Psalm 69: Snapping Out on God

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

June 21, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 69 which Brueggemann describes as

“a script for unburdening negation in God’s presence. It is a script for rehabilitation to the community of praise and thanks.”

Walter Bruggemann: From Whom No Secrets Are Hid

This Sunday’s reading are not happy ones. Jeremiah is plagued by his persecutors. Romans describes the reign of sin and death before Christ’s act of redemption. And, in our Gospel, Jesus tells his followers not to be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul!

Guess what! Despite the Gospel’s advice, I am afraid of that kind of stuff — persecution, sin, evil, murder…. and all the other terrible consequences in the larger reading of all of Psalm 69.

And guess what else. The psalmist is not only afraid. He is angry… and I mean infuriated, outraged and massively ticked off.

No one wants to listen to him about his grievances either so who gets an earful? Yes, you got it — God. 


In verses 22-28, the writer spews a line of curses for his enemies. And they’re masterpieces — very satisfying ideations if you ever find yourself in similar straits.

But that’s the whole beauty of this psalm. All the negativity remains in the prayer’s imagination. It is not acted out. Once vehemently expressed to God, the catharsis slowly evolves to healing. This happens because the complaining psalmist all of a sudden realizes to Whom he is complaining — the Merciful One, the Patient One, the Forgiving One who has given all these generosities repeatedly to him.

I pray to you, O LORD,
for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness;
in your great mercy turn toward me.


Seeing God’s Face turn toward him in prayer, the psalmist regains balance. The final verse of the psalm rests on the hope and confidence God has promised in the covenantal relationship.

For God will rescue Zion,
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
They will dwell there and possess it
the descendants of God’s servants will inherit it;
those who love God’s name will dwell in it.


Anger visits all of us, sometimes in response to persecution, misunderstanding or disrespect. We feel it for personal grievances and for meanness in the world toward the helpless.  Praying with Psalm 69 may help us, too, find our balance, as did the psalmist, so that the anger leads to wholeness rather than destruction.


Poetry: Time’s Lesson – Emily Dickinson

Mine enemy is growing old, —
I have at last revenge.
The palate of the hate departs;
If any would avenge, —

Let him be quick, the viand flits,
It is a faded meat.
Anger as soon as fed is dead;
'T is starving makes it fat.

Music: Liberty and Justice for All – Brandon Williams

Psalm 89: Mary’s Echo

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary

June 20, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 89, as the Church celebrates the blessed humanity of Mary.

Yesterday and today, these beautiful “heart” feasts follow one upon the other, reminding us that both Jesus and Mary loved with human hearts like ours – Jesus as God, and Mary as God’s transformed Mirror.

As we pray with Mary today. Psalm 89 offers us a perfect context. The psalm was likely composed during a difficult time, when Israel began to doubt Yahweh’s enduring promise to care for them – some say during the Babylonian Captivity.

The psalm reminds the People of the Covenant and the Promise:

I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.

Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.
I will make his posterity endure forever
and his throne as the days of heaven.


Mary, born of the House of David, is the ultimate deliverer of that Promise in the person of her son, Jesus Christ. When, just before Jesus’ birth, Mary prays the Magnificat, we can hear echoes of Psalm 89:

And Mary said, 
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior….

He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly….

He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.


An extra song for Mary today, written in 1961 for a Firemen’s Choir

In our own times of trouble, or when a long endurance is required of us, our faith in God’s promises might waver too. Mary is a good one to talk to in such times. Her faith was refined from all need to place stipulations on God’s timing. She believed. Period.

And she wants to nurture that gift in us.


Poetry: I think Mary and psalmist would have liked this poem by Kahlil Gibran. I hope you do too. For me, it speaks of how faith deepens, as Mary’s did.

God
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips,
I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, 
“Master, I am thy servant.  Thy hidden will 
is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.”
 
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again
spoke unto God, saying, “Creator, I am thy creation.  
Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.”
 
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed
away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain 
and spoke unto God again, saying, “Father, I am thy child.  
In pity and love thou hast given me birth, 
and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.”
 
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant
hills he passed away.
 
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain 
and again spoke unto God, saying, “My God, my aim and my fulfillment; 
I am thy yesterday and thou are my tomorrow.  
I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, 
and together we grow before the face of the sun.”
 
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness,
and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to
her, God enfolded me.
 
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains God was there
also.

Music: Psalm 89: Forever I Will Sing the Goodness of the Lord – Brian J. Nelson; cantor David Adams

Psalm 103: Bless Your Sacred Heart!

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

June 19, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, on this tender feast of the Sacred Heart, we pray with Psalm 103, a hymn of exultant and confident praise.

Walter Brueggemann calls Psalm 103 the best known and best loved of the hymns of praise. He says these hymns have a five-fold purpose, which I paraphrase here:

First, praise imagines something new. It doesn’t describe what is. We are healed to become new selves in God:

God pardons all your iniquities,
heals all your ills.


Second, hymns of praise are acts of devotion with political and controversial overtones. Human boundaries will not impede God’s Mercy.

Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.


Third, the Psalms refer to Israel’s whole salvation history in which God is the key character and lively agent. Our prayer is not about just this moment in our lives – it is built on a long faith-story.

Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.


Fourth … in singing praise, all claims for the self are given up as the self is ceded over to God. In other words, we fall in love with God.

Bless the LORD, O my soul;
all my being, bless his holy name.


Fifth, the hymns of praise with their unreserved and exuberant self-abandonment into the infinity God, contrast starkly with modern “praise songs” which often revert to a narcissistic smallness. . True praise is a large prayer that includes all Creation

The Lord’s kindness is everlasting to those who fear him.


In Psalm 103, the psalmist begins by counting her own blessings. She then moves out to praise God for the blessings given to all Creation. This unfolding in prayer reminds us to enlarge our own awareness of the needs and blessings of others as we pray.

Praying this psalm, let us become amazed and delighted that God loves us completely, irrationally, perfectly and eternally. Wow!

God is so good that it just makes you want to dance. Thus, our energetic music this morning from Godspell

Music: O Bless the Lord, My Soul (based on Psalm 103)
(Lyrics below)

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His praise to thee proclaim!
And all that is within me join,
To bless His holy name!
Oh yeah!

Oh bless the Lord my soul!
His mercies bear in mind!
Forget not all His benefits,
The Lord, to thee, is kind.
He will not always chide
He will with patience wait
His wrath is ever slow to rise

Oh bless the Lord
And ready to abate
And ready to abate
Oh yeah!

Oh bless the lord
Bless the lord my soul
Oh bless the lord my soul!
He pardons all thy sins
Prolongs thy feeble breath
He healeth thine infirmities
And ransoms thee from death
He clothes thee with his love
Upholds thee with his truth
And like an eagle he renews
The vigor of thy youth

Then bless His holy name
Whose grace hath made thee whole
Whose love and kindness crowns
Thy days


Poetry: Praise the Rain by Joy Harjo who is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She earned her BA from the University of New Mexico and MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Harjo draws on First Nation storytelling and histories, as well as feminist and social justice poetic traditions, and frequently incorporates indigenous myths, symbols, and values into her writing. Her

Praise the rain; the seagull dive
The curl of plant, the raven talk—
Praise the hurt, the house slack
The stand of trees, the dignity—
Praise the dark, the moon cradle
The sky fall, the bear sleep—
Praise the mist, the warrior name
The earth eclipse, the fired leap—
Praise the backwards, upward sky
The baby cry, the spirit food—
Praise canoe, the fish rush
The hole for frog, the upside-down—
Praise the day, the cloud cup
The mind flat, forget it all—

Praise crazy. Praise sad.
Praise the path on which we’re led.
Praise the roads on earth and water.
Praise the eater and the eaten.
Praise beginnings; praise the end.
Praise the song and praise the singer.

Praise the rain; it brings more rain.
Praise the rain; it brings more rain.

Psalm 97: Who’s in Charge Here?

Thursday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 97, one of the six “enthronement psalms”.  These hymns identify God as “king” whose power is above all. Such power evokes awe and praise which form the repeated acclamations of the psalm.

The “enthronement” of God in Israel’s worship means that all other “gods” (power, prestige, influence, money, etc.) are now subject to the policies, attitudes and judgments of Yahweh – Who REIGNS and Who is covenanted to us with irrevocable love.

Everything we encounter in life is to be received with that understanding.


We know how the psalmist feels – what it’s like to be awed by God’s power – and left with nothing but stunned silence or quiet whispering praise.

  • Both magnificent and delicate natural phenomena can inspire such a prayer. 
  • Life events over which we have no control can also bring us to humble praise like this.
  • The intricacies of a newborn’s face, the graced windings of an elder’s life story, the unfathomable reality of death, the mystery of a human love that mirrors God’s…. All such mysteries and miracles can cause us to proclaim with the psalmist:

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many islands be glad! …
Light dawns for the righteous, 
and joy for the upright in heart. 

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, 
and give thanks to his holy name

(Ps. 97:2, 10–12)

Or, as transliterated by Minister Christine Robinson:

Highest in Heaven
Deepest in Nature
Holy One

Be Glad
Lights up the world
Purifies the heart
Gathers the peoples
Rejoice.


Whether or not we’re comfortable with “king” language, may we still embrace the image of God, invited to our heart, made at home, praised and unfailingly worshipped. Enthroned!

Today, let us praise our King, Lord, Dear One or however we inadequately attempt to name our Divine Creator.

Poetry: I Am Bending My Knee from the Carmina Gadelica, the work of Alexander Carmichael. Carmina Gadelica is a compendium of prayers, hymns, charms, incantations, blessings, literary-folkloric poems and songs, proverbs, lexical items, historical anecdotes, natural history observations, and miscellaneous lore gathered in the Gaelic-speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909. (Wikipedia)

I am bending my knee
In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God,
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.

Music: Our God Reigns – Studio Musicians

 

Psalm 31: Strife of Tongues

Wednesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

June 17, 2020

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 31, just three of its twenty-five passionate verses in today’s liturgy. These three will echo in you, as will many others if you read the whole psalm. The images are so strong and yet comforting, the prayer so sincere.

  • In you, LORD, I take refuge.
  • Let me never be put to shame.
  • Incline your ear to me;
  • For you are my rock and my fortress.
  • I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy.
  • Let your face shine on your servant.
  • Save me in your mercy.
  • You hide your beloved in the shelter of your presence.
  • You heard my voice, my cry for mercy.

In my prayer, I focused on this line:

You hide your beloved in the shelter of your presence
from the plottings of evil hearts;
You screen them within your abode
from the strife of tongues.


The strife of tongues”. What a phrase! And what a reality! Our divisive culture is drowning in it – in political, religious and civic contexts. It is often very hard for us to know whom to listen to and believe. But the psalmist helps us to understand a key characteristic of destructive speech – pride and boasting:

Love the LORD, all you his faithful ones!
The LORD keeps those who are constant,
but more than requites those who act proudly.


Today, I prayed for anyone caught in a persecution of words. Specifically, I prayed for Pope Francis and for the Archbishop of Washington, DC, Wilton Gregory. Both men have been victims of “the strife of tongues”.

In a publicized letter written to Donald Trump, Pope Francis was targeted by reactionary clergyman Carlo Viganò who dabbles in conspiracy theories and misinformation in order to undermine Francis’s ministry.

Archbishop Gregory described Donald Trump’s photo op at the Shrine of St. John Paul II as “reprehensible“, condemning the politicization of religion for “manipulative” purposes. As a result, the Archbishop, who is Black, has been racially and sexually slurred by, among others, a far-right hate group claiming to be “Catholic”.


As I prayed for these good priests, and for all others condemned for truthful and compassionate testimony, I asked God to enfold them in the verse from Psalm 31, part of which Jesus prayed on the cross:

Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth.

It is painful to witness this kind of sinful negativity in the Church, and the pain does enter into our prayer. Pope Francis points to a way to heal that pain:

Poetry: Our poem today is by a 19th century poet, Susan S. Button from her only book I could find which she published herself. She strikes me as an Emily Dickinson type without the same degree of literary accomplishment. There is very little information on her although she was notable enough in society to have a portrait by John Sartain (currently in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.)

The poem, although on a serious topic, still provided a level of delight about what happens to those who slander the innocent. I offer just a few verses of the long composition and hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Slander

What is the slander’s tongue? An arrow strong,
And sharp, and fierce, empoisoning many a word,
Such as to devil’s only do belong,
When they, by Envy and by Malice stirred,
Do contemplate dark deeds, and souls do gird
For vilest crimes, and with their deadly bane,
The good man rob of fame — with lies absurd
Asunder rend kind Friendship’s gold-linked chain,
And break the three-fold, silken cord of Love amain.
——
For though Slander’s pliant bow was newly strung,
And thick and fast her feathered arrows flew,
And through the misty air their echoes rung,
The light around his head more lustrous grew;
For Innonence forth from her treasures drew
A golden shield, and clasped it o’er his heart,
While Truth held up a golden lamp and new!
While through its lucent flame flew on the dart
From Slander’s quiver, brighter light it did impart.

It trembled on the shield of Innocence—
The good man gazed, and by its blood-stained shade
He knew full well who formed it, and from whence
It came — he plucked it from the shield and bade
The innocent “tremble not, nor be afraid.”
With force redoubled Slander drew her bow
And furious all her cruel haste betrayed,
But soon was heard a horrid shriek of woe,
As her rebounding dart did to her forehead go.

~ Susan S. Button (1858)

Music: Herr, auf dich traue ich – Otto Nicolai (1810-1849j, one of the founders of the Vienna Philharmonic

Psalm 31:1-2

Herr, auf dich traue ich,
Laß mich nimmermehr zu Schanden werden,
Errette mich nach deiner Barmherzigkeit,
Und hilf mir aus.
Neige deine Ohren zu mir, und hilf mir;
Sei mir ein starker Hort,
Ein Hort, dahin ich immer fliehen möge,
Der du hast zugesaget mir zu helfen.
Lord, I trust in you,
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in your mercy And assist me.
Incline your ear to me and help me;
Be a strong refuge for me,
A refuge to which I may always flee,
Which you have promised to me for my aid.

Psalm 16: A Night Prayer

Memorial of Saint Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Saturday, June 13, 2020

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psalm16 path2

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray once again with Psalm 16. Verses 1-10 strike me as a perfect “nighttime” prayer.

In his musical Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Weber lyricizes about the “beauty of the night”.  

It’s a soulful song, and in itself could be used for prayer, especially when we pray in times of spiritual darkness or unknowing. In many ways, it reminds me of John of the Cross’s poem, “The Dark Night”. (Verses below for our poetry today).


All of us have times when our prayer seems to echo back to us without a response from God. Our faith may be tested and our trust stretched very thin. God seems so distant that we wonder what happened to cloud the relationship! We linger in a spiritual darkness that is dry and disconcerting.

Dali John of Cross
Christ of St. John of the Cross by Salvador Dali (1951) – Kenmore Art Gallery, Glasgow

These times in the spiritual life were experienced and described by writers like John of the Cross and the author of “The Cloud of Unknowing”. They are times when our experiences and prayer invite us to a new and deeper understanding of God. They ask us to let go of our intellectual certainties and abandon ourselves to God without demands.


Recently, while describing how disappointed he was in God, a friend told me that he had “lost” his faith long ago. Well, obviously, he hadn’t because he still held expectations of the “God” who was disappointing him. I told him that I had lost my faith a few times too, and that every time I got it back, it was new and deeper than the one I had lost. My “septuagenarian God” is very different from the one I came to follow when I was eighteen!


Our minds and souls are so small next to God’s Infinity. But slowly, through a life of prayerful fidelity and loving service, God stretches our capacity to know and return a Love which is beyond reason.

But the stretching times can be dark – times when Psalm 16 is a comforting prayer.

I like to pray with this transliteration by Steven Mitchell – A Book of Psalms

Unnamable God,
I feel you with me at every moment.
You are my food, my drink,
my sunlight, and the air I breathe.
You are the ground I have built on
and the beauty that rejoices my heart. 

I give thanks to you at all times
for lifting me from my confusion,
for teaching me in the dark
and showing me the path of life. 

I have come to the center of the universe;
I rest in your perfect love.
In your presence there is fullness of joy
and blessedness forever and ever.

Music: Path of Life – The Dameans

Poetry: The Dark Night – Stanzas Of The Soul

( Some people find John of the Cross surprising, if not strange or shocking, in his imagery. He was a grace-filled mystic and poet whose images of God expanded beyond the boundaries we might be accustomed to. And that very extravagance is John’s beauty — he invites us to a place we might not otherwise think to go.)

1. One dark night,
fired with love’s urgent longings
— ah, the sheer grace! —
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

2. In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
— ah, the sheer grace! —
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

3. On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

4. This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
— him I knew so well —
there in a place where no one appeared.

5. O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

6. Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

7. When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

8. I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

Psalm 27: Lift the Veil

Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 12, 2020

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Psalm 27JPG

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 27, a popular psalm used often in the liturgy.

The psalm rocks back and forth between a desperate cry for light and a firm confidence that it will come. No wonder it’s so popular. Isn’t our whole life filled with that rocking?

How many times have we said or heard the plea, “God help me/us!”? I know someone who punctuates almost her entire conversation with similar exclamations. Whenever her own circumstances, or the world in general, disappoints or astounds her, some form of the aspiration arises. Often, it takes a secular form like, “Ay, ay, ay!”, but it is still the same prayer.😀


2bubble

How about you? Have you heard that kind of plea resounding in your own heart lately? The world has been pretty overwhelming recently with disease, death, brutality, anger, and hatred all spilling out like lava from a frightening volcano. And you’ve probably got your own few personal boilers to add!

Unless we’re living in some kind of bubble, it all has to have some impact on our faith, hope and joy.


Psalm 27 is made for these times. It does not fail to acknowledge the weight of circumstances:

Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me…
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off...

Nevertheless, under its pleading, rests a complete and steadfast confidence in God’s favor:

I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.

The psalmist invites us to share in this honest prayer, for ourselves and for all the anxious world which may carry troubles greater than our own.

(P.S. Be sure to read today’s first reading. Elijah was looking for God’s Face/Voice too. He found it in the most delightful way. Don’t miss it.)


For poetry today, a selection from the powerful poet Denise Levertov

The Tide

Where is the Giver to whom my gratitude
rose? In this emptiness
there seems no Presence.
*
How confidently the desires
of God are spoken of!
Perhaps God wants
something quite different.
Or nothing, nothing at all.
*
Blue smoke from small
peaceable hearths ascending
without resistance in luminous
evening air.
Or eager mornings—waking
as if to a song’s call.
Easily I can conjure
a myriad images
of faith.
Remote. They pass
as I turn a page.
*
Outlying houses, and the train’s rhythm
slows, there’s a signal box,
people are taking their luggage
down from the racks.
Then you wake and discover
you have not left
to begin the journey.
*
Faith’s a tide, it seems, ebbs and flows responsive
to action and inaction.
Remain in stasis, blown sand
stings your face, anemones
shrivel in rock pools no wave renews.
Clean the littered beach, clear
the lines of a forming poem,
the waters flood inward.
Dull stones again fulfill
their glowing destinies, and emptiness
is a cup, and holds
the ocean.

Music: Psalm 27 – Choir of St. John’s College Elora

Psalm 98: Nice Job, Lord!

Memorial of Saint Barnabas, Apostle

June 11, 2020

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psalm 98 strings
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 98, one of a small knot of psalms whose point is to shout praise over and over to God. It is a hymn psalm, and one of the ten Royal Psalms themed with “kingship”.

As we pray this exultant psalm, in Latin called “Cantate Domino” (Sing to the Lord), we can almost visualize the psalmist and fellow praisers clapping God on the back and chanting, “Great job! Nice work!”.

All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.


psalms
Walter Brueggemann has written extensively about the Psalms. He says this about the act of praise:

Praise articulates and embodies our capacity to yield, submit, and abandon ourselves in trust and gratitude to the One whose we are. … We have a resilient hunger to move beyond self. God is addressed not because we have need, but simply because God is God.
(Israel’s Praise: Doxology against Idolatry and Ideology)


We don’t have to be as articulate as the psalmist to weave praise into our prayer. 

Sometimes when we catch the sunrise at a morning window, we might quietly say, “Great job! Thank You, Radiant God”

When we look at the magnificence of a natural wonder like the Grand Canyon, we might abandon words and simply let our breathing be praise.

When we study the finely-aged face of a beloved elder, we might praise the monument of grace God has worked in her/his life.

When we finger the strings of our own faith history, we might, in our own words, echo the psalmist:

I sing You a new song in every moment, Lord
for You have done wondrous deeds;
Your loving hand has strung grace through my life,
your generous heart has blessed me amazingly.


Poetry today from Mary Oliver who rejoices in the redbird’s morning praise:

All night my heart makes its way
however it can over the rough ground
of uncertainties, but only until night
meets and then is overwhelmed by
morning, the light deepening, the
wind easing and just waiting, as I
too wait (and when have I ever been
disappointed?) for redbird to sing
― A Thousand Mornings

Music: Cantate Domino – Claudio Monteverdi 

Psalm 4: To See God’s Face

Tuesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 9, 2020

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king harp

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 4, a lament written to be sung with stringed instruments.

The psalmist expresses confidence that God rewards the prayer of the just, warning the “dull of heart” to wake up!

 


When I call, answer me, O my just God,
you who relieve me when I am in distress;
Have pity on me, and hear my prayer!
Men of rank, how long will you be dull of heart?
Why do you love what is vain and seek after falsehood?

Surely, the psalmist’s sentiments echo in our hearts:

  • We all pray, in these conflicted times, for the grace to wake up to the justice and mercy of God.
  • We pray, like the psalmist, to see the face of God in ourselves and in our neighbor.
  • We pray to finally be able to break through the falsehood of racism to the Presence of our Creator in every person.

shane mccrae
The poem I offer today was written by Shane McCrae, an American poet and recipient of a 2011 Whiting Award. McCrae earned a BA at Linfield College, an MA at the University of Iowa, an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a JD at Harvard Law School. He currently teaches at Columbia University.

In this poem, the poet and his young daughter trace faces in the waves, the way many of us have in waves or clouds.

psalm4

Like all great poems, this one allows us to find our own meaning within it. I see a father looking to find the reflection of his own face in our representations of God, and hoping that his little child might do so a well. We sense their hopes disappear in the waves and in a culture that has enthroned God’s image as a white male.

Still When I Picture It the Face of God Is a White Man’s Face

Before it disappears
on the sand his long white      beard before it disappears
The face of the man
in the waves I ask her does she see it ask her does
The old man in the waves      as the waves crest she see it does
she see the old man his
White     his face crumbling face it looks
as old as he’s as old as
The ocean looks
and for a moment almost looks
His face like it’s     all the way him
As never such old skin
looks my / Daughter age four
She thinks it might he might be real she shouts Hello
And after there’s no answer answers No



Music:
  The Whole Book of Psalmes: Psalm 4, “Oxford Tune”
written by – Thomas Ravenscroft (1588 – 1635)
rendered here by Richard Muenz

 

Psalm 121: A Climbing Song

Monday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time

June 8, 2020

Click here for readings

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 121, another of the fifteen Psalms of Ascent.

(Placing the hymn early today. You might want to play it as you read the psalm.)
Waldorf Davies: Psalm 121 St. John’s College Choir Cambridge

 


climber

Picture the ancient pilgrims on their way up to Jerusalem. They carry in their hearts all the joys and burdens of their lives, just like everyone else in the world.

Psalm 121 eyes
What blesses them particularly is that they have turned their eyes toward God as they journey, singing both their griefs and their delights in hope and thanksgiving.


The psalm moves from a plea for help in the beginning: 

I lift up my eyes toward the mountains;
whence shall help come to me?

To, at the close, a triumphant confidence in that help in perpetuity:

The LORD will guard you from all evil;
he will guard your life.
The LORD will guard your coming and your going,
both now and forever.


May we, too, fix our eyes on God,
vigilantly seeking God’s truth
at the core of our experiences.

May our faithful, lifelong dialogue with God
lead us, like the psalmist,
to the same blessed assurance.


Just for a little added joy, here is the glorious hymn Blessed Assurance
– sung by CeCe Winans honoring Cicely Tyson at the Kennedy Center Honors.


Poem: Prayer by David Gioia

(In this poem, we glimpse one particular pilgrim and the prayer he is carrying. The poet addresses God in lovely ways, ( I really loved “Jeweller of the spiderweb”). Finally he prays for protection for a beloved. I think we’ve all prayed that kind of prayer.)

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.
Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.
Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper traveling the wires.
Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,
in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore
and the harsh falcon its flightless young.