Monday, July 24, 2017

Psalm 27, Part 1

If you struggle with the enemy language (and goodness knows none of us should be blase about evil) try thinking of the social ills that all humanity experiences: violence, addiction, hunger, displacement, enslavement, and corporate greed.  Cynthia Bourgeault contends that when we embrace the more difficult psalms, we are releasing our shadow side. When that happens, we become more courageous, free, and whole. No, not free to do anything we want. Free to share our love and care with all.   
  
I will be exploring Psalm 27 over two days.  This morning I found a poem by Kabir (1440-1518) that I also want to share. In it, I find guidance for the psalms, and a reminder that we are seeking less of ourselves and more of God. 

   
I Had to Seek the Physician  

I had to seek the Physician 
because of the pain this world 
caused me. 
I could not believe what happened when I got there -
I found my Teacher. 
Before I left, he said, 
"Up for a little homework, yet?" 
Okay, I replied. 
  
"Well, then, try thanking all the people 
who have caused you pain. 
They helped you come to me." 
  
     
  
"The LORD is my light and my salvation; 
whom shall I fear? 
The LORD is the stronghold of my life, 
whom shall I dread? 
When those who do evil draw near 
to devour my flesh, 
it is they, my enemies and foes, 
who stumble and fall.  
Though an army encamp against me, 
my heart would not fear. 
Though war break out against me, 
even then would I trust. 
There is one thing I ask of the LORD, 
only this do I seek; 
to live in the house of the LORD 
all the days of my life, 
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD, 
to inquire at his temple.  
For there I am safely sheltered 
in the day of evil:
God hides me under cover of a tent;  
setting me high upon a rock." 
Psalm 27:1-5, The Ecumenical Grail Psalter 
   
  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Psalm 26

"I wash my hands in innocence 
and take my place around your altar, 
singing a song of Thanksgiving 
recounting all your wonders. 
O LORD, I love the house where you dwell, 
the place where your glory abides."  
 
Psalm 26:6-8 
The Ecumenical Grail Psalter   
 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Psalm 25

A humble prayer. 
  
"O LORD, make me know your ways. 
Teach me your paths. 
Guide me in your truth, and teach me; 
for you are the God of my salvation. 
I have hoped in you all day long."    
 
Psalm 25:4-5
The Ecumenical Grail Psalter  
   
   

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Psalm 24

Psalm 24 is a hymn of entrance. The psalmist begins by singing, "The earth is the LORD's and all that is in it, the world and those who live in it; for God has founded in on the seas, and established it on the rivers."  Then we are reminded that only those with clean hands and pure hearts can enter the temple to be with those who seek the face of the God of Jacob. This week, I have been pondering the story of Jacob: his flight from his brother's anger and a night of sleeping "rough."  Yet, it was there, with only a stone pillow for his head, where he had a dream and received a promise from God. God does not turn away from the rocky parts of our lives, but simply asks that we trust.   
Then, the psalm changes tone, and between verse 6 and 7 we have that mysterious mark, "Selah."  I remember very clearly sitting in my room during Inquirer's weekend at San Francisco Theological Seminary and finding it impossible to believe that I belonged in seminary. In fact, I felt I should leave that very moment. Yet, the staff had wisely placed Bibles in all our rooms. I came across verse 7, and I knew I had my answer, intimidating though it was.  It was time to lift the old, creaky doors to my heart, and let God in. I knew in that moment there was work to be done, and that I had an ally to see me through the difficulties, even though I was (and am) far from pure.  Doubts and rocky places continue, but fortunately, the God of Jacob and all of us all is quite patient.    
"Lift up your heads, O gates, 
and be lifted up, O ancient doors! 
that the King of glory may come in. 
Who is the King of glory?
The LORD, mighty in battle. 
Lift up your heads, O gates! 
and be lifted up, O ancient doors! 
that the King of glory may come in."   
Psalm 24:7-10, NRSV   


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Psalm 23

This translation of Psalm 23 really lends itself to chanting and if you have never chanted, you may want to try a simple monotone chant. In my ministry we recite this great psalm of life often.  Even in homes dedicated to the care of those with dementia, the familiar words often come readily to the residents, so I almost never introduce a new translation. My call is not to create more confusion, so The Common English Bible, which has traveled with me for almost ten years, is about as far afield as I feel I can venture. Yet, I am grateful when I can explore new translations of the psalms. Often just a change of a word or two can enliven and inspire us as we continue the journey of trying to listen and respond to the Christ among us.   
  
My gratitude to all of you who have taken a moment to let me know that you using these postings in your daily devotionals. I so much appreciate your presence as we walk and pray these paths together.   
   
"The LORD is my shepherd:
there is nothing that I shall want. 
Fresh and green are the pastures 
where you give me repose.
Near restful waters you lead me;
to revive my soul. 
You guide me along the right path, 
for the sake of your good name. 
Though I should walk in the valley
of the shadow of death, 
no evil would I fear, for you are with me,
Your crook and your staff will give me comfort. 
You have prepared a table before me
in the sight of my foes. 
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. 
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life. 
In the LORD's own house shall I dwell
for length of days unending."    
Psalm 23, The Ecumenical Grail Psalter    
If you want to learn more about chanting the psalms, I recommend a book that a  friend recently recommended to me, Chanting the Psalms by Cynthia Bourgeault. 


Monday, July 17, 2017

Psalm 22

Psalm 22 begins in anguish, suffering, and fear. It is the psalm of Jesus on the cross and all who find themselves there. It is the psalm of one who knows firsthand just how terrible deep suffering is, that it can rip us apart and devour us. 
  
Yet, despite the desperation, like most psalms, it is ultimately a psalm of hope.  That one day the poor will eat and be satisfied. The psalmist gathers his courage and speaks that he will live to again praise God in the sanctuary, and this praise will be carried to the end of the earth by "all hearts."  It is as if the psalm is one deep stabilizing breath. Fear and panic are breathed in, and the conviction, "I shall live for God," is breathed out. 
While I will not include the entire psalm here, reading Psalm 22 is a journey worth taking. Strengthened by this spiritual exercise, we can face what we need to face. We come to believe that the green pastures and restful waters of Psalm 23 are just around the corner, and that no matter what, God will lead us there.   
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
Why are you so far from helping me, 
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest. 
But I am a worm, and not human; 
scorned by others, and despised by the people. 
All who see me mock me; 
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads. 
O God, do not be far away! 
O my help, come quickly to my aid!
Deliver my soul from the sword, 
and my life from the power of the dog! 
Save me from the mouth of the lion! 
From the horns of the wild oxen 
you have rescued me. 
I will tell of your name  
to my brothers and sisters; 
in the midst of the congregation 
I will praise you; 
From you comes my praise  
in the great congregation; 
my vows I will pay before those 
who fear God. 
The poor shall eat and be satisfied, 
those who seek God shall praise God.
May your hearts live forever."
    
Psalm 22 (adapted), New Century Psalter 
   

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Phasing In and Out, Psalm 21

"People do not become useless simply because they do not have the strength or stamina of middle age. Life is a series of phases, each of them important, all of them worthwhile. Nothing must ever deter that, not even religious rigor or pious fervor." 
Sister Joan Chittister    
 
God is where we are.  Blessed be.    
 
"In your strength I rejoice, 
O My Beloved, 
and in your Presence my heart finds rest.
You root out my fears;  
standing firm beside me as 
I face the shadows within. 
For You put fears to flight, 
that love and justice might reign.  
All praise be yours, O Wondrous One!
Forever I will sing and honor your saving grace.
 
Psalm 21 
Psalms for Praying, Nan C. Merrill