The psalmist does not stop talking to God even when fed on the bread of tears or drinking from the bowl of weeping. When life laughs at us and circumstances conspire to mock our hopes and dreams we tend to turn away and wonder what good is God. But I suspect the psalmist gives voice to what we know deep down – in the end there is nowhere else to go. “Stir up your strength and come to help us” and the repeated refrain, “Restore us, O God” are prayed with a confident hope that God hears the prayer even if God’s anger “fumes” over things done and left undone, said and left unsaid. We know what the psalmist did not; the One at the right hand of God is the confident hope of all prayer. He was made strong for God's sake though that strength was made perfect in weakness and in the darkness of his death we see the light of our salvation.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Monday, November 24, 2014
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence…” but not today, thank you. I know there are those who look forward to the second coming but I hope the second coming comes long after I am gone. It’s not that the planet and its people wouldn't welcome something better than what we presently endure; it’s just that the peaceable kingdom doesn't arrive, well, very peaceably. So we remind God, who often seems silent and hidden until push comes to shove “we are all the work of your hand” so “now consider; we are all your people.” But God is always present where judgment and mercy meet. We acknowledge that in our present condition we are not all we were meant to be or want to be or could be but even so God is forever connected to us as potter to clay, parent to child. So whenever God tears opens the heavens and comes down we pray that God remembers we are the works of God’s hands and so remain connected to God forever.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
The sheep didn't recognize Jesus in the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned stranger but they provided help anyway. The goats didn't recognize Jesus either but it sounds like if they had they would have done something about it. That’s why this text is not about works righteousness and neither the reward nor punishment is about what you do or don’t do. It is about who you are because “being” and “doing” is the same thing. The sheep were motivated by the obvious need of others and did what they could to alleviate the suffering of the Jesus hidden in the sick and isolated. For whatever reason the goats were not motivated by the obvious need of others and so did nothing to help the Jesus hiding in plain sight. So if you see this text as primarily about gaining reward or avoiding punishment you've missed the point and perhaps the Jesus hiding in the needs of others. It should not come as a surprise to those who claim Christ as King that God is interested in the welfare of those who live on the margins, after all Jesus was born into poverty and died a naked, thirsty stranger imprisoned by nail and wood.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Paul writes more run on sentences than I do and sometimes his thoughts and mine can be lost in the language so let me keep this simple. This is the hope I want to know. I want to know a hope where God makes all wrongs right. I want to know a hope where all questions are answered. I want to know a hope that includes more rather than less. I want to know a hope that is more merciful than I am. I want to know a hope where fear and doubt and self-loathing disappear into perfect peace. Of course that is the hope of the cross; we just tend to run on about it until the simple meaning is obscured. You do not have to be afraid of a God you can strip naked and nail to a piece of wood. I hope the cross of Jesus Christ is everything I hope it is.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
I can’t read psalm 95 without thinking of the Venite from the Office of Matins in the Lutheran hymnal of my youth. (The 1941 Lutheran Church Missouri Synod red book – the hymnal preferred by God and the angel choirs) It was a long song sung every Sunday and was printed on two pages that required flipping back and forth to sing the next verse. Of course we all had it memorized so the flipping was just liturgical calisthenics which in some ways is the whole point of liturgy. It’s like breathing, something that generally goes unnoticed but is essential for life itself. The Venite wasn’t very interesting musically and it would be hard to think of it as shouting with joy to the rock of our salvation but it became so familiar that fifty years later it reminds me of so much more than the song. That sort of foundational memory is present even when everyday memory fades and in that way the great God who made the seas and molded the dry land is always present until the last song of this life becomes the first of song of the next and we enter God’s face to face presence with thanksgiving.