Over the past few months, I have been captured by a phrase in Psalm 65: “You take care of the earth and water it, making it rich and fertile. The river of God has plenty of water; it provides a bountiful harvest of grain, for you have ordered it so.” Grace flows like an endless river.

You may read Psalm 65 here.

“When grace like a river attendeth my way . . . ” – Hymn, It is Well with My Soul

his Sunday I will be speaking from this Psalm and I will be adding to my sermon parts of our newly published Annual Report that I want to publicly thank God for. As for the psalm, I see a lot of great ideas, and as zoom out, I see this:

1. The worshippers have an awareness of their need for God’s grace.

The worshippers realized they are dependent upon God. They stay connected to God through their own needs. Religious vows were not required, but if you did make a vow, you had to fulfill it. So, verses 1 and 2 say, “We will fulfill our vows to you because you answered our prayers.” They did not take anything for granted, so they prayed to God and pledged to notice and remember God’s acts of grace. They not only need help with their actions, but also with their inner lives as well. They sing, “Though we were overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.” What a wonderful realization! We may be overwhelmed by our sins, but God is not. The word used for “forgive” is propitiate, which means to satisfy. So the flow would be, “We were overwhelmed by our sins, but you reacted in a way that satisfied yourself, God; you forgave us.” The message we preach, sing, and pray is this: through the abundant grace exhibited in Jesus Christ, we know we do not have to appease God. God looks at us with love, grace, and the intention to bless and help. We are forgiven. This psalm is not just a psalm about forgiveness of sins, but how God’s grace shows up everywhere.

2. The worshippers experience God’s generous provision.

God’s goodness and grace are not just limited to the spiritual realm. God’s goodness is embedded in the reality of creation and the genius of nature. It is not limited to just one people group, either.

God, you are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas. Having realized God has dealt with me favorably (me/you of all people!), then I realize grace is not limited by time, by space, or by sin. God’s goodness and provision flow the wide world round and meet with all people – no matter where they are in their life or faith. The psalmist then speaks of God’s goodness and provision in the flow of creation. God cares for the earth and not just for people.

Let us never put limits on who God loves and how God loves.

3. God’s generosity is individual, global, and praise-worthy.

This would be the point that sums up all the rest. God’s generosity is experienced by individuals near and far regardless of ethnicity, geographical placement, or awareness. We read this in Psalm 139 as well: “I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence.”

I will then restate verse 9 and use it as a refrain, “The river of God has plenty of water.” It is evident to me that our lives and our ministry in Poughkeepsie have been irrigated by the river of God. It is important to me to state this: God gives the rain that hydrates and softens the soil so the seed can germinate, take root, grow, and fruit. God is not just in the harvest. God is in the entire entangled process of life becoming fruitful.

God’s Spirit has created a fertile place where individuals grow into a community of caring and through that same Spirit’s work, we bear the fruit of generosity, kindness, service, stewardship, sacrifice, and patient expectation.

I will speak summarily on a few items that I wish to give thanks for:

  1. After the bottom floor was flooded due to a hurricane in the fall, almost 2 dozen congregants came and removed the thousands of gallons of water from the newly renovated space and then sanitized the area, the toys, the furniture in order to prevent mold. Renovation is almost complete and our kiddos will have a like-new space to learn about the gospel.
  2. We have a thriving relationship with the City of Poughkeepsie School District as we are a site for their Universal Pre-K program. We are thankful for the federal and state funding that made this possible. Dr. Rosser, our capable Superintendent, holds listening sessions here and we are proud that the high school boys basketball team practices in our gym from time to time. We have a number of non-profits who use our building and serve our city well. We are a meeting place in more ways than one.
  3. We are becoming a neighborhood church. I will mention my prayer that began in 2017, that we would become a neighborhood church and that we would have congregants who walk to church. That’s happening. Lives are being touched for the better and we continue, step by step, to make strides in being anchored in our neighborhood and city. Each year new connections are made, invitations are extended, and people attend and are drawn back to attend again. I pray that this continues and that our congregation is filled with newness and expectation.
  4. I will mention our vital medical ministry. Our Anne Hartwell Med-Equip Loan Closet loans out medical equipment to the public for free. In 2021, we welcomed over 1,300 visitors, answered over 700 phone calls, and loaned out over 1,000 pieces of equipment. The financial value of the equipment and supplies would be well over $60,000. We are elated at the span of our reach and are happy to partner with Wheels to the World, which distributes our surplus equipment to those in need. And we also are partnering with another congregation in Dutchess County to help them start their own loan closet.

The river of God has plenty of water. When we stay connected and offer the use of our gifts, passions, and skills, the water splashes on others as well. We give the past to God, trust God for the future, and praise God in the present.

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