First, you sign some papers, you know, for legal reasons. Next you step into a tub that’s about 8 feet square. Then you push a button that completely turns off all visible light and you lean back into total darkness. But as you lean back your body floats because the 10 inches of water that you now rest in has roughly 850 pounds of epsom salt mixed into it. And so you lay there, just you and your thoughts, for 60-90 minutes, depending on the experience you pay for.
It’s called flotation therapy. If you’re looking for that unique Christmas idea for a loved one this might be it. It has been hailed as a way for the individual to “reset” one’s senses. To rest in a world that is just too busy. To unplug from the constant light of screens that we now stare at often for more than half our day. It’s not cheap, at least by my standards, but if you want or need that time of a stress-free environment, it’s said to be well worth it.
This concept of flotation therapy makes me think of all the other plethora of treatments and diets that seem to permeate our society. Today, there are these little bottles, maybe you’ve heard of them, they’re called essential oils, people claim they can help you with all kind of problems. I have a cousin who’s into the healing power of crystals. I’ve had a brother do the whole 30 diet. I’ve had another brother try the Keto diet, and right now the third is doing the vegan thing – Out of the four of us, I guess I’m the only one who is okay with getting fat. Really, it’s incredible the lengths some will go to be healthy, to be whole, to feel just good.
But, you know, this whole idea of feeling good and being whole, it’s not new. We see that as we come across this question from the Psalmist in the first verse of our lesson this evening. Here’s the question, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” We have lots of ways we try to keep our bodies healthy. We know the importance of exercise and diet. We pay doctors and nutritionists to poke and prod, to weigh and write prescriptions, all to keep this machine that is our bodies working. But this question from the psalmist, “How can a person keep his way pure”, looks to address a different health, our spiritual wellness, the health of one’s soul.
And here too, people think they have answers on how to be spiritually healthy and whole, but the truth is, we don’t need anyone else’s help with this matter, because the psalmist answers his own question. He tells us how to have an optimal spiritual health, “By living according to your word.” The “your” here is the Lord, God, we see that if we go back to verse 1 of this Psalm or if we look ahead at verse 12. So, if we want a healthy spiritual life, we are simply to live in the way God tells us to live. But then the Psalmist goes on to describe the extent that we are to live according to God’s Word.
“…I seek you with all my heart…I have hidden your word in my heart…with my lips I recount what comes from your mouth…I rejoice in following your statues…I meditate on your precept and consider your ways…I delight in your decrees…I will not neglect your word.” That’s quite a “to do” list that is put before us. If we want to have a healthy and pure spiritual life, this is what’s expected. It’s intimidating. And maybe we’ve each, in our own way, realized that it’s impossible. It’s just not possible with all the other things in our lives to find enough time to dedicate our lives and our time to the Word in the way that the psalmist describes here.
But I don’t think any one of us are saying that God’s Word isn’t important. We’re here tonight, aren’t we? Sure, we maybe aren’t night and day thumbing through our Bibles, but many of us are here almost every week. And that’s just it, we do our best to find time, but there are plenty of other “to do” lists that God has given to us. Some of us our parents who need to haul children around, and those same children need to be fed and taken care of in a variety of other ways. Some of us our children who have school, sports, and homework that needs to get done. Many of us have jobs. Even those of us who are retired quickly find that retirement is often just as full of “to do” lists as anything else. God knows of all these things that are expected and required of us, and so we can reason that since God knows he’s given us all these things to do, surely he will understand if, in the midst of all he’s given us to do, that we might fail “to do” for him some time handling and meditating on his Word.
Now, perhaps there is maybe some guilt creeping in here, “Yeah, I’m busy, but that’s no excuse for my lackluster Bible study habits, it is the most important thing after all.” And yet, even that “good” thought is missing what the Psalmist presents to us today. As the Psalmist describes our interaction with God’s Word, how does he put it? “I rejoice in your statutes…I delight in your decrees.” Spending time with God, that’s what we do when we immerse ourselves in God’s Word, is to be a joy. Much more often, however, it feels like a legal obligation, another bothersome “to do” on an already overloaded list of “to do’s.”
That really leaves us in a spiritual catch-22. When we fail to check off “bible time” on our to do list, it’s not just left undone, but we are left feeling like we’ve failed to please God. Or, perhaps worse, when we do check it off our list, when we do fit in some time with God, like right now, we might convince ourselves that we’ve done God a favor and that he should be pleased with our effort to fit him into our schedule. So, what are we to do? I think that question right there – What are we to do? – is the reason for all our spiritual health problems. Let’s go back to the Psalmist’s question.
“How can a young man (person) keep his way pure?” The answer once more, “By living according to your word.” At first glance that answer might again leave us with the feeling that we have to do something! To be a healthy Christian I need to obtain a constant joyful spirit, I have to have at least 30 passages memorized, I have to…That’s not what the Bible teaches. That is what we find on those pages: that our spiritual health rests in what Jesus has already done for us. Jesus lived according to the Word in every way we could not. So it is when God invites me to sit down and ponder, to meditate on his Word, he is not trying to frustrate me by giving me another task to complete, Instead, he is seeking to strengthen me by reminding me that his “It is finished!” in Christ sets me free to wander and wonder over the pages of the Scriptures to meditate on them with joy and delight.
It’s in this Advent season then that we pause to meditate on that Word made flesh. To ponder with Mary and treasure in our hearts that little boy whose birth, though seemingly unimportant, would change this world, because it was this world that he came to save. We find his story here on the pages before us. It’s a story unlike any other, one worth savoring and enjoying over and over. The more we read it, the more we learn to appreciate just how deep and wide God’s love is for a sinner just like me.
So, we find that our meditation on God’s Word becomes a gift. A chance to lean back and float peacefully with Jesus to learn that he is all we need. That’s what it means to live according to God’s Word, it’s letting Christ be whom he was meant to be: your Savior. At Christmas time we might think we need a new this or a fancy that, but all we’ve ever truly needed was a substitute someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves, and there in the Word we find him, lying in a manger. There we find Jesus.
And the more we seek him with our hearts and steal away quiet moments to ponder and meditate on his Word, the more we find our time with him to truly be that never-ending gift, one we could never exchange. It is the gift of heaven open to us as Christ descends to be with us like he once did so long ago, and in our ears he whispers, “One day I’ll bring you up to be with me.” And so we can’t help but say with the Psalmist, “I will not neglect your word.” How could I? Because now I see that not only does my time with Jesus ignite my Christian life, it is the fuel that keeps this Christian soul healthy, whole, and on the path to eternity. So, go ahead, open this gift of God’s Word again and aga each day. Enjoy it. It was meant for you. Amen.