‘Take care that you do not forget the Lord’ wrote the author of Deuteronomy but if we’re honest we sometimes do.
We live as though we are the centre of the world. As though we can manage perfectly well thank you very much, we forget who and what we are made for.
One way we counter our forgetfulness is through worship, what we are about this evening when we deliberately stepping into that place where we remember who we are.
When we remember that the God whom we worship is the God of all things, who we are to worship and adore in all times and seasons, good and bad.
Even those times when we want to tell God to get lost, we come and through worship remember who we are, remember amidst the frustrations and sadness’s of life that we are but dust.
The psalm for this evening, 36, captures something of the paradox of what it is to be human.
On the one hand it speaks of self-deception and guile ‘Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart; there is no fear of God before their eyes.’
And on the other speaks of how though we may strive to deceive ourselves, we cannot deceive God and in him we find life. ‘With you is the well of life and in your light shall we see light.’
Super words those, likening a well, a place where life giving water is found with what happens when we don’t forget the Lord. I shall return to that image a bit later.
Water and life is also picked up in other verses of the psalm, reminding us that with God we shall ‘drink from the rivers of your delights.’
So my friends ‘take care you do not forget the Lord.’
But how do we do that amidst so many demands, people to see and places to be and so many other supposedly more exciting things to do?
We need to cultivate what we might call habits of holiness that aid our forgetful minds.
I was lucky to spend three years at Ripon College Cuddesdon, a theological college just outside Oxford.
Looking back, as I sometimes wistfully do (the grass was greener then) I think the most important aspect of the training was that mysterious bit called formation.
That formation happened in all sorts of ways, the academic stuff certainly but also in cultivating those habits of holiness.
Morning and Evening Prayer said daily together, the latter in a cold normal church, which stayed cold all year. These offices as they are called shaped our life together. Reminded us why we were there and formed patterns for living that were about sustaining me as a disciple of Jesus.
And yet despite that, I know in my work amongst you that despite that there are certainly times when I forget the God on whom I depend. When I think I can manage and get things done on my strength alone.
These times are when ‘the foot of pride comes up against me’ as we heard in the psalm and I think that I am the centre of everything. I forget the simple stuff that is really most important, saying my prayers and simply being before God.
So my challenge, which comes up time and again with my spiritual director, as it did this last week is to make sure that amidst all the demands I make sure I punctuate my days with those habits of holiness that help remind me time and again that God is the centre of my life and not me.
I miss it when I stuff it up and so I need to keep reminding myself that there is really nothing more important. For through times of prayer and contemplation I dwell more richly ‘in the abundance of God’s house’ and ‘drink from the rivers of God’s delights’ as the psalmist put it.
But enough about me, how does all this speak to you? It may not, but if you are like me, you too may sometimes forget about God or at least putting God in that nice and tidy box on one side only to be opened as and when you want to?
If so, then heed tonight as a challenge, an invitation to be honest and think of what gets in the way, mindful that cultivating habits of holiness aren’t always easy. Perhaps that’s why the psalmist used the image of the well.
Hopefully you can imagine the bucket being lowered into the well. Eventually it reaches the water, is filled and is pulled out to be used. We of course take water for granted, turn on the tap and there it is.
But just think for a moment if that wasn’t the case. What if life at the well was part of your daily life, as it is for so many. Then you’d know that the drawing of the life giving water doesn’t come without toil, as the bucket is lowered and then pulled up, again and again.
The life of prayer can sometimes seem like toil and hard work. We’re easily put off and think it’s not for me. In a life when we’re used to quick fixes, prayer is more of an endurance race. But like the water from the well it is the thing which gives us life that helps counter our forgetfulness.
And as we think of prayer, we mustn’t think of it as being solely about grand words (like tonight) or pious thoughts rather it’s more for me about putting ourselves in that place of encounter, its communion, about being not doing, that happens in our worship but also in those times when it’s just God and me.
Prayer sometimes then is simply about contemplating the world around you that little bit more, taking our time over things, savouring life not rushing through it. Enjoying the gift of this moment and dwelling in it as richly as we can.
So take tonight as a reminder to ‘take care’ amidst all you have to do ‘that you do not forget the Lord’.