water – and it is February when Ann and I were there. Never to return!
Maybe you will see a star fish and be amazed at its unique shape and rough edges. Or you pick up a sand dollar that is really part of the South Carolina seashore. Ever seen a horseshoe crab with its long tail and big rough brown shell? What other types of sea creatures can you think of that are in your mind? How many with shells? Fascinating, isn’t it? Everyone is different — everyone is unique and has a specific purpose in God’s plan. Psalm 19:1— The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of God’s hands. Just like the individual uniqueness of the sea shells – each of us is unique – absolutely unique— no one is like us – amazing. Even identical twins have a slight variation in the DNA.
As we look at Scripture – various Scripture verses we will find that God has designed each of us in our own unique way — imagine – no one else like us – in our personality – our ambitions – our failings and our attributes. But as we read in Genesis – God has created us in the image of God – not physically – but in the Spirit of God – we can have the ingrained love and compassion that God haves for everyone and we can also decide that we will not follow the direction that God has given to us.
In a way we are like the sea shells: Every seashell has its own story — its creation – its home – its parents — each has a unique story to tell. Some of the seashells are beautiful to look at – they radiate God’s creational beauty. Some of the seashells are broken or cracked — some are discarded – some of the seashells are hidden in the muck and seaweed of the ocean floor. But as we look at the seashells – each radiates God’s intricate design and attention to detail. So often as we walk along the beach, we see seaweed entangled in the beautiful seashells. For us to pick up the shells we must remove the seaweed. It is a smelly and difficult job – but then the radiant shine of the shell emerges.
So many times, we find that our lives are entangled in seaweed. Maybe because of actions we have taken or words that we have said to others that can never be retracted.
Maybe it is the memory of decisions that we made that caused us difficulty and regret. Or even, decisions that we failed to make that now, upon reflection, causes us regret. Or maybe there are life entanglements that are difficult to escape from.
Many times, our lives have some smelly seaweed in them. Read Jonah chapter two and comment: Jonah 2 1 [a]From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. 2 He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. 3 You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. 4 I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple. 5 The engulfing waters threatened me,[b] the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. 6 To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, Salvation comes from the Lord.’” 10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Jonah utters the prayer of deliverance and chapter 2 emphasizes the seaweed wrapped around him. Jonah cries out to the Lord for forgiveness – Jonah is grateful. And the whale spits him out of dry land. Each of us have been in situations where we have felt that we are like Jonah. Eventually we cry out to God in sincere repentance – and God delivers us. Even though we may feel that our life is like a broken seashell wrapped in seaweed. We know that God knows about us and loves us unconditionally.
But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. 7 “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, Salvation comes from the Lord.’” 10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. And through the calling out to God — God’s emissaries will embrace us in love and compassion and we will emerge onto dry land.
Thanks be to God.