It was one of my favorite songs with the college choir, “Commit Thy Way Unto the Lord,” based on the very Psalm we heard this morning. Of course when it comes to cherishing certain pieces of music, there’s much, much more to it than simply the words. There’s so much more emotion that comes with music that makes it stick with us for a lifetime. We remember who we sang it with or the time in our life that was especially vulnerable, or it was just the right combination of notes with the perfect instrument as a foundation.
I remember my fellow college students as we sang the choral piece at the front of this Gothic-like cathedral at Wittenberg University. I remember wondering how many of us were actually paying attention to the King James Version words: “commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him and He shall bring it to pass.” Words that would be especially helpful for college students forced to make a decision not simply on what their major should be for their time on campus, but what they want to do with their life after those few years.
Let’s be honest, I’m sure there were some of us who were not paying attention to the words at all, and only concerned with how soon we could get out of that chapel to go hang out with friends. And even when it came to the long-range planning of life, we would think about what’s best for us, not so much about what’s best for God and all of God’s children. It all came down to us just doing our job as a choir: to sound pretty, and perhaps make a few people feel better sitting out in the pews.
But those words have stuck with me ever since, “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass,” because they don’t just apply to the twenty-somethings, who are trying to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life with the verse serving as, hopefully, helpful advice. No, the Psalm comes into play every day of our time on this earth. Will we actually wake up in the morning and convince ourselves, “Today, I am going to live with a commitment to my Lord, Jesus Christ, Who died and rose again for me!”
“I’m going to be more patient with my coworkers. I’m going to be more concerned with complete strangers. I’m going to go out of my way to do a random act of kindness. I’m just going to have a more positive outlook on the world that will feed off onto other people. I’m going to be a flat-out better servant, following the example of Jesus Christ Himself.” And along the way we’ll do a few extra prayers to center ourselves, to rejuvenate the Holy Spirit within us, to consciously remind ourselves of that commitment we made at the beginning of the day. We’ll read Scripture as a way to nourish and guide us as to how best to live out exactly what God envisions for us. That’s great, if we can somehow pull that off every day.
But of course, we are going to mess up from time to time. We are going to fail in our commitment to living this life shaped by the love and grace of Jesus Christ. So what happens then? What happens when we do not fully commit our ways unto the Lord? What will God do then? We have to be so incredibly careful with this powerful Word of God, because if we’re not, that verse from the Psalm is so overwhelmed with little hope at all for us. If only we live a certain way, if only we shape our life perfectly around the dying sacrifice of our Savior, will God take extra special care of us?
Because I like to think that even those of us college students who did not take those words from the Psalm to heart when we sang it, who were only concerned with which party to go that night, or only thought about our own self-interest in determining our career, God still watched over us. It’s not so much about our commitment, after all; it’s about what God committed to us on a cross and out of an empty tomb. That commitment to the point of death and Resurrection saved us.
Those words from years ago continue to stick with me also because of the one who directed us with such passion and fervor, whom I envisioned as the encapsulation of one who committed Himself in proclaiming God’s love through the gift of music. Unfortunately Dr. Busarow died of leukemia far too soon. He was supposed to be there at my ordination to play the organ. He was supposed to live so many more years to even play at Sarah and I’s wedding. He committed his life to God and yet it did not come to pass the way I thought it should, at least.
But of course I have to force myself to remember he can no longer suffer, nor can his family; because this God has a commitment that continues even into the darkness of death: the living God Who made the commitment to bring us out from that death into life everlasting, even when we do not deserve it. God has made a commitment to us on a cross, out of the waters of baptism, in the body and blood of the Son in Communion, and will continue to do so even in the darkest valley of the shadow of death; and absolutely none of it can be taken away from us for the rest of our life and beyond! And for that ultimate commitment of Jesus Christ Himself, we most certainly give thanks to God indeed! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon