19 But you, O Lord, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid! 20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the dog! 21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
From the horns of the wild oxen you have rescued me. 22 I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: 23 You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord. May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. 28 For dominion belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations.
It was Holy Week, and I was in the church sacristy located in the basement of the church. I was filling up my “Communion To Go” kit with wafers and wine and would soon be out the door to visit the homebound members of the church.
As I worked on pouring the wine and searched for the wafers, my cell phone rang. A pretty new feature on the phone back then (pretty standard today) is the caller ID function. I looked at the screen, and the ID read, “US Fed Court.” Now I know that many of you would panic if you saw that on your phone – why am I getting a called from the United States Federal Court?
Not me. My wife is works for the Federal Court, so I didn’t panic. I simply flipped open the phone (yep, a flip phone!) and said, “Hi Hon!”
Was it that I was in the basement of the church and the connection was bad?
I cradled the phone on my shoulder as I put the screw top back on the wine.
“Hello?” I asked.
Finally, a voice.
“Is this Pastor Charlie Woodward?”
Not my wife’s voice. This was a man’s voice.
And not just any voice.
This was the voice of The Honorable John D. Holschuh, Federal District Judge.
“Hello, Judge.” I said humbly.
I had just called a Federal Judge “Hon!”
It was not what HE expected. Me either.
Judge Holschuh was calling to thank me for a CD I had made of a song parody. Always gracious and caring, the judge went on as if nothing happened. He was just simply calling to offer a word of thanks. Always gracious and humble.
Let me say that Judge Holschuh was one of the most gentle, caring, and compassionate people I have ever met. It was an honor to know him, and my wife will forever cherish the opportunity she had to work with him for several years before he passed away back in 2011.
So why share this story?
We read in today’s psalm these words: “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!”
Martin Luther in his Small Catechism says that “We are to fear, love and trust in God above all things.” (1st Commandment)
That word “fear” can trip us up. If our God is a loving and compassionate God, why fear?
I think another word that might be more understanding is “awe.” To stand in awe of God’s wonder and splendor. To be in God’s presence and know God’s power. It is not a fear of being afraid, but rather a fear of wonder.
In some ways, that is what I felt like in my conversations with Judge Holschuh. Maybe you have someone in our life that you have that same sense when you are with them, or when you accidentally call them “Hon!”
God is gracious, loving, and forgiving.
Look at the rest of this psalm.
God is pretty Awe-some.
Let us pray: Almighty God, we stand in awe of your splendor, power and love. Thank you for your wonderful creation and all that provide for us. We especially give thanks to you for the gift of your Son. How awesome is your love. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen