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Nov. 28th - "Hope - Rev. Michael Plank

1st Sunday in Advent
November 28
th, 2021
Rev. Michael S. Plank
Hudson Falls, NY


Text: Luke 21:25: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea.”

Scripture Lesson: Luke 21:25-36

Proposition: I propose to experientially show that when things seem darkest, our redemption is at hand, to the end that hearers will find the courage to face the day with grace and courage.

Prayer for Illumination: God of hope, speak to us through the storms and darkness of our lives. Shine your light bright enough for us to see it, and give us the wisdom to hear and understand your call to us. We pray this in your name. Amen.

Scriptural Context: As Jesus and his disciples leave the Temple after seeing the widow drop her coins into the treasury, Jesus launches into an unexpected doomsday proclamation. Listen for God’s Word.

When we moved here to Hudson Falls, eleven years ago, we were warned about the winters. And with good reason! That first winter had more snow than I’d ever seen. But I did grow up in the Midwest, so though we didn’t have the same amount of snow, those prairie winters are tough too. We moved here from the city of Chicago, where I spent the three coldest and windiest winters of my life.

We were about a mile from Lake Michigan. And if you haven’t been out to the great lakes, the word “lake” doesn’t even come close to doing them justice. When you stand on one shore you can’t see across to the other. That’s pretty much a freshwater sea. And during the winter storms those waters would rage like the ocean. There would be waves and swells. Water would crash into breakers along the shore. If you could get a high enough view, you could see a roaring and tumultuous body of water stretch all the way to the horizon. If you have any fear of open water, one look at that lake in a storm would be enough to make your palms sweat.

The Israelites were people like that… they were a desert people. They were a dry land people. They were a feet-firmly-on-the-ground people. A few fished, but nobody was much on open water. Open water meant storms and destruction and death. That’s why the stories about the crossing of the Red Sea or the enormous fish that swallowed Jonah were so captivating and terrifying. And Jesus taps into that cultural fear when he says that the “nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea” (v. 25).

Jesus undoubtedly laughed and played and welcomed the little children, but he was also a real downer sometimes. This passage comes right after he has just taught in the Temple and showed the priests and scribes their place. And coming off that victory, he pointed out to the disciples the poor widow, donating all she had to the Temple treasury and the work of God. And then, as the disciples (most of them just commoners from the countryside), marveled at how beautiful the Temple was (say what you will about the corruption that goes on inside it) Jesus launched into this doom-and-gloom prophecy.

“The time will come,” he says, “when not one stone will be left on another; every one of them will be thrown down” (v. 6). And I can just imagine the wind going right out of the disciples’ sails. I imagine a long, awkward silence as the disciples looked around at each other and kicked the dust… feeling sheepish, but not totally sure if they should be, or if Jesus was maybe just being a jerk, or if they had been foolish. But it was definitely not what they had expected.

But I think Jesus, for his part, was just trying to provide some perspective. The disciples, throughout the gospels, tend to get carried away… like a lot of us do. They loved Jesus and believed that he would bring in this Kingdom of Heaven that they’d heard so much about and believed in so deeply. But they believed what a lot of us sometimes believe, which is that as long as they had Jesus they didn’t have to worry about anything else; that if they just wished hard enough, things would be fine; good vibes only and it’ll all work out.

That attitude is still very much alive and well. So many of us see problems as some unnatural thing that must be resolved. Surely some kind of faith is the resolution then, right? Even if it’s not church? If you’ve got God, why worry? Everything happens for a reason. God is in charge. God protects me. And it’s not even that all of that is untrue… though I personally don’t actually believe that everything happens for a reason, nor do I think there’s good Scriptural evidence to support that… but the problem is that those kinds of things oversimplify life. And sometimes the disciples, and sometimes we, need Jesus to come in and be straight with us and give us some real talk.

Because the reality is that there is nothing we can do that will keep us from problems. Just because we believe in God or Jesus or go to church or say our prayers, it does not mean that everything will be great. Even if you were somehow able to solve all the problems that face you right now, tomorrow you would have new ones. We are not promised a life free from problems. In fact, Jesus says, before we see the Kingdom of God, we can pretty much count on things getting worse before they get better. You can pretty much bet that before salvation, you’re going to see hardship. In fact, Jesus says, that’s when you really know that the Kingdom of God is getting close, because things will get so low that up is the only direction left to go.

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars,” Jesus says… “People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken… It will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen” (vv. 25-35).

This reading – this doom-and-gloom, sandwich-board-and-megaphone-on-the-sidewalk, repent-for-the-end-is-near passage of scripture is the reading set for the first Sunday of Advent, which is often called the Sunday of Hope. This one. But that’s because being hopeful is not the same as being naïve.

Being naïve involves what therapists call a behavioral distortion – specifically one called “magical thinking.” It’s the idea that something can or will happen despite there being no logical basis for that assumption. Magical thinking is believing that Covid is done because we’re tired of dealing with it. Even though millions have died and Washington County has been number one in our state in terms of daily new cases for over a week now. Magical thinking is believing that racism has been put to rest because Ahmaud Arbery’s killers were convicted. Magical thinking is believing that when we are fed up with the way the world is, we can shame others into seeing things our way.

There is destruction and violence, desolation and devastation. There is tragedy and horror. There is wreckage, heartache, and fear and anxiety and grief. And it is hard to find hope. In this text it is hard to find hope. In this world it is hard to find hope.

But hope – although it looks like magical thinking from the outside – has one key difference from being naïve. Hope does not turn away from hardship. Hope does not pretend that everything is fine when it’s not. Hope looks suffering in the face and chooses to believe anyway.

Things are broken right now, it seems like more than ever. People don’t trust each other. People don’t respect each other. People fear each other. It’s hard to find goodness, hard to be optimistic, hard to even be neutral about your outlook on life.

And yet it is to this broken world that the Messiah chose to come. It was when the boot of Rome was on the neck of God’s people, when corruption had infiltrated the faith, when poverty had gripped the population, when there was oppression, violence, and fear; it was then that the Messiah came. And it is to this same broken world that the Messiah will come again. And in this speech Jesus gives about how life is not all roses and you can expect to see brutality and horror again in your lifetime, in the midst of all this, he slips in a tiny bit of hope and says “When these things begin to take place, lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (v. 28).

And so, as scary as the world is, we hang garlands and light candles and sing hymns. As dark as the picture is that the news cycle paints, we baptize Claire and celebrate that God’s promises live on in her. I know it feels like the end some days, but redemption is drawing near. I know the news makes your spine tingle and turns your stomach, but redemption is drawing near. I know that people you love are in trouble, but redemption is drawing near. I know your heart is breaking, but redemption is drawing near.

Jesus did not come to people who had it together, he came to people who were falling apart. He came to exactly the kind of devastated and stricken world as the one we live in now. He came to bring salvation to a people at the end of their rope. And he will come again.

So hold fast to hope. Cling to it with all you have. Fight tooth and claw to keep it in your grasp no matter how it wriggles and tries to get free, because your salvation is at hand. It’s close. It’s almost here. Our salvation is coming. The day of earth’s redemption is on its way. Despite the pain, despite the suffering, despite the hardship. In joy and in defiance, lift up your heads and rejoice, because Jesus will come again to set this broken world to right! Amen.

Nov. 7th - "All She Had - Rev. Michael Plank

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 7
th, 2021
Rev. Michael S. Plank
Hudson Falls, NY

“All She Had”

Text: Mark 12:43-44: “Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.’”

Scripture Lesson: Mark 12:38-44

Proposition: I propose to experientially show that the story of the Widow’s Offering is about the power of abundant generosity to the end that hearers will increase their pledges for the coming year.

Prayer for Illumination: God of abundance, we ask you to share your wisdom with us as we hear your Word this morning. Open our minds to what you have to say, and give us the faith to follow where you lead. We pray this in your name. Amen.

Scriptural Context: The story we’re going to read this morning comes after Jesus has entered Jerusalem and been grilled and tested time and again by people who want him to prove who he is. Listen for God’s Word.

A dear friend of mine has traveled quite a bit in the developing world, especially in Latin America. One of the first times he went, he stayed in a village that had almost none of the comforts that we are accustomed to seeing where we live. There were dirt roads and there were dirt floors. There were roofs and windows, but virtually everything was handmade or salvaged. There was no electricity, no running water.

That first night though, when my friend sat down for dinner, he and his companions were served an incredible feast. The amount of food, the variety, the smells and flavors and presentation, in no way matched the austerity of everything else you saw in the village. But while the food was being passed, he overheard a conversation outside the window behind him. He spoke enough Spanish to pick up what was going on.

There were 2 boys peeking over the windowsill at these foreigners who had come to stay with them. As one steaming plate passed by the window, the younger boy – maybe about 5 – said to the older boy – who was maybe about 8 – “Is that goat?” The older boy said that it was. The younger boy’s jaw dropped and he said, “We don’t even get goat at Christmas!”

The people of that community were lower on resources than most of us have ever been (though some of us have been there too). They had next to nothing. And yet they served this incredibly rich feast; not because they had so much to spare – they didn’t – but because they were radically, unimaginably generous.

And I’ve told that story before and I always think of his experience when I read that passage from Mark for this morning. Because here you have a widow demonstrating radical generosity that certainly seems beyond her means. Remember that at this time, a woman’s value was almost completely tied to a man: her husband, or her father, or her brother. A woman with no man – a widow – had no value. A woman with no value had no resources. And so when Scripture talks about the widows, they’re not just talking about people who need a little extra because they’re bereaved, they’re talking about the bottom of the totem pole.

This poor widow came up, while Jesus was sitting and watching the treasury, and she took out two very small copper coins, which, when weighed out, almost amounted to enough to buy a loaf of bread. She dropped them in and then she went away. It was a completely and totally selfless act.

And if you look at the short-term, it was probably foolish. It almost certainly meant going hungry. And the short-term is how we’re wired to look at things. The short-term is where we make sure we have enough food for today, where we make sure there are no wolves behind us, where we make sure no enemies are lurking outside the door. The short-term keeps us alive. And in the short-term, if you are at the bottom of the totem pole, you do not give away all of your money.

In the short-term, you do what everybody else did at the Temple treasury that day while Jesus sat and watched: you pay your bills, buy your food, make sure your house is ok, go out to dinner, buy your gifts, get your investments and savings in line, and then look to see what’s left over and you say to yourself, “Ah! That’s even more than I need!” And you give that away. Or, you might say “It’s a tight month, I can’t give this month.”

That’s a strategy that makes sense. But it’s different than the one that Jesus talks about. And it’s different, because it’s a short-term strategy. It’s about how I’m going to make out this month.

What Jesus talks about and preaches about and demonstrates again and again is the counter-intuitive nature of the long-term strategy; of the big picture. It is the massive benefits gained tomorrow from sacrifice today. It is the widow having the faith that her contribution to building God’s kingdom in the world is better for everyone, herself included, than a loaf of bread would be today. It’s long-term strategy that extends beyond a year or two years or 10 years, and into the decades and centuries to come.

And although we understand and choose short-term survival, the act of selflessness, the act of long-term generosity is the thing that we applaud. It is the thing that makes us call people saints or heroes. Because it is the thing that models for us our higher selves. It is the proof that demonstrates to us that we fallible, broken, short-sighted humans, are capable of greatness. And when Jesus lauds that poor widow and her two copper coins that she drops in the treasury today which means she’ll have to wait to eat until tomorrow, he is pointing to an example of what it means to live a higher calling.

Stories like this inspire us to be better: to be more generous, to be more faithful, to believe in a cause greater than ourselves. The story of the widow and her two coins isn’t a story about how every little bit helps, it’s a story about the power of radical generosity, about how long-term sacrifice makes the world a better place to live for all human beings, about how faith in a cause like that builds God’s Kingdom.

The woman gave all she had – two copper coins – and that gift, because of the spirit in which it was given, was worth more, and did more to build God’s kingdom than the rest of the gifts combined. And God’s work in the world leapt forward that day because of those two small copper coins. How much farther could it be propelled if we who are not widows, who are not oppressed, who are not on the bottom of the totem pole, if we gave all that we had? If we gave, not from what was left over, but if we were radically generous and gave from what the Bible calls our firstfruits?

Giving from our firstfruits, means deciding what we want to give to the church before we look at our other expenses. It means offering our best to build God’s kingdom. It means writing those checks or setting up bill pay, and then figuring out what we have left over for restaurants and gifts. That’s how we give the way that widow gave. That’s how we build the church and build God’s kingdom. And rather than just talk in abstracts about that, here’s a concrete reason that that’s important.

Many of you have been members here for more than 20 years, and you know the difference between how crowded this room is right now and how crowded it was 20 years ago. It is no secret that mainline religion has been in a precipitous decline. This a problem in many ways – we need money to balance the budget, keep the lights on, keep the church house looking nice – it was just painted this week. But those are all short-term problems. But there’s a long-term problem here too. In talking with a brilliant friend of mine, he pointed out the long-term reason that we should care about this.

Church attendance is low, and lots of things are responsible for this. One of the big ones though is that as numbers of dropped, church’s have worked to be more inclusive to appeal to a broader base – which is good – but in doing so, we have watered down our message and it has come to be the case that for many, they see the church as no different than any other social organization. And if it’s no different, then why should they join? So churches are emptying, but people’s religious impulses still very much exist. But in the absence of a strong theology they can latch onto, many people have filled their religious impulse with politics. Here’s why that’s a problem.

We have all seen how bitterly divided our nation has become. Religion deals, and has always dealt, with good and evil. And the battle is within oneself, for the victory of the good in one’s own soul and thereby the victory of the good in the world. Politics does not deal with good and evil. Politics deals with friend and enemy. And as politics has begun to replace religion, we see less and less of people looking within and trying to be better, and more and more finger pointing and blame, and deeper and deeper division.

So in the short term, yes, we need your money so that we can still have a Christmas Eve service five, ten, fifteen years from now. But in the long term, we need your money so that we can preach the gospel of Jesus which can save the world from itself. We need your money so that we can do the work of building up instead of tearing down. Of healing ourselves so we can heal each other. Of befriending our enemies and breaking bread with our neighbors.

So yes, please, make your pledges. Increase your pledges. But not so Jodi and Jen and Ceola and the Sues and I can keep getting paid, or so we can keep the heat on, but so we can make this world a better place. Figure out what you give right now as a percentage. Is it 1%? Can you make it 1.5% Is it 6%? can you make it 7%? Is it 9% Can you make it 10%? Imagine the good work we can do if we can pool our gifts to share the gospel of Jesus – the good news of our faith that love breaks through hatred and hope breaks through despair and life breaks through death and we are forgiven and loved and set free. If we could spread that gospel more effectively…

What work could we participate in doing? What miracle could we help facilitate? What could we help build? What great work will God do that we through our generosity might have the privilege to touch? What stone of God’s Kingdom could we handle and set in its place? What relationships could we heal? What communities could we transform? God knows. But if there’s one thing that I’m sure of, it’s that God is moving forward. And there’s a ticket for that train with our name on it if we want one. Amen.

Oct. 24th - "All I Can Say - Rev. Michael Plank

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 24, 2021
Rev. Michael S. Plank
Hudson Falls, NY

“All I Can Say”

Text: Psalm 34:6: “This poor man called, and the Lord hear him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.”

Scripture Lesson: Psalm 34:1-8

Proposition: I propose to experientially show that God is really at work in our lives to the end that hearers will be reassured and strengthened in their own faith.

Prayer for Illumination: God of all people, you have been with us and known us since before we were even in the womb. You walk with us for all our days. Open our hearts and minds to hear your Word this morning, and let it speak to what we most need to hear. We pray this in your name. Amen.

Scriptural Context: Before David became king, when he was on the run from King Saul, he was recognized in the region of Gath. When he realized that his cover had been blown he pretended he was crazy until he was left alone. And tradition holds that after he got to safety, he wrote this psalm. Listen for God’s Word.

I recently spent several hours of my life reading and then debating the usefulness of religion, and even the existence of God. It was over a very good burger at the patio at Doc’s restaurant in Glens Falls. I’ve been in a book club for a number of years. We meet every other month and discuss a book that one of us picked out and then we also do a shorter reading that someone else picks out – something under an hour in length. This most recent short reading was an e-mail exchange between authors Sam Harris and Andrew Sullivan.

Sam Harris is a philosopher, neuroscientist, author, and podcast host. Possibly his most famous and most provocative book is called The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. You can probably guess from the title that Sam Harris is no great fan of religion. He would generally describe himself as more agnostic than atheistic – meaning he is open to evidence proving that God exists, but until he gets it, he is totally unconvinced.

Andrew Sullivan is an editor, political commentator, and author. He was an editor for the New Republic, and has written for Time, and The Atlantic. His most provocative book is called The Conservative Soul: Fundamentalism, Freedom, and the Future of the Right. In which he argues against the dangers of fundamentalism and for more religious moderation. He is a born-and-raised Catholic and holds to a deep faith.

In this e-mail exchange, which you can read on Sam Harris’ website under the title “Is Religion Built Upon Lies?” the two begin with a conversation on whether or not religion has any value and it spins very quickly into whether or not God is real, as Sullivan claims or, if faith is “in principle, in contrast with reason” as Harris claims. So the big question is whether or not God exists, and the related question, is whether religion is good or bad.

If you’ve ever spent any time looking into this stuff, you’ll see a lot in their exchange that you’ve seen before. And though I think this is probably obvious given where I’m standing and what I’m wearing, let me just say straight up that I do believe that God is real and I also do believe that religion is worthwhile. So let’s tackle the second question first, since I think it’s a little easier.

I think that people who question those two things, especially in this day and age, have some solid ground to stand on. When you look at the history of the Christian church – and since we only have a few minutes here, let’s leave any other religions for another day and just focus on Christianity – but when you look at our history over the last 2,000 years, it is not hard to find mountains of evidence of oppression, violence, and terror perpetrated in the name of Jesus. You can point to the Crusades, the Inquisition, Witch Trials, The Transatlantic Slave Trade, Manifest Destiny, Segregation, Persecution of women, LGBTQ+ people, and persons of color.

If there was a serial puppy kicker in her community – kicking puppies left and right, who was finally stopped and said “Well, I kick puppies because I’m from the Midwest, and that’s how we do things out there,” and then you found out that I am from the Midwest, it makes sense that you’d be suspicious of me and that you’d draw some conclusions about the culture and values of the Midwest. (We don’t kick puppies). And so when you see atrocities over centuries committed by people who say “I’m doing this for my faith: Christianity!” it makes sense to be deeply suspicious of the culture and values of that faith and to be deeply suspicious of the people who cling to it.

What I always say to that can be an answer that some people find unsatisfying, but it works for me. What I say is that people are complicated. Nearly every powerful institution of people has been responsible for bad behavior, and even evil behavior. Christianity is one such group. The United States is another. That doesn’t mean that all members of those groups are all evil all the time. It means that all of us have complicated histories to reckon with. I’ve spoken with people who reject Christianity and join other faiths and I have wondered if it’s not partly because when you’re not raised in a tradition, you’re free from that kind of wrestling – even though Hinduism has a brutal caste system, Buddhists persecute Muslims in Burma, and Israeli Jews enforce draconian laws against Palestinians in the West Bank. People do terrible things for terrible reasons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the entire thing they claim to be a part of is corrupt. There are good, kind, compassionate, selfless Jews and Buddhists, and Hindus, and Americans, and Christians, who all do their acts of goodness, kindness, and compassion because of their association.

So to the second question then – is God real? There are a lot of reasons to believe God is not. They have to do especially with a lack of tangible proof and with the presence of evil in the world. And that, I will say, is in conflict, if not with science, then at least with the way science works. The way science works is that you ask a question and then try to prove it, then try to disprove it, and then you refine. God doesn’t really work that way. It’s very difficult to objectively prove the existence of God. It’s just as difficult to objectively disprove the existence of God. One of the members of our book club said to us: “Think of all the gods you don’t believe in: Zeus, Athena, Ahura Mazda, Brahma, Vishnu. There are hundreds, if not thousands. I don’t believe in any of them either. We all don’t believe in the same gods, I just don’t believe in one more than you.” Fair enough.

And so how then, can I say that I do believe in God? I can say it like David says it in the psalm. David was running for his life. Saul, King of Israel, and his former mentor, had turned on him, so David fled. Saul’s men were out hunting for him and David was looking everywhere for safety. When he came to Gath, he was spotted and someone said “Hey, that’s David, right?” And so David pretended to go completely crazy, bashing his head on a gate and foaming at the mouth until the King of Gath said, “I’ve got enough crazy people to deal with, get this guy out of here” (1 Samuel 21). That shouldn’t have worked. But it did. And David escaped to live one more day. And he said “God must have been in my corner.”

We don’t do a lot of testifying in the Presbyterian Church, we don’t do a lot of saying “This is what God has done for me.” But I believe in God for two reasons: the first is that I grew up in the church and it’s all I’ve known. But then in 2013 I started to believe in God for real; with a depth way beyond inherited values. Most of you know parts of this story.

Lauren and I wanted to have children. Lauren got pregnant and we were overjoyed. We told our families, we went to appointments, we started making plans, we got a stroller and baby things, and then at the 20-week ultrasound, it turned out that things were not good. Our baby had massive deformities in her brain. Her limbs were locked into position. Her jaw and feet were malformed. We had no idea why. We went through three and a half weeks of exhaustive testing and genetic screens in New York City. And then on June 3, our baby girl died in the womb. Lauren gave birth to her the next day at 23.5 weeks gestation.

Here’s why I believe in God. We got that first 20-week ultrasound and a couple of days later, I was scheduled to go out of town to a conference, but I had to preach. Our presbytery called last minute to ask if it would be ok if they had a candidate for ministry at another church come preach here instead (meaning I wouldn’t have to preach). Lauren came with me to my conference and we connected with my great aunt and uncle – my great uncle who worked at Vanderbilt and had deep medical connections around the country. My friend in New York City happened to reach out and when I filled her in, she put me in touch with her sister-in-law who was able to give us the direct line to the genetic counselor at St. Luke’s – Roosevelt Hospital in New York. The counselor said “Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see you until tomorrow,” after Albany had said “We can see you in a month.” Our whole extended family’s were able to rearrange their schedules to be with us throughout the ensuing weeks. At every step, at every stage, things were provided for us so that all we needed to worry about was our emotional reality. We didn’t have to deal with work, or money, or food, or logistics. Everything was provided for us.

The sense of provision we had was so deep that we named our daughter Aliza Dayenu which is Hebrew and it means “Joy would have been enough,” but we got so much more. And in the years since her death and birth, the growth we experienced has been staggering. The ways that pain and suffering have been redeemed to help us connect more deeply with each other, with ourselves, and with others have been staggering. And all of that goes beyond anything I could have expected or hoped for or predicted. I experienced it and I said, “Oh that is what they mean when they say God walks with us. That is what they mean when they say God provides. That is what they mean when they say love breaks through hatred, hope breaks through despair, and life breaks through death. That is what it means that Jesus rose from the grave and love, grace, and mercy were more powerful even than death.”

We took Harvey to an indigenous storytelling event a couple of years ago and they told a story about a hunter. The hunter was annoyed that the ducks weren’t landing where he could get them, so he went into the mountains and found the wind eagle. He tied the wind eagle up and threw him in a canyon. The ducks then landed where he wanted them to. But the bugs were atrocious because there was no wind to blow them away. The heat became unbearable because there was no wind to cool things down. The trees became weak because there was no wind to strengthen them. So his mother told him the error of his ways and he freed the wind eagle and everything returned to normal. Harvey was captivated by this story, and afterward he went up to the storyteller and asked “Is that story true? Did that really happen with the wind eagle?” And the storyteller said “What is the story about?” Harvey said “It’s about the fact that we need the wind.” And the storyteller said, “Whether or not it happened doesn’t change the fact that it’s true.”

Whether or not the stories the Bible tells us about God happened doesn’t change the fact that it is true that in my deepest need, I was provided for. Whether or not the Resurrection happened doesn’t change the fact that it is true that love has been stronger than death. Whether or not God is a figure in the heavens doesn’t change the fact that it is true that for me hope broke through despair.

And so like David, I will praise God at all times; the Lord’s praise will always be on my lips. I sought the Lord and God answered me and delivered me from all my fears. This poor man called, and God heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. So taste and see that the Lord is good. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt God’s name together. Amen.