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The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 16, 2013
Sermon: "Open Outcry"
The Very Reverend Dr. Richard (Rick) Miles
Watch the complete video of this service on our YouTube Channel
Psalm 5: 1-8
Give ear to my words, O LORD; *
consider my meditation.
Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God, *
for I make my prayer to you.
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; *
early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.
For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, *
and evil cannot dwell with you.
Braggarts cannot stand in your sight; *
you hate all those who work wickedness.
You destroy those who speak lies; *
the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.
But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will
go into your house; *
I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.
Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,
because of those who lie in wait for me; *
make your way straight before me.
Pastor Benjamin Pratt made a discovery. Passing the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Benjamin was surprised to find that trading in the exchange is not electronic, even now in the 21st century. Instead, the communication of buy-and-sell information is accomplished by hand gestures and shouts. The system is known as "Open Outcry."
"Open Outcry," said Benjamin to himself. "I couldn't get the phrase out of my head. For more than a century, that phrase has captured the emotional, split-second, make-or-break trading system that fuels a major part of our economy. ... Yet, somehow, I hadn't heard that phrase until [I went to] Chicago.” Then he thought, “… or had I?" What Pastor Pratt realized is that that term “Open Outcry” could exactly describe the language in many of the Psalms.
Our Psalm this morning is a prime example of this language. In the very first verse of Psalm 5 we hear these words: "Give ear to my words, O LORD; give heed to my sighing. Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray" (vv. 1-2).
Open Outcry. The Psalmist is crying out to God, asking for help. Facing the threat of violence, he begs God to destroy those who are telling lies (v. 6). Perhaps he has been accused of wrongdoing himself, and is now pleading his case to God (v. 3). The psalm can be prayed by anyone being threatened by antagonistic, arrogant, violent, or deceitful people.
You know them: Friends who are really enemies; "frenemies" in the current vernacular: School bullies, boss bullies, street thugs, abusive spouses, unethical co-workers, untrustworthy relatives, put-down artists, adversaries who try to undermine and destroy us: anyone who lies, injures and cheats, showing no regard for the welfare of others. In short, the people who make us want cry out. All of us have some such folks in our lives. But yelling at such people face to face is not always wise or productive. So what do we do with that need to cry out? Our psalm gives us direction here.
And the first thing it demonstrates for us to do is this: make an Open Outcry first to God. "O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice," says the psalmist; "in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch. For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you" (vv. 3-4).
Believe it or not, we can gain real relief simply by speaking honestly to God about our troubles. "Talk therapy" is the technical term, and it can do a lot of good when feeling depressed, stressed or anxious. Professional therapists all agree that talking, voicing, or otherwise expressing our ideas, thoughts and feelings can help us focus and deal better at such times.
So talk about what you’re going through with God, who is the Ultimate Listener. In the morning, plead your case; speak out your deepest angst and hurt; ask for help with frenemies. Pray for strength to face the challenges of the day. One tool that I find helpful, when having to sort my own feelings and angst, is to not just speak it, but to write it. Using a journal to write out thoughts can really help to focus that “Outcry” to God. Making that Open Outcry first to God is where to start.
Here’s the second thing to do: bring your Open Outcry to others. After his time in Chicago, Pastor Pratt talked with two of his fellow travelers, two men who had journeyed with him from New Jersey. All three of them had been struck by the beauty and opulence of the city. But they had also been hit by the sight of people, including children, begging in the streets. Their conversation turned into a discussion about economics and taxes.
"I don't mind that a lot of people make a lot of money," said one of the men. "That's the way of our system. What really bothers me is that so many children in our nation don't have food for breakfast or they go to bed hungry at night."
When evil is done to us, we should begin by crying out to God. But our Open Outcry should not stop there, especially in the face of what the Biblical prophets would call injustice; especially in this society where we have the power to improve the lot of all of us. Just as we have reason to cry out when someone betrays us, we also have cause to be shouting when politicians raise taxes on the poor and on those who contribute to the very charities that would feed and clothe them just so as to pay for tax cuts for the well-off.
In the Bible, Open Outcries are directed both to God and to other people:
To God: "Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer," says Psalm 86; "listen to my cry of supplication. In the day of my trouble I call on you, for you will answer me" (vv. 6-7).
To others: "Cease to do evil, learn to do good," says the prophet Isaiah; "seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (1:16-17).
To God: "My God, my God," cries Jesus from the cross, "why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).
To others: "Depart from me,” says Jesus on the last day, “for as you did not do it for the least of these, you did not do it for me.” (Matt. 25: 31-46)
From the Old Testament to the New, God's people are not afraid of Open Outcries. Sometimes the cry goes up to God alone, "Give ear, O LORD to my prayer." But other times it goes out into the world as well, "Cease to do evil, learn to do good." In both cases, passionate words are being spoken and heard. In the face of intentioned evil or just calloused indifference, we are not to stand silent.
Mary, the blessed mother of Jesus knew this. That’s why her first extended speech in the Gospel According to Luke is an Open Outcry: God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones," says Mary, "and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (1:52-53).
Mary's words reveal the kind of God we worship: one who brings down the powerful and lifts up the lowly. Her cry also reminds us of the work we are to do as followers of this God and as disciples of Jesus Christ: providing for the poor while also telling the well-off, "Hey guys, God’s justice demands all of us give our sacrificial help."
An Open Outcry goes first to God, then out to others.
There is one more thing to say about Open Outcries this morning: An honest outcry will lead us to grace. Listen to our Psalmist this morning: “But I through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house. I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you…Lead me, O Lord…; make your way straight before me.” God’s steadfast love, grace, will enfold those who bring their honest outcry to God in prayer.
Poet Elizabeth Cunningham writes of such honest prayer:
“You can only pray what's in your heart.
So if your heart is being ripped from your chest
pray the tearing
if your heart is full of bitterness
pray it to the last dreg
if your heart is a river gone wild
pray the torrent
or a lava flow scorching the mountain
pray the fire
pray the scream in your heart
the fanning bellows
pray the rage,
the murder and
pray your heart into the great quiet hands that can hold it…”
When facing opposition or attacks, don't bottle it up; lift it to God in an Open Outcry. Then call out to others, and let us work together to seek justice and help for the oppressed. Pray your heart; and God will hold you in the abundance of his steadfast love.