The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – The Divine seeing clearly what there is in us to “harvest”

Preacher: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me”.

Seeker: “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.”

Preacher: “You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”

Seeker: “Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.”

Preacher: “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”

Seeker: I am trying to determine, Preacher, whether these verses by the psalmist are a comfort to me. It seems, well, intrusive and . . . . . uncomfortable. Is it possible to be “too” well known?

Preacher: Well, Seeker, I can see how one might feel that way. When we look at ourselves, really look closely at ourselves and scrutinize our inner being, we may not like what we see. Some might preen and overlook the flaws in themselves, and I feel sorry for them. They are not fooling anyone on earth, and certainly not fooling the Divine. And I can see where a person might feel uncomfortable. But you have to understand, Seeker, the Divine looks on us with love and Christ’s mercy and redemption wipes away all the flaws. And really, the psalmist realized this. Read on.

Seeker: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Oh my! There is no escape!

Preacher: No, there is not. The Lord God’s omnipotence and omnipresence know no bounds. It is hard to know whether the psalmist meant it as a praise or a confession. I guess it depends on how the person who is speaking is feeling about himself. King David, who might have the writer of this psalm, saw himself pretty clearly – most of the time. He said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24) That last part, “lead me in the way everlasting” can be read as a petition for the Lord God to improve the way one lives out a Christian life; or as the psalmist might have seen it, to attend to his (and her) faith and spiritual life.

Seeker: It is a very brave prayer! To lay one’s self open to the Divine, and expect mercy. But I guess that is what Christ came for. To ease and support self-examination and confession to the Divine, and to assure humanity that mercy and forgiveness is available.

Preacher: That is a fine summing up for Jesus Christ’ mission, Seeker. Very fine indeed. Shalom & Selah, Seeker!

The Weeks & Sundays After Pentecost, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – The Divine seeing clearly what there is in us to “harvest”

Preacher: “O LORD, you have searched me and known me”.

Seeker: “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.”

Preacher: “You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.”

Seeker: “Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.”

Preacher: “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.”

Seeker: I am trying to determine, Preacher, whether these verses by the psalmist are a comfort to me. It seems, well, intrusive and . . . . . uncomfortable. Is it possible to be “too” well known?

Preacher: Well, Seeker, I can see how one might feel that way. When we look at ourselves, really look closely at ourselves and scrutinize our inner being, we may not like what we see. Some might preen and overlook the flaws in themselves, and I feel sorry for them. They are not fooling anyone on earth, and certainly not fooling the Divine. And I can see where a person might feel uncomfortable. But you have to understand, Seeker, the Divine looks on us with love and Christ’s mercy and redemption wipes away all the flaws. And really, the psalmist realized this. Read on.

Seeker: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it. Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Oh my! There is no escape!

Preacher: No, there is not. The Lord God’s omnipotence and omnipresence know no bounds. It is hard to know whether the psalmist meant it as a praise or a confession. I guess it depends on how the person who is speaking is feeling about himself. King David, who might have the writer of this psalm, saw himself pretty clearly – most of the time. He said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24) That last part, “lead me in the way everlasting” can be read as a petition for the Lord God to improve the way one lives out a Christian life; or as the psalmist might have seen it, to attend to his (and her) faith and spiritual life.

Seeker: It is a very brave prayer! To lay one’s self open to the Divine, and expect mercy. But I guess that is what Christ came for. To ease and support self-examination and confession to the Divine, and to assure humanity that mercy and forgiveness is available. Preacher: That is a fine summing up for Jesus Christ’ mission, Seeker. Very fine indeed. Shalom & Selah, Seeker!

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Yr A, 2020: Psalm Passage – Sending a message to the Divine

“In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me.” (Psalm 31:1)

Two things are motivating my reflections today for this passage. First, my reluctance to battle the predetermined formatting that the publishing platforms use; sometimes it is a struggle to get it to look as I want it. Second, and more importantly, the conversations and debate over opening and/or keeping segments of society and businesses closed. I have made a statement about that on my Facebook page. During Lent I focused pretty regularly on the covid-19 outbreak and pandemic. I had hoped, as I am sure many did, that it would settle down and we would see resolution to illness and a ceasing of deaths. That does not seem to be the case. And the alarm I viewed closed and shuttered businesses, and the revamping of business that remained open has turned inward as talk of opening things back up becomes louder and more prevalent. In short, I am starting to fear for myself. I am pretty defenseless and vulnerable to corona virus. And, well, the opening verse of this passage pretty much defines my thoughts – if you would substitute being put to shame with becoming sick. And compassion for righteousness, although compassion and righteousness are closely aligned with the Divine.

“Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily. Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.” (Verse 2)

I am not sure if it would be better to ask the Divine to rescue me from possible illness, or from the fear of illness. I have for many years determined not to ask the Lord God to heal me from my illnesses and diagnoses, starting back in 2001 when I was diagnosed with diabetes. Maybe it is the fear I need to be rescued from. But it is not just personal fear for just me, but others who are know are just as vulnerable in their health or lack of it. There is a large “community” of us with chronic illness who would never survive an encounter with corona virus. Some in that “community” have already become sick and died from it.

“You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake lead me and guide me, take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge.” (Verses 3 – 4)

Is “fear” the net that will catch me? Will my fear lead me to do, say, or think things that cause me to depart from the Lord and the faith journey I have been on? Actually, that causes me even more fear than covid-19! The first step would be forgetting that the Divine is my refuge, so maybe I have already stepped minutely from that path. I tell you, beloved reader, I took some time to formulate my Facebook message; and wrestled with making this the theme for today and this passage. As so often happens however, the course of my discourse is laying out in front of me, so I am comforted that the topic is acceptable.

“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God.” (Verse 5)

It is really not my own death that I fear, but the ripple effect that might spread through my family and friends. It is one thing to die because my health failed because of my diagnoses. It is quite another to die because a new and external health threat took my life. I have tried very hard to keep myself as healthy as possible. Working with my medical providers and healthy lifestyle practices have given me health such that I can do most things that are needed. But this threat from a virus that leaps from the very life breath of another person has me trembling. And so I pray with the psalmist . . .

“My times are in your hand; deliver me from the hand of my enemies and persecutors. Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your steadfast love.” (Verses 15 – 16)

As is so often said these day, beloved reader, be safe and be well! Shalom & Selah!

Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A in 2020: Psalm Passage – Preacher & Seeker discern the best way to follow the “Rules”

Seeker: “Happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD.”

Preacher: And who interprets the “law of the Lord”. Because from what I have been seeing and hearing, there are some who are NOT happy!

Seeker: “Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways.”

Preacher: Again, hearing from a lot of Unhappy people! People from all persuasions and walks of life who think THEIR style of “walking” with the Lord, and any other style is wrong and sinful. A lot of unhappy people!

Seeker: Preacher, what kind of point are you trying to make here?

Preacher: We read and recite these verses as if “happy” is an attribute that everyone shares. But over the years Christianity has resulted in judgment and persecution, division and dissension. And I just can’t ignore it anymore! If Christian men and women of good will and intent cannot agree on how to live out the Christian life, how can we promote and model good Christian living.

Seeker: That sounds like a question I should be asking.

Preacher: Well then, why aren’t you?!

Seeker: I guess because it is easier to take refuge in the words of scripture than it is to try to live them out. You are correct, Preacher, there are a lot of unhappy people. And I confess, at times I am one of them. Preacher, how can we know if we are living out the laws and decrees of the Lord God in an acceptable way?

Preacher: “You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.” But diligence is not always enough. While we may be scrupulous about the commandments, we need to keep in mind also the intent of the commandments.

Seeker: Jesus spoke to that when he preached. I remember that passage from Matthew. I confess I worry that I may not be carrying out both the letter and the spirit.

Preacher: The psalmist correctly said, “O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!” While in the time of the psalmist the believers may not have considered how to be steadfast, we know from the stories of the Israelites that they should have.

Seeker: It is interesting too that the psalmist said, “Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.” It argues against if self; if they had kept their eyes on the commandments, then they should not have been conquered by other nations. But they were. So were they steadfast or not?

Preacher: You are thinking about this well, Seeker. And that was my point in my “raising a ruckus”. They believed they were steadfast. But like in our modern times, steadfast belief gave way to structured and rigid belief. The prophets warned them, that they were not allowing their heart and compassion to rule their thoughts and actions. The psalmist does foresee an corrective might be needed when he says, “I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous ordinances.”

Seeker: Yes, and then he says, “I will observe your statutes; do not utterly forsake me.” (Psalm 119:1-8) We could and should say the same things. We need to make sure our beliefs and the way we live them out does not cause upset of any nature or type towards members of humanity.

Preacher: Now you are seeing the heart, the spirit, the intent of the commandments and Jesus’ teaching. You are well on the way, Seeker!

Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A in 2020: Psalm Passage – Who is Invited to Be Blessed? Preacher and Seeker lay out the conditions of the invitation

Seeker: “O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?”
Preacher:
Jesus did not call upon the scribes and religious leaders of his time to dwell with him and become his followers. He called upon ordinary men and women. He called upon those that society had overlooked. A tax collector, fishermen, women who were forced to the fringes of polite society; all in all people who the Sadducees and Pharisees presumed to be people who were least likely to qualify devote and faithful.

Jesus’ ministry was called an “upside down” kingdom, where those who thought they would be first, came last. And those who thought they had little value were looked upon with high esteem. It was not, however, reverse psychology where sneaky innovation forces the hand. Jesus’ best and most devoted followers were plain folk who knew what it was like to see their good intentions be dismissed as pipe dreams.

If you think about it, those who were called as prophets by the Most High never received accolades from those who they preached to. At least they never expected endorsement from the society from which they were called out from. If reward came their way, it was because the Divine sent it to them.

We heard yesterday that those who were at the receiving end of the worst that society threw at them were the very ones most likely to be blessed. But again, not reverse psychology. Authentic misery and misfortune. This truth was known long before Jesus came. But years of being on the wrong side of any outcome clouded over the fact that true reward comes from the Lord God and not from the people who seemed to be living the good life. The called and chosen people of God saw their neighbors form other nations have wonders and treasures, and they came to desire that for themselves, thinking little and stopping not at the foul things that they needed to do and be to receive such rewards. Being followers of the Divine is a higher calling, and calls forth attributes that humanity does not normally value.
Seeker: “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)

Preacher: Those who are invited into the tent of the Lord God most probably lived out their lives on the outskirts of society. Because, sadly, most society lives outside of the realm of the Lord God. Shalom!

Christmas Season 2019, Year A: The Psalm Passage – Reassurance comes!

O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things. His right hand and his holy arm have gotten him victory.
The LORD has made known his victory; he has revealed his vindication in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” (Psalm 98:1 – 3)

Reassurance comes, many times, when we recognize what the Lord God has done for us. Just today (that is the day I wrote this, and not Christmas Day) I received reassurance from the Divine that despite the problems and worries that are before me, I am cared for. It was a very good feeling. The psalmist must have seen something too that reassured him that the Lord God was ever present and involved in the lives of the called and chosen people.

“Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises.
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD.
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who live in it.
Let the floods clap their hands; let the hills sing together for joy at the presence of the LORD, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.” (Verses 3 – 9)

At Christmas time bells and other musical instruments are used to lift up praise to the Lord God. Even in some of the more “quiet” and traditional faith/worship circles, Christmas is the time of year when joyful sounds are welcomed and encouraged. I remember from my childhood going to Christmas concerts and being overwhelmed with the music and accompaniment. The worship circle of my childhood relied mostly on the sounds of the singing voices in the congregation, and not all were accomplished singers! But praise is praise! So lift up whatever instruments and talents you have, and praise the Lord God! And spread joyful reassurance to all who will offer their ears, hearts, and spirits! Selah!

First Sunday After Christmas 2019, Year A: The Psalm Passage – Singing of joy and reassurance

As I said on an earlier day, the days of this week must do double duty. But, Christmas Day is a good day to set aside time to praise. So let us praise further!

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” (Psalm 148:1 – 4)

I told you yesterday, beloved reader, the story of Jesus birth and the shepherds who came to worship the baby Jesus at the behest of the angelic choirs. I like to think that their song books were much like the praise psalms that the psalmist wrote. Who knows, maybe the psalmist was inspired by angelic choirs and choruses that the Divine placed in his heart.

“Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.
He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.
Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command! Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars! Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!” (Verses 5 – 10)

I am reminded of the verses from the song “Joy to the world” where is sings “Let heaven and nature sing”. I have long thought that “Joy to the world” is a song that could be applied to other parts of the church year.

“Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and women alike, old and young together!
Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his faithful, for the people of Israel who are close to him. Praise the LORD!” (Verses 11 – 14)

Strictly speaking, the Lord God only came once; and in the form of a Son Jesus Christ. But . . . in a way, the Lord God comes to the called and chosen people quite often. Every call and choosing is like the Lord God coming to each individual person, and at a time when that person may most need the Divine. It is Divine reassurance that the Lord God comes when we call upon the Holy Presence. It is no less a thing when the Lord comes through the Presence of the Holy Spirit than when Jesus came to earth as a baby.

May you, beloved reader, this day celebrate the reassurance of the Lord God coming to the world whenever, wherever, and how ever the Divine is needed! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Declaring unshakable faith

Hear a just cause, O LORD; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.” (Psalm 17:1)

I hear Job, and I “hear” him. That is, I cry out the same thing sometimes. Hear me Lord God! I have not done anything to deserve this, but still I am pressed upon and in travail.

“From you let my vindication come; let your eyes see the right.
If you try my heart, if you visit me by night, if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me; my mouth does not transgress.” (Verses 2 – 3)

Job and I, our words are true. We are not trying to fool anyone, least of the Divine! Job & I, we are not talking about being sin-free. What we are saying is that anything we might have done in our lives and in our past, does not rise to the stress and problems that are before us.

“As for what others do, by the word of your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.” (Verses 4 – 5)

Maybe Job & I are deluding ourselves; maybe we are not as guilt-free as we presume. But if we are not the best of all of the Divine’s creation, we are not the worst.

“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who despoil me, my deadly enemies who surround me.” (Verses 6 – 9)

I am aware, beloved reader, that it is not Job who has penned these words. It is the psalmist; whether it be King David, who certainly knew the pressure of kingship and leading the people of Israel; or another who felt pressed upon and cried out to the Lord, I know the sort of pressure and pain that these words speak to. But I also know the sweet respite when the Lord God undertakes for one’s cause, and when the Lord God answers prayer. Even in the hardest of times, I know that I am not alone. And that the comfort of the Divine is only a whispered prayer away.

It is my hope and prayer, beloved reader, that you know also the the comfort and calm that the Divine brings. And that your faith in it is unshakable. Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Bloom forth with praise and thanksgiving . . . . that is suited to who you are and what you praise the Divine for

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.” Selah” (Psalm 66:1 – 4)

I continue to try to discern what it is about some psalm passages that, well, just leave me cold. Or maybe it has more to do with the mood that I am in than the words of the psalm. Right now I am craving quiet alone time. And this psalm just busts and bursts out with noise, loud wind instruments and many, many people being noisy. Could we just turn down the volume a little?

“Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
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” (Verses 5 – 7)

Loud praise passages tend to draw on stories and lessons of long ago, and ones that do not resonant with my experiences. My times of praise and wonder have come in spaces and places of holy silence, or whispers of insight and understanding.

“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.
For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs; you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.” (Verses 8 – 12)

There are times, I will admit, that praising the Lord for the success of triumphing over the trials and tribulations that have been part of others’ lives, when we are celebrating with them. Or when a group or a community has emerged victorious from a time of testing. But it is hard to take on the joy and celebration of another when their path has not been your path. Even more difficult to use the words of praise and celebration of one individual or group when it does not fit your own experience.

I talked yesterday of group of ten lepers who were healed but only one came back to thank and praise Jesus Christ. And he was not of the same faith circle as Jesus and the other nine. But his praise and worship of Jesus and God deemed acceptable and worthy of recognition. So I do not feel I am erring here.

The psalmist primary exhortation is to praise the Lord God the Divine. All that follows is particular and specific to the agenda and celebration that the psalmist has in mind at the time of his writing. Praise the Lord God, beloved reader, for the blessings and mercies that have been given to you. And let you praise mingle with the words of praise from generations past and the generations to come. In this way there will be an endless chorus of praise lifted up to the Divine, which is actually the way it should be! Selah!

Season After Pentecost, 2019 Year C : The Psalm Passage – Praising from the edges

I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.” (Psalm 138: 1 – 2)

Recently, say the last few weeks, I have been thinking about my faith journey in a different way. I have been considering how the ebb and flow of my strength and health is impacting my faith life and journey. Not that I am losing faith in the Lord God – but that I feel the ebb and flow in my own strength and ability to hold firm and keep moving forward. I find myself “resting” more in the Lord than surging forth. Some days I drag myself to the keyboard and summing the energy to write and say something meaningful. I tell you truly – more often than not – I am not sure where the conviction and impact comes from in what I write. It all just sort of flows out of me, and I am not even sure it originated in me.

“On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.” (Verse 3)

I think one of the main reasons I keep writing in spite of the fatigued and weakness is that I need that strength in my life to keep me going. I need the energy and conviction that comes when I write so that I have the energy and conviction to keep going.

“All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth. They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.” (Verses 4 – 6)

I tell the Divine, daily, about my fatigue and fears. I ask for help in getting through the day, and praise the Lord when I felt the Divine’s presence. Lately I have taken up the spiritual disciple of the spiritual examen. For those who do not know, that is a practice of thinking over the day and seeing where the Divine has been a presence and when the time or times were that you felt at a distance from the Divine. Other terms are consolation/desolation, joy/sadness and such positive and negative impacts. It is not to reveal the mistakes you make but to find ways to live more wisely and fully in the light of the Divine.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me. The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” (Verses 7 – 8)

“Do not forsake the work of your hands.” The psalmist gets it absolutely correct when he make this petition. The Lord God may may not have intended, and I firmly believe did not plan, for me to develop all the illnesses and conditions that I have. But the Divine to create me to have an inquiring and pondering mind, and to seek out the Divine Self. As I am sure the psalmist was created. So our plea is that the Lord God would keep us within the Divine purpose – despite and in spite of whatever might befall us. Selah!

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!