Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Moving forward in one’s faith and spiritual life . . . . but not always an easy path

Why do you boast, O mighty one, of mischief done against the godly? All day long you are plotting destruction. Your tongue is like a sharp razor, you worker of treachery. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking the truth. Selah. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.” (Psalm 52:1 – 4)

Sometimes the psalms praise and celebrate not only the Divine, but those who follow the way of the Divine. Psalm 52, as the RCL uses it, a warning and caution perhaps to those who were warned in Amos chapter eight of what will happen to them if they defy the Lord God.

“But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. Selah. The righteous will see, and fear, and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
“See the one who would not take refuge in God, but trusted in abundant riches, and sought refuge in wealth!” (Verses 5 – 7)

And the psalmist contrasts those who have failed to trust in the Lord God to himself, the psalmist and what has he has gained by his devotion to the Divine.

“But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done. In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.” (Verses 8 – 9)

And for those like Abraham, who have never veered away from the Divine, the reward is also great.

“O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right, and speak the truth from their heart; who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors; in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the LORD; who stand by their oath even to their hurt; who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent. Those who do these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15)

From this you would imagine that following the Divine is simply a matter of devotion and observances that results in wonderful rewards and a blessed life. Well, beloved reader, the psalmist paints a wonderful picture; but the reality is a little more tense and strained than what is “advertised”.

This world is not an easy one; I could point out all the troubles and turmoil that the biblical figures we know well went through. I could talk about some of the modern saints and what they endured. I could even talk about what I have endured!

It would be easy to throw up one’s hands in despair and say “What is the use in the struggle?” Many have. The things that come in this life, come regardless of what our faith and spiritual life is. Yes, some are blessed by the Lord God. For some life is easy. But the faithful and the unfaithful alike suffer in this world. The point is, the Divine never meant for us (humanity) to suffer alone. We may not be able to find the good in suffering – maybe there is none. But there is refuge in the Lord God. And a faithful community around us that upholds us. Remember too some of the psalms the psalmist wrote; he was no stranger to suffering and hard times. Yet the Lord God upheld him through all things. It is promise we can count on that the Lord God will do the same for us! Selah!

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Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Praising the Divine for the clear instructions of the Lord God and then benefit of heeding them

As I shared early in the week, when I use both Old Testament passages there is a plethora of psalm passage verses; one passage from Psalm 82 and one from Psalm 25:1-10. It will take some thought as to how to proceed.

Psalm 82 connect to the passage from Amos where is was sent to tell the king of Israel Jeroboam how he had failed at ruling the people and what the consequences would be of that failure. The passage from the Old Testament in that section is not precisely clear who would suffer the most – the king or the men who advised him poorly. It was a surety that none of them would fare well.

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk around in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken.” (Psalm 82:1 – 5)

As you can read, beloved reader, the psalmist does pretty good also at lambasting those how have falter in leadership in the Divine’s sight.

“I say, “You are gods, children of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like mortals, and fall like any prince.” Rise up, O God, judge the earth; for all the nations belong to you!” (Verses 6 – 8)

Psalm 25:1-10 connects to the portion from Deuteronomy; all things considered, that passage was gentle and encouraging in its content. And this passage from Psalm 25 is also heartening, and a praise response to instructions found in Deuteronomy.

“To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame; do not let my enemies exult over me.
Do not let those who wait for you be put to shame; let them be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.” (Psalm 25: 1 – 5)

As you may remember, Deuteronomy 30 verses 9 – 14 outlined the benefits of following the Divine’s commandments and a reminder that at its heart the commandments of the Lord God are not hard to follow and the Lord God is close by. The psalmist seems to be reminding the Divine of the promises that were made to the called and chosen people.

“Be mindful of your mercy, O LORD, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his decrees.” (Verses 6 – 10)

I think all that is needed here it is a SELAH!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage Passage – Sending out praise of the Divine

Seeker: “Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.” Preacher: It is good to make a joyful noise unto the Lord God. It is one of the oldest spiritual disciplines that have been practiced. Noticing in each day what has given you joy. Of course the other half is noticing what has caused you sadness. But today, we are praising the Divine!
Seeker: “Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.”
Preacher: Most often this time of reflection is done at the end of the day, thinking back over the day and taking note of the important times and events. In a way all of creation does this at day’s end.
Seeker: “All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah”
Preacher:
In the morning when the sun rises, all things are new and full of possibilities. But at day’s end, we know how the day has fared, and how we have fared in our day; where we have felt close to the Lord . . . and where we went astray. These time’s of reflection are when we can see what the Divine has done for us, and how the Divine helped us through our day.
Seeker: “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.”
Preacher: So even if there has been desolation and sorrow in our day, we can know that the Lord God was there with us.
Seeker: “He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There we rejoiced in him,
who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let the rebellious not exalt themselves. Selah”
Preacher: Sometimes our Lord God is even more evident in the hard times than in the times of ease. When we are tested, that is when the Lord God holds us firmly; the strength of the Divine is most evident in our weakest of times.
Seeker: “Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.” (Psalm 66:1-9)

Preacher: Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – The blessings of a life changed

Protect me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 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.” (Psalm 16:1 – 3)

I am weary, beloved reader, but it is a good weary. I have been doing a lot of “kitchening” which what I call being in the kitchen preparing food and cleaning up after my food preparations and others who have been in the kitchen. I did some preparatory work for supper tomorrow night and made a large bowl of pasta salad which will feed both of my daughters for several days.

What, you may ask, does that have to do with this passage from Psalm? It occurred to me (as I gratefully sat down) it is easy to praise the Lord when you have done good work for yourself and your family with the provisions that you have been able to get. I do not want to say that the Lord God has “blessed” me/us in that way . . . . because it makes it sound as if we have deserved special privilege that others have not. It is more accurate to say happenstance has conformed itself in a way “pleasing” to our existence. All people are deserving and worthy of what we have been able to afford. But not everyone is able to. I feel it is wrong to assume that it is me/my family’s due. And that is not the basis that I bless the Lord God. It is that I have been able to make the preparations and make plans for my family. I praise the Lord God because my strength, endurance, and skill in the kitchen has made it possible. Yes I am tired, but it is a good tired that was gained on behalf of my family.

And I like to think that the “holy ones in the land” work on behalf of others, be it family or strangers. In fact the greater work is to work on behalf of strangers, those who you owe not apparent due or allegiance to.

“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.” (Verse 4)

I do not what sort of people the psalmist had in mind when he talks of “Those who choose another god.” Typically in biblical times the “heathen” were not seen a generous or working on behalf of others who were less fortunate and/or without resources. On the other hand, many of the prophets lambaste the called and chosen people of God for not providing for the poor, orphans, widows, and strangers in the land. I would hope the psalmist includes/excludes on that basis also.

“The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” (Verse 5)

Simple statement – anything and everything I am able and willing to do that is good and noble in my life . . . I owe to the influence and calling of the Lord God the Divine.

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage. 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.” (Verses 6 – 9)

Ordinary Time. It was an ordinary day today; granted, I accomplished more than I thought it would. In several weeks from now I probably won’t remember the day as anything more than any other day. But today – in this moment – I stop and praise the Lord God for what I was able to do.

“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 10 – 11)

And, I praise the Lord God that there will other ordinary but worthwhile days to come! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – When an ordinary life is anything but!

But you, O LORD, do not be far away! O my help, come quickly to my aid!” (Psalm 22:19)

We jump into the middle of the psalm, after the psalmist talks about the people and things that have come against him. The psalmist is fearful because he is not sure, or does not feel, the presence of the Divine around him. He asks for that.

“Deliver my soul from the sword, 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.” (Verses 20 – 21)

We are taking this week about moving into Ordinary Time. This is the time of the church year where calm Sunday follows calm Sunday – except when it does not! The part of the church year may not have pomp or drama, but that does not mean that we will not encounter the unusual or the strange, or even the scary! And as I said yesterday, we should tell the people we meet and worship with what the Lord has done for us.

“I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you: You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him; stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! For he did not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted; he did not hide his face from me, but heard when I cried to him.” (Verses 22 – 24)

Often it is in the Ordinary Times that the Divine’s Mighty Hand becomes evident in our lives. Apart from what the Lord God has done in history and how the church has celebrated those events and blessings, in our ordinary day when we are hard pressed the Lord God makes those special and memorable days because of what is done for us. They may not be days that stand our in the calendar in our lives, but we remember when we felt most pressed up and oppressed that the Lord God was there.

“From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will pay before those who fear him. The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the LORD. May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations.” (Verses 25 – 28)

I remember periods in my life when I needed and called upon the Lord. I do not remember the exact days but I do remember calling out to the Divine and being answered. Those times and days are signposts in my life that give me comfort and courage; and I know I can call upon the Divine again. Do you, beloved reader, have memory of days and times when you called out to the Lord? Did you tell anyone about it? The psalmist seems to have no reluctance in talking about his dark times and how his God came through for him.

It is a spiritual discipline, beloved reader, to talk about one’s down times, when one was needful and the Divine came through. We like to talk about our triumphs and successes rather than our failings and shortcomings. Revealing when we have been weak shows when the Divine’s strength has come through. I would encourage you to be honest with yourself and with others when you have needed the Lord God. It is a wonderful testimony and a growing experience during Ordinary Times. Selah!

 

{I have not idea! how the posting of this got so messed up! But I am sure it was some error that I made! So sorry! Here is what I meant! Selah!!}

Trinity Sunday, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker discuss our relationship to the Divine

Seeker: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”
Preacher: Back in the time of the psalmist not much was known about the that was above the tallest mountains. That was considered the space of the birds, and above even that was Yahweh the Divine lived. Know we now that above the clouds the sky/atmosphere thins out and life as humanity knows it does not exist. That does not mean the Divine does not live in a dimension in that space that is not visible to human eyes. Humanity considers that even the Divine must have some sort of physical/tangible existence some where.
Seeker: “Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.”

Preacher: It may very well seem like questioning such things is an antithesis of the Divine. But we do ourselves no favor if we insisting on understanding the Lord God according to human terms.
Seeker: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?”

Preacher: And the Divine does care of humanity. In fact humanity is the focus of the Divine’s efforts and energy. Jesus came to earth because of humanity. The Spirit of Truth was sent because of humanity.
Seeker: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Preacher: Creation was sent in motion to give humanity a place to live, a place to learn, and a place to grow in wisdom and understanding.
Seeker: “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.”

Preacher: Sometimes, I think, we have not tended to creation as the Divine would have wanted us to. But that is a question to be discussed and debated amongst humanity. How we treat our fellow member of humanity, that is a question that Jesus’ life was to settle. And even with that, we debate and disagree as to what the proper answer it. We are encouraged to look to scripture for the answers. But studying and searching scripture without the inspiration of the Spirit of Truth has resulted in a large amount of conflicting information. But then who is to say who has the best understanding of what the Spirit of Truth has to say! So, we muddle along, trying to do the best we can, and hope that others are doing the same. We all live under the same Divine. And the same Divine looks over us. Let us hope and pray that we do not go too far astray and not do too much damage to ourselves, others, and creation. We have been given a wide latitude of freedom by a Divine who loves us unconditionally.
Seeker: “O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8)

Day of Pentecost, 2019 Year C : Psalm Passage – The Divine in all of us

O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it.” (Psalm 104:24 – 26)

Any time the psalm passages talk about the sea or the ocean, or any type of collected bodies of water, I am enthralled. From little on up I adored frolicking dancing waters. Salty or fresh, it did not matter. And while I preferred to keep my distance, I was content to share those waters with the creators that called them “home.” In fact I have a fondness for such creatures as well.

It is said that biologically humanity came from the oceans; that over the millennia creatures that called the waters “home” adapted to an existence on land. Maybe I am a “throwback” in wanting to be in collected pools of water than on land. From little on up I have been able to float; my lungs need air though so actually living under water would not be possible. But I could float on the surface forever!

“These all look to you to give them their food in due season; when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” (Verses 27 – 29)

Whether on land or in the water, we are fleshly creatures that have limited existence. And we require sustenance to continue. Many decades ago I was awed and overwhelmed that I (or any human) could fleshly mortality and also be in the image of God, understanding at least something of the Divine. At look back on my days of dawning spirituality, and feel fortunate that opportunities were available to me to learn about spirituality. Thinking about it, being a spiritual contemplative and living in a human world is a lot like feeling at home on the water and on land. You choice, beloved reader, which existence is water or land.

“When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.” (Verse 30)

I think too what existence must have been like when searching for the Divine and the Spirit of the Divine was more difficult. That is, before Jesus Christ who made things so clear and before the apostles who taught what was past on to them. I think that a large reason why I am drawn to writing these types of posts. To pass on what was and is made known to me.

“May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works– who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
Bless the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD!”(Verses 31 – 34, 35b)

This writing, beloved reader, harks back to the type of writing I used to do. More personal, less exegetical and pedagogical. I would have used visuals (ie pictures) but those can be terrible to format for online posting.

May you contemplate your existence, dwelling both as a creature of earth and a child of the Divine. Selah!