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“A fool says in his heart there is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)

The refrain from the morning office seemed out-of-place and a bit disturbing.  “A fool says in his heart there is no God.”  What an interesting line to chant over and over again to God.  To lift up as a prayer to the Almighty.  Wedged between lines of praise and adoration, a Kingdom parable in Mark 4, and a longing for God to help make us humble is this repeated refrain about those who deny God.  Typically I skip over these lines when reading through the Psalms, not because I don’t find them necessary but because I know it’s not me.  The very fact that I am spending time with God; reading, meditating, praying seems to make this line not relevant.  Clearly, I believe in God.

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I received a surprise phone call Friday morning.  As I looked at the number before picking it up I was trying to figure out why this friend was calling.  Typically, hospital patients who are preparing for surgery don’t make phone calls.  I answered the phone to see what was needed and the story seemed unbelievable.  Surgery cancelled, doctor came in right before going to the operating room to check things out and the infection was gone.  My friend was simply waiting to be discharged.  Even the doctor called it a miracle.  As I listened I kept waiting for the joke to start.  I was sure my friend was trying to get a laugh.  Sure, I am currently preaching sermons on prayer and I had been by his side the day before to pray over him, but this was unexpected.  I had prayed for healing, but I expected it another way.

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“Only a fool says in his heart there is no God.”

There it was again.  Over and over again; the same mantra, the same slogan.  Three separate times during the morning office I kept praying the same phrase, “only a fool says in his heart there is no God.”  Each time wondering, why was this the phrase that was chosen.  Each time wondering, what do I need to hear from this.  I’ve grown accustomed to the refrain, the repeated phrase in the morning office, striking me in a way I need to hear.  Maybe it’s because the phrase keeps coming again and again.  One time, it can be ignored.  Two times can still be forgotten.  But by the third time you start to wonder, what is this about?  But this time I kept feeling more and more confused.  “Really God, this is the line, this is what keeps getting stuck in my head.  This is the line I can’t let go of.”  I stayed, I sat, listening, questioning, silently waiting for an answer.  “Ok God, you’ve got my attention, now what?”

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Current American culture can be defined in many ways but for theologians it is ever increasingly being called Post-Christian.  They say that the US and Europe are now in a state of Post-Christendom.  No longer is Christianity a dominate force in society.  God is being moved to the background.  Tolerance and acceptance rule the scene.  Gone are the days when you can assume that most people believe in the God of the Bible and that most people are followers of God in some form or fashion.  Christianity has lost its place of power in society, the church has lost its influence.  The question now becomes, as Christians, as a church, how do we survive?  What is our role in an age where more and more people are denying faith and truth?  When it is no longer assumed that faith is relevant, how do we live as witnesses to the coming Kingdom of God?   How do we confront a culture that not only denies God but also laughs at those who still believe?  How should my life be different today?

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“Only a fool says in his heart there is no God.”

There it was again.  That phrase; haunting me, calling out to me, reminding me that I can’t start my day until I wrestle with this fact.  As part of the morning office, prayed and chanted by many Christians today, this is a message to the church.  What does it mean?  How is it calling us to be different? Is it a word of encouragement, a word of critique, a word of regret, a word of hope…?

And still the church repeats, “only a fool says in his heart there is no God.”