Psalm 85: Near But Not Yet

Second Sunday of Advent

December 6, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85 which, sprinkled heavily with “will”s and “shall”s, is written almost completely in the future tense.

This psalm, though filled with hope, is italicized with a sense of “then, but not just yet”. In the midst of a long waiting, it fuels our patience with words like “near”:

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD— who proclaims peace to the people.
Near indeed is salvation to those who are awed by the Lord,
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85: 9-10

Oh, my! Do we know how that long patience feels? 

The feeling recalls my Dad’s answer on any long journey when I repeatedly queried, “Are we there yet.”

Not yet. But near.
Not now. But soon.

The whole world shares a similar feeling right now. As we see the promise of a vaccine rising on the horizon, we still live in the worry and isolation of this pandemic. Are we safe yet?

Not yet. But near.
Not now. But soon.


Let us not miss the practical lessons nor the spiritual ones that emerge as we read the psalmist’s ancient words in our current stressful times.

The practical lessons for our situation are clear:

  • a vaccine is near
  • be patient, prepare
  • mask up
  • wash hands
  • stay home if possible
  • respect your bubble and everyone else’s

Some of the spiritual inspirations might be these.

  • Amazing Grace is always near to us
  • be patient, prepare
  • learn from your solitude
  • clear your spirit of any impediments to grace
  • find your home in God’s Presence
  • rest in that Presence until you are renewed

The psalm assures us that God is with us; that the Sacred Presence will appear as we open our eyes to God’s justice and mercy.

The LORD  will give us benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before the Lord
and prepare the way of God’s steps.

Psalm 85: 13-14

Isaiah and Mark direct our hearts to the voice of the prophet John the Baptist who proclaims, “Prepare a way for the Lord!” That’s how near God is! Just on the other side of our soul’s expectation.

In our second reading, Peter reminds us of how to be ready for the moment when  “soon” becomes “now”.

But according to God’s promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before the Lord, at peace.

2 Peter 3:13-14

Poetry: ADVENT (On a Theme by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) by Pamela Cranston

Look how long
the tired world waited,
locked in its lonely cell,
guilty as a prisoner.

As you can imagine,
it sang and whistled in the dark.
It hoped. It paced and puttered about,
tidying its little piles of inconsequence.

It wept from the weight of ennui
draped like shackles on its wrists.
It raged and wailed against the walls
of its own plight.

But there was nothing
the world could do
to find its freedom.

The door was shut tight.
It could only be opened
from the outside.

Who could believe the latch
would be turned by the flower
of a newborn hand?

Music: Soon and Very Soon written and sung by Andraé Crouch, accompanied here by Jessy Dixon

Andraé Edward Crouch (July 1, 1942 – January 8, 2015) was an American Gospel singer, songwriter, arranger, record producer and pastor. Referred to as “the father of modern gospel music” by gospel music professionals.

Jessy Dixon (March 12, 1938 – September 26, 2011) was an American Gospel music singer, songwriter, and pianist, with success among audiences across racial lines. He garnered seven Grammy Award nominations during his career.

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