Useless Pens and Unspoken Praise

I was frustrated. My pastor had just begun a teaching series on Genesis, and I was listening to the first sermon, wanting to record his words on my sermon notes sheet. However, the pen I normally keep in my purse had gone AWOL, and I had to grab an old, lesser-quality pen out of my car on my way into church. It worked ok for a while. Not great, mind you, but it was getting the job done for about 5 minutes. And then, it just stopped working. I guess the ink had mostly dried up, but I tried to extract every last bit by pressing hard, trying to make squiggles to loosen up the flow, and rotating the tip of the pen at every possible angle. It was largely an exercise in futility. Meanwhile, I’m missing wonderful things from the sermon that I wanted to write down for later reflection. My most desperate moment was when I reached into my purse and decided to start using lip liner as a pen. The color on the page was pretty, no doubt. But I quickly realized that lip liners and pens are not interchangeable.

Of course, the sovereign irony in the whole incident was how the context of my situation served as a vivid metaphor for the content of the sermon (at least, the points that the Holy Spirit caused to stand out in my mind). My pastor was talking about how humans are created in the image of God, bearing the Imago Dei, and as such, are meant to reflect His glory. That is our purpose…to praise God’s glory and to reflect God’s glory. If I’m not doing that, I’m just as broken as my pen, not serving the purpose for which I was created. Jesus Himself gave vivid pictures of this truth when He said that Christians are salt and light (Matthew 5). But if the salt loses its saltiness, or the light is put under a basket, then what’s the use? They’re no longer fulfilling the purpose for which they were made.

Thankfully, because God does not leave, abandon, or cast aside His children, I will never be cast away like my worthless pen. However, it does serve as a good reminder as to what I should really be about day to day…praising and imaging. These are things we all know in our heads, but sometimes this clear purpose becomes hazy in the midst of doing laundry, getting oil changes, going to the grocery store, or spending hours on the phone with the insurance company. Psalm 145 says, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised.” Yet so often, I let many praiseworthy moments go by. Praising God for a blue sky, a great meal, a safe journey, endurance in the faith, people who care about me, a warm bed, the chirp of a bird, a gentle breeze. The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). All too often, they do a much better job of that than I do.

On two occasions in the gospels, the Pharisees, chief priests, and scribes are angered at the praise being given to Jesus. In Matthew 21:15-17, the children were crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Jesus responds to their indignation by quoting Psalm 8:2, that out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies, God has prepared praise for Himself. On another occasion in Luke 19:35-40, they are upset again when the people are praising Jesus in what is known as The Triumphal Entry. When the Pharisees tell Jesus to rebuke His disciples for saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”, Jesus replies, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

The point I’m making in bringing up these two passages is this: I wonder how many times God ends up using infants and rocks to bring praise to Himself because I don’t. It’s a sobering thought. My praise of God’s glory is weak, and my imaging of God’s glorious character is weak. Yet there is great hope, for these moments of spiritual sight make way for change and growth. Conviction of sin is always a reflection of God’s mercy to His children, paving the way for a new hope of becoming a better worshiper and image bearer by the work of the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And our ultimate hope is that one day, the image will be completely restored. The tarnished silver will become sparkling, the foggy mirrors will become clear. And when we see Him one day as He is, we will become like Him (1 John 3:2), perfectly bearing the image of God, as what was lost in Eden is restored by Jesus, who is making all things new (Rev 21:5).

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