This morning I want to call your attention to a phrase from our psalm. The last verse of today’s psalm is one of those powerfully succinct statements that is more than a poetic reflection. It is a declaration and summation of faith. “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”
So crisply compact is this statement that it has been used in numerous liturgies for centuries. It was used by John Calvin as the beginning of his Order of Worship. It is also used at the beginning of Compline, a liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer that marks the end of the day, the approach of evening, and the transition from activity to rest. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. What better statement is there to sum up and day, place it in perspective, while laying down our weary souls in the grace and protection of God? Of course, our Prayer Book is not the only use of the phrase in liturgy.
Numerous Prayer Books throughout the Anglican Communion use this verse to begin their forms of Compline. The most provocative, the most penetrating, is the Prayer Book from New Zealand. It reads, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who is making heaven and earth.”
“Who is making heaven and earth . . . .” This is a subtle but very significant change. But it is also a good and insightful translation of the Hebrew of this psalm. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who is making heaven and earth. Our help is in the Lord precisely because he is making heaven and earth.
We are all part of a work in progress. We are all children growing into the full stature of Christ. We all live in a creation that God continues to create and continues to call to himself. Our help is in God precisely because God is not finished with us.
When I was in college, I had a friend that had a large button attached to her backpack. The button had nine large letters printed on it. This is what it said: BPGINFWMY. It was unintelligible, but she displayed the button clearly and with pride. Finally, after trying to figure out just what it meant, I broke down and asked her. She said, “Oh, it’s an acronym. It stands for, ‘Be patient, God is not finished with me yet.”
That is a worthy and quite valuable insight to remember as we struggle and strive to grow in Christ. I somehow think that my friend wore that button not as a request for patience from others, but as a plea for patience with herself. The peculiarity of human nature is that we tend to be our greatest fans as well as our harshest critics. On the one hand we can excuse and rationalize, justify and amplify all manner of actions and misadventures. At the same time we can mortify ourselves and endlessly harass ourselves over the simplest and most menial mistakes.
We are broken and wounded human beings. Each one of us bears the scars of poor decisions, sinful actions and unfortunate circumstances. Yet each of us is an invaluable child of God, never outside the grounds of grace or the boundaries of God’s love. We cannot wander so far as to be outside the reach of God just as we cannot serve God without fail or stumbling. We are humans. We are creations. The successful and healthy spiritual life is simply accepting who we are and God’s grace for us.
Saint Clare of Assisi said it beautifully,
Our body is not made of iron. Our strength is not that of stone. Live and hope in the Lord, and let your service be according to reason. Modify the offering of yourself with the salt of prudence.
God does not ask for our perfection.God simply asks for us,his creations, his beloved creations.
Our help is not in our faithfulness to the Lord. Our help is not in our own abilities. Our help and salvation is in nothing but the name of the Lord, the person of God, the depth of his mercy and grace and love. He is the maker of heaven and earth and he is still making us in his image. He is making and remaking us. He is forming us and reforming us. The Lord is our help, not the source of our demise, for our God has given us life and continues to call us into that life.
Our help is in the name of the Lord. Our Lord is making, redeeming, renewing and loving, always loving, always and always loving the heavens and the earth. That is not just the message of today’s psalm. It is the message of the empty tomb, the risen and ascended Christ and the promise and hope of our salvation.
Our help is in the name of the Lord, the maker, who is still making, heaven and earth and all that is in them.