I like the Psalms for a good number of reasons, one of the primary reasons being that they well express the gamut of human experience. And in the form of worship as well as sharing one’s heart before God. There are those times when I especially know I don’t have it all together. When I especially feel my brokenness and perhaps want to do little more than hide.
The Psalms teach us that we can and therefore should come to God with our brokenness, with all that we are. We express our true thoughts and feelings to God, not holding back, and in that context we become acclimated to a life lived in the context of both God’s presence and will as those who are his people.
Not everything in the Psalms is G-rated, in fact the Psalms as a whole definitely are not. Even PG, and I’ll add PG-13 is a stretch for some of it. One is allowed to express it all, as Eugene Peterson suggested with reference to his own rendering in the Message, with arms flailing, so to speak. That doesn’t mean that it’s all good. But it’s surely part of working through a process whether it’s of grieving and lamenting, to risk subjecting the Bible and our reading of it to modern categories. We do well to regularly read it, perhaps even to sing it, so that the rhythm and beauty, all of it somehow appropriately becomes more and more a part of who we are, at least in our expression to God. Of course the Psalms are considered the hymnbook of Israel and the church does well to add its “songs” to the other hymns and songs sung. Jesus knew the Psalms and surely regularly recited them. (An excellent book on the Psalms.)
A good example of what I’m trying to get at in this post is found in Psalm 55. I’ll quote a small part of it here, and I encourage you to read the rest. And to get into the habit of reading the Psalms, maybe daily, five a day so as to read through them each month.
I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!
I would fly away and be at rest.
I would flee far away
and stay in the desert;
I would hurry to my place of shelter,
far from the tempest and storm.”
From Psalm 55.
There is no question that Christians in coming days will face new issues in holding to the faith. Gay marriage is probably soon to become the law of the land. What I think is probably primarily the biggest concern, or should be, is the possible loss of religious freedom. But that is so embedded in America, that I personally have doubts that will be an issue. Other matters, such as a Christian business making a cake for a gay wedding is an issue on which Christians will be divided (not to say that there isn’t division on the more fundamental issue). What it means to follow Jesus in such matters likely won’t always be easy to discern (one helpful post on that).
What I think is happening in part is a backlash from the days of the “Moral Majority” and what followed (as one of our favorite teachers back in the 1980′s said might happen). This is tied up in the notion that America is at its roots a Christian nation. I’m sure there is much more to be said about this. Heavy handed in your face demonstrations and the seizing of political power to enforce moral law just doesn’t strike me as in the way of Jesus for his followers, or even in line with how Daniel and the exiles lived in foreign states.
In all of this we need to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves (of course, Jesus’ words). Where and how do we draw lines? What is our goal? What agenda are we seeking to advance, one of our own or that of God’s kingdom come in Christ? Are we prepared for what might follow? (an interesting post related to this.)
Sadly many of us might suffer for actions of others we would never support. At the same time we have to be prepared to experience some problems for even holding to a given matter as sin. But the accent along with holding to the truth revealed is to be one of grace. Are we those who love others unconditionally and see God as the final judge for all of us? When others see us, do they see people who take a clear stand for the truth in love? We know that the ground is always level at the cross.
I was not raised in a liturgical church, nor was ever a part of one until now, although our church has one foot in the liturgical world and one foot out of it, I suppose. So I think as a latecomer and one whose thoughts and experience in this regard are not well formed.
When I think of the season of Lent, I see it as a preparation for Easter (although I think each Sunday in Lent leading up to Easter is supposed to be a mini-Easter). A preparation in terms of one appreciating the true significance of Easter as the celebration of Christ’s resurrection when the new creation begins what is to be the regeneration of all things in and through Christ.
We are a part of that change that is taking place and will be completed, and we in Jesus should want to be a part of that. And so during this time, no matter what hard issues I may face or distractions along the way, I would like to turn my face like a flint toward Jerusalem, not imagining that somehow I’m taking it upon myself to suffer for the world, but to consider anew and afresh our Lord’s sufferings and what they mean for us, for our world, for the world at large. I want to get a good view of Christ and him crucified. So I can more deeply see my own sin, my own need, yes, even wretchedness. Something I can’t concoct myself. Through seeing Jesus anew and afresh. When we see our Lord through the Spirit, we can only weep as we lament on how far short we’ve fallen, how far short we are. Yet wonderfully at the same time we experience also anew and afresh God’s saving power, light and love in and through Jesus.
And so I hardly know myself what I’m doing, or what this is all about. But I do want this to be the most significant season of Lent for me personally, yet. So that hopefully I’ll be deeper both with reference to myself, my own sin, and with reference to Jesus and his death for my sin and for the sin of the world.
Sometimes I feel like I’m in a fog or that I’m a bit blinded (by the Light?). I “get” certain things, but not all that well. I know certain things in a provisional sense (as gifts), but not as well as I’d like to know them. Although exactly what I’m supposed to experience or be or do is secondary in my thinking to what I am actually becoming in process, and in that, what I’m seeking.
Actually there is only one who has pointed and has gone the right direction to the end, in and of himself. And all of God’s people are taken up into him and into his going for us, even in the resurrection life and power that comes from the death of the cross. That is not only for us, but becomes a part of us in and through Jesus.
And so in and through Jesus I am pointed in the right direction, with ongoing repentance putting me back on that track. Even as I point others in that same direction, foggy and dark though it seems to be oftentimes. Looking forward to more and more light with the capacity to take in such as we await the Day when night will be no more.
This is nearly an oxymoron: trying to be wise. One is not wise simply by trying, though to seek wisdom, and specifically wisdom from God is indeed a good thing. Being wise in some ways is a matter of degree, and in other ways not. A certain aspect of wisdom can be to receive it in a moment, but another aspect of it can be accumulated over a lifetime.
Wisdom comes through revelation along with a combination of tradition, reason and experience. Of course it is not automatic. And there’s false kinds of wisdom, as well. People can be well learned in different versions of worldly wisdom. The wisdom spoken of here is one of reverential awe and simple trust in God. It is a wisdom steeped in coming to know God through God’s revelation of himself. Both in terms of actual head knowledge in propositions, but also necessarily in no less than a personal way, having a personal sense of acquaintance with this God.
A big part of wisdom, or at least of moving its direction is simply to acknowledge that one is lacking in it. And to live accordingly, both in humbly seeking it from God, and being teachable in life. We need not wait until we’ve arrived in terms of wisdom to act. But we need to be those who are looking to God for it, ready to humble ourselves and learn from whatever source it may come. And it may come through some unusual sources, as well as seemingly more directly from God.
Jesus is our wisdom from God, so it is always good to reflect on that, and on God’s revelation of himself in and through Jesus. Jesus in terms of his life and death along with all of his teaching. Specifically Jesus in his cross shaped life. This is the true wisdom from God. All the treasures of wisdom are found in Jesus. Whatever specific knowledge or abilities from wisdom we may have are to be tempered within the wisdom of God found in Jesus.
And so we go on. Hoping to receive as well as to live and learn and become steeped in true wisdom from God in and through Jesus.
O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer from Tim Gombis, Faith Improvised