Psalm 142, Frankenstein, And How To Beat Loneliness

by Bobby Gilles

in Liturgy & Sermons

Read the full text or hear the audio from this sermon I preached at Sojourn Community Church, New Albany campus on Pentecost Sunday, May 24, 2015. Sojourn New Albany iTunes podcast link.

Good morning. My name is Bobby Gilles, and I’m a deacon here. But though I’m a church deacon today, once upon a time I was a very creepy kid.

I loved to be scared. And the best time to be scared was Friday night, at the stroke of midnight, because that was “Fright Night” on channel 11. Each week at that hour, they played a classic black-and-white horror movie from the 30s, 40s or 50s. I’d sneak out of bed, down to our basement and kneel right in front of the TV, with the sound turned low (so as not to wake my parents). And so, at eight or nine years old, I saw Frankenstein for the first time.

In the original movie, a mad scientist named Dr. Frankenstein creates a being out of dead men’s body parts. But when this being comes to life, Dr. Frankenstein sees it as a hideous, dumb, uncontrollable monster so he abandons his creation. Eventually, villagers with dogs and torches chase the monster into a building and then burn it down, killing the monster.

But movie monsters don’t really die – at least, not the ones who make their studios lots of money, so the monster came back in a sequel called “Bride Of Frankenstein.” The monster gradually learns to speak rudimentary words and phrases. He tracks down Dr. Frankenstein, who is about to marry his beloved Elizabeth.

The monster threatens to kill Elizabeth unless Dr. Frankenstein creates a companion for him – a bride. Someone to love him, unlike the creator who abandoned him, and unlike the rest of humanity, who either run from him or try to kill him.

So the doctor does it. And when the Bride comes to life, the monster reaches out to her, tenderly asking, “Friend?”

She takes one look at him and screams.

The one created just for him has the same reaction to him as everyone else. Heartbroken, he says, “She hates me. Like others.” Then he blows up the castle, killing everyone in it and himself (until the next sequel, of course).

Do you know why many people are attracted to scary movies? There are a lot of theories, but one reason is they enable us to deal with our very real fears in a superficial, safe way. After all, what’s on the screen is on the screen, not with us. And it will end, usually in about 90 minutes. We’ve confronted our fears, and survived.

But the scary thing is that we haven’t really confronted anything at all. Whatever we were afraid of is still with us, waiting, like the monster under the bed or that scraping sound in the closet.

Frankenstein is a fictional representation of a fear that so many of us have: that, after our creation, the Creator took one look at us and wanted nothing more to do with us. So he left us alone in a world of people who are either hostile or indifferent to us.

And many times, even in a marriage that looks like a success from the outside, you lay next to your sleeping spouse, unable to rest, thinking, “She hates me. Like the others.”

“He ignores me. Like the others.”

Maybe it’s not a spouse. Maybe it’s your father or mother. Maybe it’s your kids. Maybe it’s your best friend since childhood, who all of the sudden has no time for you.

Maybe it’s everyone.

The writer of today’s psalm had as much reason as anyone to feel like Frankenstein’s monster. Look at the notation above the body of this psalm:

A maskil of David. When he was in the cave.

David had been a simple shepherd boy, but God chose him to be Israel’s next king. Then the current king, Saul, brought him into his household as his armor bearer, a highly respected position. And the Bible says Saul loved David greatly.

Next, God used David to defeat Goliath, Israel’s greatest enemy. Then he began defeating many of their enemies. This brought him a personal enemy – Saul. The king grew jealous of David’s success and tried twice to spear him to the wall.

David fled Saul’s capital city, Hebron. It got so bad that he tried to hide in Gath, which was Goliath’s hometown. Can you imagine how desperate David must have been to think Gath was safer than Hebron?

But Gath wasn’t safe, so David was on the run again. Here he ends up in a dark, wet cave with bats and salamanders. He’s separated from his wife and his best friend, and hiding from the king he had looked up to, and who had treated him like a son.

If God told you that he was going to make you king, would you expect to be hiding for your life in a cavern shortly after?

Most of us will never know what it’s like to run and hide for our lives. But we do know what loneliness feels like. And we’d do anything to end it.

The Christian’s destiny is not loneliness but communion – an eternal relationship with God and his people. This is our hope.

But too often we place our hope in distractions: crowds, music, TV, social media, video games, anything to keep us entertained, busy and stimulated. I’m as bad about this as anyone – it’s hard for me to spend 15 minutes alone and quiet, without checking my iPhone.

But no matter how much noise we add to our lives, sooner or later it stops. And then we find that our inner emptiness – the longing for a satisfying connection — is still there, waiting to come out, just like that proverbial monster under the bed.

Then when we try to connect with people from a position of loneliness, hoping that a relationship with someone else will satisfy us – that someone else will “fix” us — we end up more lonely than when we began.

Fortunately you, me, and David the psalmist aren’t like Frankenstein’s monster. We weren’t created by a human being, and we can’t be fixed by a human being. But we have a greater Creator.

Loneliness shows us that we can never be close enough, safe enough, loved enough by another human. We can run from loneliness or try and ignore it, or we let God transform it by cultivating a relationship with us.

As David says here in verse 3:

When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who know my way

But how does this work? How do we deepen our connection with God? David and the other psalmists continually wrote about delighting in the Word of God, and about pouring their hearts out to him.

Our Destiny, pt 1: Communion with God

We try that, right? Reading the Bible? Praying? But we read the Bible as if it’s a dry, stuffy textbook.

And we try prayer, but it’s boring. We pray the same old words about the same old things, and we can’t think of much else to say. Words just don’t come. So it’s hard, and when something is routinely too hard for you, it becomes boring. And when praying is boring we don’t feel like praying.

But what if there was a way to read the Bible that went beyond mere information? And what if it would transform our prayer life, too?

What if we prayed the psalms?

For example, read the opening lines of today’s Psalm 142:

I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.

Then pray whatever that verse prompts your spirit – maybe something like, “Lord, I need mercy. Since I became a Christian nearly all my old friends have gone away. And sure, I’ve made a few Christian friends but they don’t know me like my old ones did. And they can’t be with me 24/7. Are you there, Lord? What am I supposed to do? Can you help me?”

When nothing else comes to mind go to the next line. You don’t have to pray line by line or verse by verse. Just read, and then pray when something you’ve read prompts you. Maybe you read verse 6:

Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;

Rescue me from those who pursue me

And maybe you pray something like, “Lord, the enemy is coming at me from so many directions. You know how sick I’ve been. And my boss is so horrible to me. And my son is running with the wrong crowd.”

Continue this way until you run out of time, or run out of the psalm. And if you still have time, pray another. Because the psalms were written to be prayers set to music, they are ideal scriptures to pray. But you can pray any passage of scripture. The New Testament letters are great, because truth is packed so tightly that nearly every verse will suggest things to pray about.

Praying scripture draws us closer to God because it is literally a dialogue with God – a back and forth conversation. And it’s a way of seeing our story inside of God’s story.

There are many other ways to pray, and some will particularly help you avoid being too self-focused. Loneliness can be a gift from God that causes us to long for a connection with those he wants us to reach. One way to cultivate this longing and love is through prayer walking.

Whenever I have time and the weather permits, I spend 30 minutes of my lunch hour prayer-walking around these neighborhoods. I take a slightly different route each day, walking up and down

these streets. I pray for salvation of those who don’t know Christ, and I pray that God lets us, Sojourn, play a part in that. And I pray that if any are Christians without a home church, God leads them here.

Beyond that, I pray for things that fall into three main categories, which I’ve memorized. Write these down in your notes because you can do this. The first is:

Safety. Pray that the houses themselves are safe – that God protects the people from fires, from harmful molds or gas leaks, from falling down stairs or drowning in pools. I pray for safe, healthy lifestyles. I pray for protection from disease and illness.

The second is Finances. Pray that those who need jobs find jobs. Pray that they work hard and get promoted. Pray that they earn decent wages. Pray that they have a solid household budget, and that the members of the household agree on the budget, that they can pay down debt, save, and be generous with what God gives them.

The third is Relationships. Pray for the marriages. Pray for the relationship between parents and children. Pray for those who are roommates. And pray not only for the relationships of those living in each house together, but pray for the relationships among neighbors – pray that the neighbors will live in peace with each other.

End your prayers for each street by asking God to use you and this church in any way possible.

These 30-minute prayer walks of mine go by so fast, and are often the least lonely portions of my day, even though I’m walking alone. And not only do I feel closer to God by the end of a walk, I feel closer to the neighbors. Even if no one was out in their yard as I walked, I feel invested, like I’m a part of their lives.

And when I don’t feel this is true, God reminds me this is true. A couple weeks ago I got back from prayer-walking and found that my email inbox had exploded. I immediately felt the pressure of the work day. And then a lady from the neighborhood walked in the office, asking questions about SojournKids, our children’s ministry.

I was irritated because this lady was keeping me from my work. Then God said to me, “Wait a minute – you just prayed for her. And you asked me to lead her here. Well … you’re welcome.”

Our Destiny, pt 2: Communion with God’s People

I said that our destiny is eternal communion with God and His people — community. So what about it? We say all the time that we are “created for community.”

Even David, in the midst of his trouble and his lament to God, trusted that God is no Dr. Frankenstein. He would not only answer but would bring his people to David, and they wouldn’t scream in terror – they would love David. He says in verse 7 of our psalm:

“Set me free from my prison,

that I may praise your name.

Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.”

The funny thing is, this very thing was beginning to happen around the time David wrote this psalm. All of Israel’s outcasts began seeking out David, once they found out that he was now an outcast too. The down-and-outers. The friendless. The poor.

But do you know what happened? They became David’s elite warriors – legendary heroes. They would do anything for David.

But while this was a happy turn, was it a happy ending? David did become king, and he experienced many celebrations. But he also continued to face bouts of loneliness and seasons of betrayal. So was the hope of this psalm ever realized? And if it wasn’t realized for David, then how can it be for us?

And what about us? What if you’re a part of this community, but you still feel like your destiny is loneliness, not communion?

When I joined Sojourn in 2004, I didn’t know anybody. I had no friends or prior connections at Sojourn. Not only that, I’m an introvert. I don’t make friends easily, and I’m horrible at small talk.

The sermons were great, the music was great, but when the service ended each week, it was like the magic was broken and I was back on my own. Fortunately I could never make it out the door without someone saying, “Hello” and asking if I was in a Community Group.

That’s something I feel like we’ve gotten away from a bit, over the years. That quick, constant, “Are you in a group? You should check out mine!”

After a couple months I thought, “If I’m going to keep coming here I’ll have to join a group, just so people will stop asking me about it.”

But please hear this: If you think the people in your community group – rather than the God they worship – can end your loneliness, your group experience will fail you.

You can have meaningful experiences and fun times with them, but the goal of our groups is to point each other to the One who can be with us all the time.

My community group was constantly pointing me toward Christ, and his purpose for my life. The truth is, when you’re lonely you don’t just need people. You need purpose.

The mission of Sojourn became my purpose. I started signing up for all kinds of service opportunities in this church. I painted walls, I folded Sunday Bulletins, I started getting together with other songwriters and writing worship songs. Many of you have a similar story.

And although some of your actions may be invisible to others now, they aren’t invisible to the One who matters. Everything we do for God’s Kingdom carries eternal significance, no matter how trivial it may seem.

I mentioned writing worship songs. Maybe in a generation, no one will sing any of those songs. But maybe I held a baby so a couple could take our membership class, and that set about a chain reaction in that couples’ life that will lead to countless souls being saved.

Finally, do you realize that God’s plan for spreading the gospel and growing his church is a wonderful gift to us, especially those of us who are lonely? God lets you help him make more brothers and sisters for you. You can play a part in not only getting friends, but getting family.

Remember David’s outcasts, who eventually became his legendary warriors? I realize I still haven’t told you if they got a happy ending, but hold on. First, how did they go from outcasts to heroes? Because of David’s leadership. Because God used David to turn those outcasts into warriors.

The theological word for this process of spreading the gospel to grow God’s family is “Evangelism,” and it’s a scary word for many of us. We don’t feel qualified to do it. We don’t know where to begin. We don’t have the courage.

But good news! Next week Pastor Travis is beginning a brand new class on Evangelism, and you’re all invited. It’s a three-week class in the Prayer Room (right across the hall), during the 11am service. Pastor Travis has written the material for this class himself. I’ve seen it. It’s so practical, and it takes so much of the mystery out of reaching others for Jesus. You won’t regret taking this class.

Again, not only are you connecting with others, you’re gaining a sense of purpose, and you’re stepping into something that can bring you more family.

Communion: Our Destiny Anticipated & Realized

And who is the head of this family? Who carries out the commitment of family perfectly, even when we let each other down?

The one who always wants to be with you. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

That’s the best news of all for every lonely heart. No one can identify with you like Jesus because no one has ever been as lonely as Jesus.

He’s the only sinless person who ever lived. No one could identify with that.

He’s the only person who’s fully God and fully man. No one could understand that.

Even his own mother, by the time he was 12 years old, found him in the temple and said, “Son, why’d you worry us like that?”

And he said, “Don’t you know? Don’t you understand why I’m here?”

His closest friends, the disciples, constantly misunderstood him. And in his darkest hour they abandoned him. One even sold him out.

And then on the cross, although we couldn’t identify with him he identified with us, and became sin for us. He took all our ugly sin upon himself, so ugly that it separated him from the Father. A relationship of perfect love and harmony from all eternity past, cut off.

He cried, “Father, why have you forsaken me,” and in the words of the hymn,

“How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns his face away …”

No one has ever been lonely like that.

This is the one who stands at your door and knocks, ready to talk and eat with you. And he doesn’t expect you to be the perfect host, to have it all together. He certainly doesn’t expect you to supply the meal.

Your cupboards are bare.

You’re starving.

You have nothing fit to serve the Son of God.

But you don’t have to worry about supper (hold loaf of communion bread up before the people). He brings it to you.

On the night that He was betrayed, after giving thanks, Jesus broke a loaf of bread, saying, “This is my body, broken for you.”

Then he took a cup of wine, and said, “This is my blood, shed for you. Drink this in remembrance of me until I come again.” When he comes to gather His church together – those who are alive and all those who ever died – he’ll sit us all down at His table.

You. Me. David and his outcasts.

“Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.”

At Jesus’ table, the hope of this psalm becomes a reality, and we all get our happy ending. Our destiny is fulfilled, and loneliness is just one of those former things that has passed away.

Remember this, as you come forward, tearing off a piece of bread and dipping it into either wine or juice as your conscience permits. The cups with wine will have twine tied around them. And we have a gluten-free station right over here.

If you’re not a Christian, we ask that you don’t come forward to take this symbolic meal, because it symbolizes a reality you haven’t accepted yet. Instead, I invite you to walk up to someone with a lanyard that says “Pray,” in the back of this room. Accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, and ask them to pray with you. Then we can prepare you to join us in this feast in the weeks to come.

Let’s pray.

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