Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Psalm Passage – The gift that the Lord God the Divine is to us

Preacher: “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.”
Seeker: Your love, O Lord, is like a soothing balm to my spirit and my soul. My worries melt away and I rest in your grace, mercy, and love.
Preacher: “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your judgments are like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.”

Seeker: Many times I feel hurt and oppressed, looked down on and pushed aside. But within Your Sight, O Lord God, I am worthy. You take my side against the hurt and pain in the world. You champion my cause when fate and circumstances have robbed me of my voice and my strength. You lift me up from the depths, dust me off, and then journey with me when I must walk steep, dangerous, and narrow paths!
Preacher: “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

Seeker: I would not last a day, not even an hour, minute, or second without the Lord God. Your love for me, O Lord, washes over me when I am at my driest point. My soul and spirit are protected when in your care.
Preacher: “They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”

Seeker: When my soul needs nourishment, you feed me. When my spirit thirsts, you quench my needs. I grow strong feeding on your holy word.
Preacher: “For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”

Seeker: I know my earthly days will come to an end. But I do not fear this. When the lights of this world dim for me, I see most clearly the light of heaven. I place my trust in you, O Lord, that the darkness will not consume me.
Preacher & Seeker: “O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!” ( Psalm 36:5-10)

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Second Sunday After Epiphany 2019: The Old Testament Passage – Being the beloved of the Divine Lord God

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, . . . “ (Isaiah 62:1a)

Another day that was a struggle. There will probably be lots of them in the next few weeks. (Yes, beloved reader, you are probably correct that my struggle with psalm passages is related to my difficulties in life.) Old Testament passages, however, are much more helpful. And the book of Isaiah usually has passages and excerpts meet my needs quite well. I would like to be Jerusalem for whom the Divine will not rest until she feels better.

. . . . until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Verses 1b – 3)

It is said the the relationship between the Divine and the followers of the Lord God Jesus Christ is like that between committed spouses. That might be one reason the traditional marriage relationship is held as the only acceptable option for marriage – in or outside of the church. Often we read about the “bride” of Christ as what the church is. At a young age I took that very literally; and wondered how that left a place for males in the church. How, I wondered, could a man be a “bride”? Yes, I decided, church is much more a place for women. But then why, I wondered, are so many men in charge of churches if the church is the “bride” of Christ? Men are not the same as the Messiah. It left me very puzzled. Not as puzzled as some of the actions and behaviors of people who say they profess Christianity. I guess in my adult years I have exchanged one confusion for another.

You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” (Verses 4 – 5)

I have never asked any male in my acquaintance how he bridges or understands that analogy. In my younger years I wouldn’t have had the nerve. In my older years I understand that each man must take the analogy, understand the premise and underlining meaning, and allow himself to subject and place himself in submission to the Divine. And that, beloved reader, is such a sacred thing that I would never ask any male of my acquaintance to reveal to how that works.

May you, beloved reader, experience a Divine Lord God who does not rest until all things are done on your behalf. And may you be loved by the Lord God in that most intimate way. Selah!

First Sunday After Epiphany 2019 – Baptism of the Lord: The Psalm Passage – The Might and Power that the Lord God the Divine is . . . . and other things

Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.
The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.” (Psalm 29: 1-5)

[Yes, it is a psalm passage; and I still at times struggle with them.]

I am not into “power”, “authority”, and “might” much these days. Maybe the psalmist felt invigorated by thinking of the power of the Lord God. Me, I just feel drained. I know the Lord is all of these things . . . . . and more. But that is not what I am looking for and needing these days.

“He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!” (Verses 6 – 9)

If that is an aspect of the Lord God that stirs your blood and causes you to break forth into worship and praise . . . . do so! Some find it, as I said, invigorating that the Lord God is mighty and active in the world. Some find it comforting that the Lord God is in control of nature and that nature accedes to the Lord’s commands.

“The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.” (Verse 10)

The people of Israel and Judah back in the time of Samuel wanted a king that ruled with power, authority, and might. Saul was that sort of king. David was that sort of king. David’s son Solomon was a little different but was mighty and powerful in his own way. So it makes sense that the psalmist would image a Yahweh that was such a Ruler.

As for me these days, it is only in the last verse that the psalmist paints an image of the Divine that resonates with me.

“May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” (Verse 11)

What I need is strength to endure what is in my life now. Not divine/Divine almighty strength – just human strength, endurance and fortitude. And peace. Most definitely peace. The Lord God is that too! Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 28[33]) – The Psalm Passage: Reflecting on the psalm and the protection of the Divine

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge.” (Psalm 16:1)

This a good start for the companion piece to the predictions in the book of Daniel. Having read the predictions in the book of Daniel, I think I would ask for protection too!

“I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” As for the holy ones in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.” (Verses 2 – 3)

As this passage continues, the clarity of the passage and the message that the psalmist wants to give becomes garbled and confusing – not because I say so, beloved reader, but because the big name commentators identify it as so. It seems like a simple little passage. The psalmist declares that the Divine is his refuge and has stated it publicly. Apart from the Divine the psalmist has little to commend or recommend of himself. The holy, however, he looks up to and assumes that the Divine, the Lord God has lead and guided them to a good life.

“Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names upon my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. “ (Verses 4 – 6)

The passage becomes clearer as it goes on. Those who do not follow the Divine, the Lord God are going to have a tough time. I (meaning the psalmist) am not going to follow their example nor value what they do. I (meaning again the psalmist) chose the Lord God, and it has resulted in good things. This reflects back on the psalmist declaring that apart from the Lord God nothing is worthwhile.

“I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also rests secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the Pit. You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Verses 7 – 11)

The protection that the psalmist has found is not so much because the Lord God has shielded him from misfortune etc, but because he (the psalmist) has made good choices based on the laws and tenets of the faith the psalmist espouses and follows. If we think of King David as the psalmist we can see that when David followed the Lord God, good and pleasant things happened. When he strayed (as he did) that is when things became not so well with him. The same could be said of Daniel in Babylon. He stayed the course of faith in the Lord despite temptation and persecution for his faith.

What about us beloved reader? Where have the lines fallen for us – for you and for me?

Do we feel protected and close to the Lord God, enclosed in the Divine’s Right Hand? The psalmist is telling us it is by making good, wise, and holy/Godly decisions that we feel this protection.

There are several things this philosophy and belief does not take into account, not the least of which is the acts of the unholy against us. I am sure you can think of other things, beloved reader, that mar the feeling of protection. Quite honestly, I think the psalmist is being a little optimistic. What is true, however, is that the things – traits and issues – that supersede this life on earth are protected for us and within us by the Divine Lord God. And maybe that is what the psalmist is meaning.

I do hope and prayer, beloved reader, that you are safe and protected in the Lord God; and that those near and dear to you are protected also. And may you find a firm and immovable refuge in the Divine Lord God. Selah!

Season After Pentecost (Proper 25[30]) – The Old Testament Passage: The Lord God does not abandon the called and chosen people

In case you were wondering, the Lord God and Job made up:

Then Job answered the LORD: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he had prayed for his friends; and the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42: 1-2, 5-6, 10)

There was a time in my life when the book of Job meant a great deal to me; I think I have talked about that period of time in my life. Now I am not as clear what message the book of Job has for me. If anything in the story of Job resonates with me still, it is that youth can see more clearly the tenets of faith that age and experience can.

So, I am turning to the other Old Testament passage – a short section from Jeremiah.

For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here. With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jeremiah 31:7-9)

But as I consider this passage, it seems to me that this promise from the Lord finds its fulfillment in Job’s story. Job suffered much, and in the end what was lost to him was restored. That may be why the story of Job was told actually. To give the people of God hope that even if they were suffering and it felt like all the world and powers & principalities were against them, the Lord God would not leave them but would restore them. And where I am in my life right now, that is a message I can cling to! Selah!

 

Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Psalm Passage: The Pictorial Ways of the Lord God Jesus Christ

Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty, wrapped in light as with a garment.

You stretch out the heavens like a tent, you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot, you ride on the wings of the wind, you make the winds your messengers, fire and flame your ministers.

 

You set the earth on its foundations, so that it shall never be shaken.
You cover it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.

At your rebuke they flee; at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
They rose up to the mountains, ran down to the valleys to the place that you appointed for them.
You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Praise the LORD! “ ( Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35c)

 

Season After Pentecost (Proper 24[29]) – The Old Testament Passage: Discerning the ways of the Lord God

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” (Job 38:1-7)

It would seem that by the time Job has suffered from loss and illness, poor counsel from some of his friends, and words of instruction from someone younger than him – Job is a mess. He has gotten himself convinced that he has been wronged by God and that God has without good cause subjected him to abuse. God speaks out of the storm to set him straight, and to found out how he/Job became so knowledgeable about Divine things.

“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, so that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, so that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? Who has put wisdom in the inward parts, or given understanding to the mind? Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, when the dust runs into a mass and the clods cling together? “Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lie in wait in their covert? Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?” (Verses 34 – 41)

It perplexes me though, if the Lord God gave Satan permission to do all this to Job, why was the Lord God so surprised that Job would feel God has picked up the Divine? Now granted that Job did not know why he had been so abused, did not know that the Divine was holding up Job as an exampled of devotion and godly behavior. But Job did believe that all things come from the Lord and are moved and motivated by the Lord. The book of Job can be a perplexing one. I first remember reading Job when I was working my first job as a nanny and housekeeper for found children under the age of 6 – two of them being 4 month old infants. It seemed apropos at the time to read a book about struggling under overwhelming odds when I was struggling myself.

The aspect of the Lord God in the book of Job seems to be a very human one – bragging about a believer and being defensive about slights, not to mention other less than stellar behavior. The Lord God, the Divine, is right to question Job when Job questions the Lord. But this aspect of the Lord God is not one that invites and seems open to comforting those who struggle and are oppressed. At the time when I first read it as a young adult, I think I read it because I felt much akin to Job. But I much prefer the Lord God that is presented in the other Old Testament passage.

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By a perversion of justice he was taken away. Who could have imagined his future? For he was cut off from the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people. They made his grave with the wicked and his tomb with the rich, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain. When you make his life an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; through him the will of the LORD shall prosper. Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:4-12)

In the Job passage the Lord God is peeved (again, can the Divine really be peeved?) that the God-self’s might and will is being questioned. In the Isaiah passage, there is illness, abuse, and oppression – but it is heaped upon an “unnamed person” who has taken upon himself the burden of sin and transgression. We assume this unnamed person is the Messiah, and the prophecy is not far wrong from what actually happened. And that the Lord God and the Messiah had planned that the Messiah would be the salvation of humanity. Two very different views of the Divine. That is not to say they are mutually exclusive. And the aspect of the Lord God shown in Job may not be the complete understanding of the Lord. But all we have in scripture and the guidance of the Spirit to reveal the Lord God, the Divine, to us. As the week unfolds let us see what other views of the Lord God are presented to us. Selah!