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Steve Mickel: Pilgrimage, Psalm 133

January 23, 2023

Audio Recording

Countless have been to church and many claim Jesus as savior, but it’s difficult to seek discipleship. We must allow ourselves to be formed to the way of Jesus by our practices and community.

A Long Obedience In The Same Direction
A Long Obedience In The Same Direction
Steve Mickel: Pilgrimage, Psalm 133
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Sermon Transcript:

:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us.

00:06 Well, we are launching a new series, today based on this, classic work by Eugene Peterson along obedience in the same direction. And it really is an amazing book. It was written years and years ago, but it still has a lot of relevance today. And, and Peterson talks about, uses this metaphor of a pilgrim. And we're gonna kind of come back to this metaphor throughout, the series to describe the process of, of becoming like Jesus, what it looks like, to become more and more like our Lord and Savior. And, and it's a long obedience in the same direction. It's a, like, like a pilgrimage, where we, we go on a long walk together, to see what God wants to do in us and through us. And, and I'm curious, has anybody ever been on a pilgrimage? I'm just, actually you're, yeah.

00:51 Oh, that's amazing. Yeah. I've been on not really a pilgrimage. I rode my motorcycle to the Grand Canyon last year, , it felt like a pilgrimage to me. I it as such. and, I, it was an amazing, epic journey of about 10 days, there and back. And I went through Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park and, and, and ended at Grand Canyon for a couple days, and then drove, drove way back. And it was just this opportunity to kind of get away from the busyness and craziness of this life and, and focus in on being with God. And I think sometimes we forget that the best way to be formed by God is simply by being with God. and, and practicing some things in his presence of, of, of consistency, as we journey together to seek his presence to, it's not, you know, a lot of times people think about spiritual formation, spiritual growth, becoming like God is about doing certain things or not doing certain things, and it's actually more about becoming, more like him.

01:52 Like we, like Josh talked about last week, we are made in the image of God. And I think part of spiritual formation is living into that reality. more and more, at the beginning of the year, I shared this metaphor of, I remember when my kids were little and they would be walking behind me. And you remember, if you have kids you remember, like, like, and you're, I'm just walking normally, but they're trying to, they're trying to mimic my steps. And so from behind, they're doing this, you know, and they're trying to, and what I noticed when they were doing this is their faces down because they're looking at my footprints and they're trying to stay with me. They're not distracted by the things going on around them. They're focused on following in my steps. And I think that's a great picture of what we're talking about when we're looking at this series about pilgrimage and following after Jesus, and becoming more like him, practicing the way of Jesus, looking at his footsteps and trying to stay in step with him, to be formed into his image. And so, let's pray as we think about that. Jesus, we do want to be formed more into your image.

02:57 We want to look increasingly like you, both personally, but also corporately as a church. We wanna, we want our lives to image you to, to reflect you and your goodness and your character, and your kindness and all that you are. And so, through this series, would you help us to see how we can grow and stay in step with you and walk in your footsteps to learn from your word. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen. If you have a Bible, turn to Psalm 1 33. And throughout this series, each week we're gonna look at what, one of the psalms, what the Hebrews called, the Psalms of ascent. And there were 15 Psalms, in the Book of Psalms. and three times every year, the Israelites would be, encouraged to pilgrim to Jerusalem, and to, and even today, many, obviously many Jews and Christians at pilgrim to Jerusalem.

04:01 and, and there's these 15 psalms, that are called the Psalms of ascent. And what the Jewish people would do is that they would sing these songs as they journeyed to Jerusalem. they were kind of the focal point of their, of their walk together. And they would, they would sing these as they traveled. and I'm, we're not gonna sing them because, I've tried to sing the Psalms and it ends up just sounding like a chant, you know? And I'm not, it's not very, it's not very creative, but we're not gonna sing. We will read through them, throughout this series and, and what they, and, and what it is. It's a way to focus our hearts and attention on what really matters both to God and to us. and now today, we don't consider Jerusalem the only place you can worship, thankfully, right?

04:46 Jesus said to the woman at the well, that there will be a time when, you neither worship in Jerusalem or on this mountain that he was on at that particular time. But, but you'll worship in spirit and truth. There's, it's, it's an invitation that any time we can, we can walk this path with Jesus. God has made his home with us. And, and pilgrimage is an invitation to walk with him. And so let's look at Psalm 1 33 and see what we might learn about this pilgrimage, to become more like Christ. How wonderful David Wrights, how wonderful. How beautiful. When brothers and sisters get along, it's like costly anointing, oil flowing down, head and beard flowing down, Aaron's beard flowing down the collar of his priestly robes. It's like the dew on Mount Hermann flowing down the slopes of Zion.

05:35 Yes. That's where God commands the blessing, ordas eternal life. How wonderful. How beautiful. When brothers and sisters get along. This song of ascent is about community. Just imagine this group of people, cuz in, in the biblical, context, you never, never really pilgrim alone. You, you go with a community of people. And so imagine this community of people walking up to Jerusalem and they start singing this song of ascent, how beautiful and wonderful it is when brothers and sisters dwell together, in unity. I mean, it's just this beautiful psalm. and I think about that the, the context in the biblical narrative. Adam and Eve, it's not good for man to be alone. Jesus' disciples walking together in community, following the footsteps of their rabbi, the author of Hebrews, reminds us to not forsake the gathering of the people of God to, to encourage one another in these hard days.

06:34 I, I think of Jesus. He, he calls us to not only to love God, but to love one another as we love ourselves. It's, it's, the, the biblical narrative is, is rich with community. Matter of fact, I don't actually think we can become more like Jesus without the practice of community. It's in isolation. You become who you think you should be, but it always helps to rub shoulders with those around you because you end up seeing who you actually are in relationships and where you can grow and what you can do. And, and, and, and, but too often, personally, and I think, I think we do this in America, especially in the western world, we avoid community. and part of it is, for me, my personality. I, I am an extreme introvert. It might be, might be a surprise to some of you, but I am, I'm an extreme introvert.

07:25 I am just as happy, okay? I'm happier alone than I am in, in, in, in the crowd. I am, I'm a five on the Ingram. I don't know if any of you do the Ingram, but I'm a five. which would, would make sense if you understand that person personality profile, for goodness sake, I rode my motorcycle alone to the Grand Canyon and I was very happy. , I was, it was, wow, this is amazing. There didn't, no offense to my wife. I love hanging out with my wife, okay? You guys are thinking, wow, he's my poor woman. But I, I find myself because I can say, well, it's just my personality avoiding community. But I don't think it's just my personality alone. David who wrote this song, he talks about community in familial terms, brothers and sisters. And it's a beautiful invitation to join together, for community to be part of God's family, .

08:22 But for those who have siblings or have spent any time in a church family, you begin to see that, oh, well that's not always great. There's a reason why psychologists talk about sibling rivalry. Cuz at some point in relationships, we run up against conflict and competition. Every relationship has to deal with conflict and competition. I, I, I think about, you know, I'm, I'm right in the middle of, so I have three siblings. My youngest brother, he was three years younger than me. He passed away many years ago. But my older, my oldest brother is three years older. My sister is one and a half years older, and then I'm third, and then my younger brother. And, and I was, as I was thinking about this, I was trying to decide which conflict to mention to you, because there's so many, I could tell you about the time when my parents made me drive my sister to her friend's house.

09:17 And I was so upset. I was just being a, just, you know, really bad. And she, in the car, as I'm driving her, she wills often punches me right in the face, , my sister does. I couldn't believe it. And I was taught, right? So I just had to take it. But I can also remember, when we were served food, especially fish sticks. I love fish sticks, . I still love fish sticks. probably because of the, of the hurt in my life. Because we would get a, like, we would get like four fish sticks and you could, you have to finish your four before you get more. And so there was a competition to eat what was set in front of you as fast as you possibly could, so you could get seconds. I mean, it was just, it was just like, I looked at my siblings as, you're the person making me starve right now, and I'm gonna fight you for it.

10:06 You know? And I think we, we, we think about relationships sometimes in terms of conflict and competition. I mean, I know there's not really much polarization happening in today's world, but it's still exists. , it's still there. You know, where we see each other as, as not part of like a family. And, and, and, and even when we see each other as part of family, I mean, Kane and Abel, , first Brothers, how did that go? And ins and murder, I mean, it's been our story. It's there. It's our history. Joseph's jealous brothers who sold him into slavery, Jesus' brothers didn't believe in him right away. I mean, you just see this over and over and we, we experience this in our own lives. And then for those who have maybe grown up in a broken family, that metaphor, you just try to stay away from it.

10:57 And so you just think, I don't wanna be part of a fa another family, there that's only hurt for me. And so our response, because of all of these things, ends up being, I'm good. I'm gonna, I'm gonna do this pilgrimage thing alone. I'm gonna walk by myself and just have surface relationships because I think the the risk is too great. The hurt is too much. And yet when we make that choice to kind of pilgrim in isolation and, and, and allow individualism to reign in our lives, we miss out on what God wants to do in our lives. On, on, on how he wants us to, how he wants to shape us and, and help us to become more like him. Cuz that can only happen in the context of community.

11:48 Scripture reminds us how beautiful, how wonderful it is to journey together as brothers and sisters who get along who get along. How, what, what is it? I mean, how do we get along? I mean, what, what does that even look like? You know, the fullest expression of God's love for us is that why we were still sinners. Christ died for us. And he, when he looks at us, when he looks at those people that hung him on the cross, what does he say? Father, forgive them. See the fullest expression of brotherly sisterly love is laying down your life for the other, even the other that you don't agree with. That's the fullest expression. it's a counter-cultural invitation that Jesus asked us to journey together, to, to come out of this world and the polarization and the, and, and that if you're, if you're not for me or against me, all of that kind of language, and find ourselves in community where we can be of one heart and one mind.

12:56 And when God's community lives like this, what does the Psalm say? What does David say? It's like costly anointing, oil flowing down head and beard flowing down, Aaron's beard flowing down the color of his priestly robes. It's like the dew on Mount Hermann flowing down the slopes of Zion. Well, great. That's sounds amazing. What does that mean? I mean, I don't oil flowing down Aaron's beard. okay, great. Is that good? I mean, it sounds kind of nasty to be honest. You know, I mean, is that o I mean, what is it, what does that mean? You know, it's not like you read this, sometimes you read stuff with the Bible, you go like, what are they talking about? It's like dew flowing down Mount Hermann. What David's referencing is the oil. Oil was often, it often denoted, the anointing of God, the presence of God.

13:48 it was a sign of God's presence. And when we dwell together in unity, God's anointing is present. His presence is in that act. They will know that you are my followers. How By your love for one another? See, it's, it's the anointing rest there. Instead of viewing others as competitors and people that we conflict with, what David's saying is, look, look at, look at people as those that, that bring the anointing. Like look at them as the anointed. Peter would go so far as to call us a kingdom of royal priests, a royal priesthood.

14:36 Do you look at the people, brothers and sisters here in this room, maybe that you have relationship with as those anointed by God made in his image set apart for Jesus, given to us by God for our benefit and our growth, we need each other. Detri, Dietrich Bon Hoffer said it this way, not, it's not what a man is in himself as a Christian. His spirituality and piety that constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what the man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. And it's like the morning due on Mount Hermann. And you're thinking, oh, what does that mean? Immediately I go to another psalm that says that God's mercies are new every morning. And when you look at the other, when you stand across from someone, maybe that you don't quite agree with, that, that lives inside the context of this community.

15:51 And you think God's not done with them yet. And God's not done with me yet. We are on a journey. We haven't arrived yet. God's mercies are new, just like the do on Mount Hermann every single morning in their lives and in my life. And to, and to, and to approach each other in relationship that way, thinking, man, they're a jerk. , God's not done with them yet, instead of what we do in our society is we just, we just can't cancel them out. They're done. They're not, they can't be part of my life. They can't, I I can't have anything to do with them. And I'm not trying, I'm not saying like, go be, you know, be president. Unsafe relationships. If you've been around our community, you know that, that we, we don't believe in that. But there's a, there's a place here for us to go. Like, all right, I'm gonna press through the uncomfortableness of being in community with people that I disagree with and sometimes don't like.

17:00 And ask Jesus to help me see my brother or my sister as he sees them as gifts of God for me, as those that are not finished, they're still in process, they're still on the pilgrimage. The merc, their mercies of God are new for them just as they're new for me. We refuse to label anyone, as you know as cuz we know they haven't yet reached their destination. Josh talked about curiosity last week. If you were here last week, he talked about this, this question he often asks people, tell me more about that. I wanna know more. Where are you at? Where are you going? What, what's God saying to you? It's, it's not a method to get someone to listen to you. And I think sometimes we try to figure out how can I, how can I treat someone so they'll hear me? It's actually, I want to hear you.

17:59 And what are you, what's God saying to you? What's going on in your life? and, and so we can see them as fellow pilgrims in this journey together. Genuinely interested. So this is what I want you to do. I want you to think about the people in your life right now. I want you to, just to go ahead and close your eyes. I want you to think about the people in your life. Think about the people that you like. Maybe you're sitting next to them. Maybe, maybe they're, they're, you just have names and faces that I really like them. I'd like to spend more time with them. My favorite people. That's good. That's a good group to, to, to envision cuz you, I'm gonna call you to be grateful in just a moment for those relationships. But I also want you to put another group of people in your mind, other people that are maybe part of this church or Christian who just really get under your skin. They really bug you. And some of you are hesitating doing what I'm asking because you're like, I know what you're gonna ask me to do, and I don't want to do it. I don't want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't want to treat them with love or kindness. I don't want to, I don't wanna do that.

19:25 And the very thing that causes his church to be distinctive, to be different than any other group in this world is our love for each other, especially with those who we might call or the world might call our enemy. Ah, it's radical.

19:54 It's

19:54 Radical. And when we do this, what David says, what happens is this is the place, this is the space. This is the context in which God commands the blessing and ordains eternal life. You can look up. This is the space where God, God's blessings flow into our life and into our churches. When brothers and sisters dwell together in unity, where we, where we can set aside our differences and we can, and we can interact with one another face to face and have relationship regardless. It's the place of blessing. Peterson called it rousing Good fellowship.

20:42 And he writes, he writes this about these relationships where relationships are warm and expectancy fresh. We are already beginning to enjoy the life together that will be completed in our life everlasting. Which means that heaven is like nothing quite so much as a good party symbol in your imagination. All the friends you enjoy being with the most, the companions who evoke the deepest joy, your most stimulating relationships, the most delightful of shared experiences, the people with whom you feel completely alive. And that is a hint at heaven for their God commands the blessing, ordas eternal life. It's a place where we enjoy one another, where we like doing life together. Where we look at each other and we go like, oh, God's not down with you yet. And God helped me to love, help me to forgive. Help me to be filled with mercy and kindness and compassion as you have with me. You know, three years ago, I wasn't sure West side would be described as a place filled with rousing, good fellowship. And and the pandemic kind of revealed that a little bit. It revealed the, the disunity, the divisions. And,

22:02 And over these last three years, God has rebuilt something that I can say today. And our team would say, this is really beautiful. It's beautiful because as I look out in this space and I think about the people online, the people that are part of this community, I look at you and, and man, we don't agree on everything, but I I look at you and I go like, I can, I could do life with you.

22:27 I'm so grateful for the relationships that I have with the people in this space, in this community, in this, the family, . I mean, we are dysfunctional as any other family, but I'm so, I feel so blessed today that I'm a part of this particular family at this particular moment because I know that it's this, in this space, I'm becoming more like Jesus. As you're becoming more like Jesus, that we're pilgrim mean together. We're, and it's not about getting from A to B. It's not like, well, I gotta get, it's about journeying together. It's about doing life together. It's about walking together in unity. So Jesus, would you help us to live like you? Even right now? Lord, I'm thinking about how, how irritating your disciples must have been to you at times. Sometimes they said things that just weren't right or real or true, and sometimes they did things that didn't represent you well. You just, you just kept loving them.

23:44 You kept showing up in their lives. You kept, and ultimately you even like chose to die for them even when they all abandoned you. I j i your way. Jesus is so radical, it's so counterintuitive, it's so countercultural to the way that this world works today. She would help us Lord, to steal away from this world and its way of thinking and relating to one another. And try to live in the context of the way in which you lived, the way you loved, the way you forgave, the way that you treated your friends and your enemies. Oh Jesus, help us by your spirit to live like you, to love like you as we pilgrim together, we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.