Archive | March, 2013

So, Now Christ has risen, Risen indeed

31 Mar

This phrase has been running through my head all day.  I pray you have had a wonderful Easter celebration with awesome worship, loving friends and family, and lots of chocolate.

And now we get to look at Psalm 75 which is much more Easterish than Psalm 74

We thank you, God, we thank you—
your Name is our favorite word;
your mighty works are all we talk about.

As I sit and think about this psalm and the writer saying, “your mighty works are all we talk about”, I am also watching one of the basketeball games of March Madness.  What if we talked about the stories of God as much as we talked about the games of this basketball series?  What if we made out or brackets to say where God was defeating evil around the world?  What if we made a lot of noise about the power of our God; particularly on this day of celebration of God’s triumph over death?

OK, before I start sounding totally pious, let’s talk about how God sets things right.  I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in this section.  It is God who sets our world right when everything gets wacky.  Of course, we have to be willing to humble ourselves to see the world through God’s eyes.

2-4 You say, “I’m calling this meeting to order,
I’m ready to set things right.
When the earth goes topsy-turvy
And nobody knows which end is up,
I nail it all down,
I put everything in place again.
I say to the smart alecks, ‘That’s enough,’
to the bullies, ‘Not so fast.’”

5-6 Don’t raise your fist against High God.
Don’t raise your voice against Rock of Ages.
He’s the One from east to west;
from desert to mountains, he’s the One.

7-8 God rules: he brings this one down to his knees,
pulls that one up on her feet.
God has a cup in his hand,
a bowl of wine, full to the brim.
He draws from it and pours;
it’s drained to the dregs.
Earth’s wicked ones drink it all,
drink it down to the last bitter drop!

I hope you have the joy of telling the story of God Eternal.  It is a great way to spend your life.  But, as Francis of Assisi was known to say, Preach the Good News at all times, and when necessary use words.  I believe the world is waiting to be convinced that the resurrection of Jesus makes a difference in our lives today.  I pray that you will become a poster child for new life in Christ.

9-10 And I’m telling the story of God Eternal,
singing the praises of Jacob’s God.
The fists of the wicked
are bloody stumps,
The arms of the righteous
are lofty green branches.

A Day Late and A Dollar Short

31 Mar

Yes, it is a strange greeting for Easter, but I wanted to blog about Psalm 74 during the last days of Holy Week and Psalm 75 on Easter.  So, I will be blogging on Psalm 74 now and later in the day, I’ll do Psalm 75.  It is a very quiet afternoon here in Hagerstown.

Psalm 74 is a wonderful reading for Good Friday.  The writer yells that God has abandoned God’s people.  This psalm give the emotional pain of Jesus’ execution and the sense of desolation experience in that moment.

You walked off and left us, and never looked back.
God, how could you do that?
We’re your very own sheep;
how can you stomp off in anger?

2-3 Refresh your memory of us—you bought us a long time ago.
Your most precious tribe—you paid a good price for us!
Your very own Mount Zion—you actually lived here once!
Come and visit the site of disaster,
see how they’ve wrecked the sanctuary.

The writer invites God to see what has happened to God’s people.  This psalm brings me a sense of what the conquered people of God felt as their enemies came in to their capital city and destroyed the places of worship.  Perhaps you remember when there has been bombing of churches.  It always seems particularly horrible when a church is bombed.  For Israel, the temple was the center of worship and the dwelling place of God.  It is the destruction of the holy place that is being lamented.

4-8 While your people were at worship, your enemies barged in,
brawling and scrawling graffiti.
They set fire to the porch;
axes swinging, they chopped up the woodwork,
Beat down the doors with sledgehammers,
then split them into kindling.
They burned your holy place to the ground,
violated the place of worship.
They said to themselves, “We’ll wipe them all out,”
and burned down all the places of worship.

The writer cries out that there is no sign of God anywhere and there is no one to speak of God.  It is the imagine of Good Friday for me.  A time when violence and bigotry and betrayal ruled the day and I want to shout out, “Why don’t you do something?”  Of course, it is not just the events of Good Friday that make me feel this way; almost anytime the hatred and bullying and meanness seems to win, I want to shout, where are you God.  Then I realize that God is counting on me – and you – to change things.

9-17 There’s not a sign or symbol of God in sight,
nor anyone to speak in his name,
no one who knows what’s going on.
How long, God, will barbarians blaspheme,
enemies curse and get by with it?
Why don’t you do something? How long are you going
to sit there with your hands folded in your lap?
God is my King from the very start;
he works salvation in the womb of the earth.
With one blow you split the sea in two,
you made mincemeat of the dragon Tannin.
You lopped off the heads of Leviathan,
then served them up in a stew for the animals.
With your finger you opened up springs and creeks,
and dried up the wild floodwaters.
You own the day, you own the night;
you put stars and sun in place.
You laid out the four corners of earth,
shaped the seasons of summer and winter.

18-21 Mark and remember, God, all the enemy
taunts, each idiot desecration.
Don’t throw your lambs to the wolves;
after all we’ve been through, don’t forget us.
Remember your promises;
the city is in darkness, the countryside violent.
Don’t leave the victims to rot in the street;
make them a choir that sings your praises.

I know the days of Jesus’ passion have past, but maybe there will be another day soon when we feel like saying, God get on your feet, let’s change thing together.Photo0019

22-23 On your feet, O God—
stand up for yourself!
Do you hear what they’re saying about you,
all the vile obscenities?
Don’t tune out their malicious filth,
the brawling invective that never lets up.

A Life in God’s Presence – Blessing

22 Mar

Hello Friends,

I am still here, life has been busy and my tablet has had a couple of hick ups.  As much as I thought Lent would be a great time to blog each day, I find I have not found the time.  I have been doing a study group at St. Paul’s UMC [In His Steps] and a study group at Holy Apostles [based on the movie Chocolat] plus some meetings.  As things have become a little busier for me at St. Paul’s, they have been slowing down at Holy Apostles – actually yesterday was my last day at Holy Apostles.   My friend was appreciative of my time at her church and we both felt I had fulfilled the needs that were there.

Mom and Dad are about the same and we usually have at least one doctor’s appointment each week.  Dad had a lunch out with old golfing buddies this week and Mom cleaned her ovens and stove – this is typical of the division of labor since my Dad retired 20 years ago.

So, on with the Psalm and thinking about God in the midst of our lives.  This is Psalm 73 and there are some truly spectacular word pictures created by Eugene Peterson paraphrasing.

1-5 No doubt about it! God is good—
good to good people, good to the good-hearted.
But I nearly missed it,
missed seeing his goodness.
I was looking the other way,
looking up to the people
At the top,
envying the wicked who have it made,
Who have nothing to worry about,
not a care in the whole wide world.

This psalm speaks to a deep truth of human beings.  We so often look up to people, envying what they have, whether is it possessions or relationships.  When we look for our purpose or self-worth to people or things it is never helpful.  God is the authentic source of our purpose and self-worth. The psalm goes on to describe human begins that perhaps you have meet along the way.

6-10 Pretentious with arrogance,
they wear the latest fashions in violence,
Pampered and overfed,
decked out in silk bows of silliness.
They jeer, using words to kill;
they bully their way with words.
They’re full of hot air,
loudmouths disturbing the peace.
People actually listen to them—can you believe it?
Like thirsty puppies, they lap up their words.

11-14 What’s going on here? Is God out to lunch?
Nobody’s tending the store.
The wicked get by with everything;
they have it made, piling up riches.
I’ve been stupid to play by the rules;
what has it gotten me?
A long run of bad luck, that’s what—
a slap in the face every time I walk out the door.

15-20 If I’d have given in and talked like this,
I would have betrayed your dear children.
Still, when I tried to figure it out,
all I got was a splitting headache . . .
Until I entered the sanctuary of God.
Then I saw the whole picture:
The slippery road you’ve put them on,
with a final crash in a ditch of delusions.
In the blink of an eye, disaster!
A blind curve in the dark, and—nightmare!
We wake up and rub our eyes. . . . Nothing.
There’s nothing to them. And there never was.

The psalmist describes the difference in listening to those who are placing themselves first [getting a splitting headache] and entering the sanctuary of God.  It is in the presence of God that life starts to make sense.  For me, difficult events becomes less painful, much of life becomes more joyful and there is always a blessing to be found.

21-24 When I was beleaguered and bitter,
totally consumed by envy,
I was totally ignorant, a dumb ox
in your very presence.
I’m still in your presence,
but you’ve taken my hand.
You wisely and tenderly lead me,
and then you bless me.

25-28 You’re all I want in heaven!
You’re all I want on earth!
When my skin sags and my bones get brittle,
God is rock-firm and faithful.
Look! Those who left you are falling apart!
Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again.
But I’m in the very presence of God—
oh, how refreshing it is!
I’ve made Lord God my home.
God, I’m telling the world what you do!

I hope in your day, you can end where the psalmist ends – wanting only God – knowing that the source of life is in the presence of God.

My prayers are with you all as we prepare to enter Holy Week.  It is a gracious opportunity to think deeply about the life of Jesus, the violence of our world, and the redeeming power of God.

A Nation Under God

11 Mar

Psalm 72 pleads for a just ruler to care of the most vulnerable people.  This psalm says what we want from a government and rarely see.

1-8 Give the gift of wise rule to the king, O God,
the gift of just rule to the crown prince.
May he judge your people rightly,
be honorable to your meek and lowly.
Let the mountains give exuberant witness;
shape the hills with the contours of right living.
Please stand up for the poor,
help the children of the needy,
come down hard on the cruel tyrants.
Outlast the sun, outlive the moon—
age after age after age.
Be rainfall on cut grass,
earth-refreshing rain showers.
Let righteousness burst into blossom
and peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.
Rule from sea to sea,
from the River to the Rim.

9-14 Foes will fall on their knees before God,
his enemies lick the dust.
Kings remote and legendary will pay homage,
kings rich and resplendent will turn over their wealth.
All kings will fall down and worship,
and godless nations sign up to serve him,
Because he rescues the poor at the first sign of need,
the destitute who have run out of luck.
He opens a place in his heart for the down-and-out,
he restores the wretched of the earth.
He frees them from tyranny and torture—
when they bleed, he bleeds;
when they die, he dies.

This psalm praises a leader who identifies with their people so much that “when they bleed, he bleeds; when they die, he dies.”  As I read this psalm I think of President Obama after Sandy Hook school shooting.  The President was clearly moved by the loss live in the school that day.

15-17 And live! Oh, let him live!
Deck him out in Sheba gold.
Offer prayers unceasing to him,
bless him from morning to night.
Fields of golden grain in the land,
cresting the mountains in wild exuberance,
Cornucopias of praise, praises
springing from the city like grass from the earth.
May he never be forgotten,
his fame shine on like sunshine.
May all godless people enter his circle of blessing
and bless the One who blessed them.

I like the hope that all the godless people will enter the circle of blessing created by this leader and in turn will be people who bless God.  I believe that this circle of blessing can be created by those in power.   Maybe, if we just use the whatever power we have to bring blessings and praise to God, that would be a good place to start.

18-20 Blessed God, Israel’s God,
the one and only wonder-working God!
Blessed always his blazing glory!
All earth brims with his glory.
Yes and Yes and Yes.

As this psalm ends I would encourage you to pray for all of those in leadership, for those military personal who are sent out on our behave and continue to praise God.

The Relationship

10 Mar

Psalm 71 has the sound of a song written by King David or Jeremiah.  Men who are famous in their life long relationship with God.  As you read through the psalm, notice all the words of relationship.  i.e., God you will get me out of trouble and I will sing your praises.  We have heard this kind of language in other psalms, but what stood out to me in this psalm was the sense of a life long relationship.

1-3 I run for dear life to God,
I’ll never live to regret it.
Do what you do so well:
get me out of this mess and up on my feet.
Put your ear to the ground and listen,
give me space for salvation.
Be a guest room where I can retreat;
you said your door was always open!
You’re my salvation—my vast, granite fortress.

I love the imagine of God as a guest room where I can retreat.  Wouldn’t that be a great to think about that the next time you are overwhelmed or feeling under attack. . God as a guest room where you can retreat. . .as salvation in the midst of trouble.

4-7 My God, free me from the grip of Wicked,
from the clutch of Bad and Bully.
You keep me going when times are tough—
my bedrock, God, since my childhood.
I’ve hung on you from the day of my birth,
the day you took me from the cradle;
I’ll never run out of praise.
Many gasp in alarm when they see me,
but you take me in stride.

8-11 Just as each day brims with your beauty,
my mouth brims with praise.
But don’t turn me out to pasture when I’m old
or put me on the shelf when I can’t pull my weight.
My enemies are talking behind my back,
watching for their chance to knife me.
The gossip is: “God has abandoned him.
Pounce on him now; no one will help him.”

For someone who is caring for people in their late 80s, I know of this worry of ‘being put out to pasture’.  I think this is one of the hardest things for my parents; the feeling of being useless.  They have been such productive and capable human beings that it is unimaginable to them that can to so little.  I know it is hard for them to live this kind of reality, however, they never cease to be grateful for the blessings in their lives.

12-16 God, don’t just watch from the sidelines.
Come on! Run to my side!
My accusers—make them lose face.
Those out to get me—make them look
Like idiots, while I stretch out, reaching for you,
and daily add praise to praise.
I’ll write the book on your righteousness,
talk up your salvation the livelong day,
never run out of good things to write or say.
I come in the power of the Lord God,
I post signs marking his right-of-way.

I know how this writer feels; I’ll never run out of good things to write or say about God’s grace.  It is a gift to live with a God who marks the signs post as to God’s way.  I like the next line, “you got me when I was an unformed youth”.  I know the lines in the book of Jeremiah about feeling God’s call when he was just a child.

I can remember when I made a commitment to God at the age of 16, I thought I would be so mature in my faith when I had journeyed for 5 years like a friend of mine.  Well, it amazes me that this summer, it will be 40 years!   Again, I identify with the writer; God has taught me everything I know.

17-24 You got me when I was an unformed youth,
God, and taught me everything I know.
Now I’m telling the world your wonders;
I’ll keep at it until I’m old and gray.
God, don’t walk off and leave me
until I get out the news
Of your strong right arm to this world,
news of your power to the world yet to come,
Your famous and righteous
ways, O God.
God, you’ve done it all!
Who is quite like you?
You, who made me stare trouble in the face,
Turn me around;
Now let me look life in the face.
I’ve been to the bottom;
Bring me up, streaming with honors;
turn to me, be tender to me,
And I’ll take up the lute and thank you
to the tune of your faithfulness, God.
I’ll make music for you on a harp,
Holy One of Israel.

When I open up in song to you,
I let out lungsful of praise,
my rescued life a song.
All day long I’m chanting
about you and your righteous ways,
While those who tried to do me in
slink off looking ashamed.

So, it is about relationship; a life long relationship with the Divine Presence that guides our lives and gives them meaning.

God coming to the rescue

9 Mar

What the last psalm took a lot of verses to say, #70 is straight to the point.  We need God to rescue us.  We need God to be at our side and make sense of our lives.  We need God to bring meaning and hope to our days.  We need all these things because our world will not provide them for us.

It is nice to know that if your day is not going well and you feel as though people are out to get you, you are not alone.  Not only is God with you, but there is a long history of God’s people feeling that way as well.

1-3 God! Please hurry to my rescue!
God, come quickly to my side!
Those who are out to get me—
let them fall all over themselves.
Those who relish my downfall—
send them down a blind alley.
Give them a taste of their own medicine,
those gossips off clucking their tongues.

Let those on the hunt for you
sing and celebrate.
Let all who love your saving way
say over and over, “God is mighty!”

But I’ve lost it. I’m wasted.
God—quickly, quickly!
Quick to my side, quick to my rescue!
God, don’t lose a minute.

We know that as we hunt for God, God has already found us.  It is the peace of God that we hunger for; being able to feel God’s presence in the moments of our lives.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the world as this writer is, think about writing your own psalm to call on God, or memorizing one of the psalm to say in difficult times.  I truly believe that God is always with us.  With that affirmation, then the question how to we calm our hearts and mind to sense God’s presence, particularly during difficult times.  I think the scriptures, especially when we memorize them is a great way to celebrate God, place our spirit before God and say over and over, “God is mighty”.  Peace

One who spoke for God

4 Mar

This is another long psalm and tells the saga of a prophet called by God to speak to God’s people.  Some Biblical scholars believe that the psalm refers to Jeremiah who was the prophet in Israel at the beginning of the Babylonian exile.  So, here is the challenge of the day; imagine that are called by God to tell God’s people terrible news and can not be at peace in your life unless you tell the news God have given you to share.  And, imagine that you get everybody angry with you by doing it.  This is how Jeremiah felt and is the point of view of this psalm.

God, God, save me!
I’m in over my head,

Quicksand under me, swamp water over me;
I’m going down for the third time.

I’m hoarse from calling for help,
Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.

I’ve got more enemies than hairs on my head;
Sneaks and liars are out to knife me in the back.

What I never stole
Must I now give back?

God, you know every sin I’ve committed;
My life’s a wide-open book before you.

Don’t let those who look to you in hope
Be discouraged by what happens to me,
Dear Lord! God of the armies!

Don’t let those out looking for you
Come to a dead end by following me—
Please, dear God of Israel!

Because of you I look like an idiot,
I walk around ashamed to show my face.

This is the verse that points to the difficulty of being God’s prophet.  I know I am not a prophet, but I have felt I have often looked like an idiot and, on occasion, it was God’s fault.  It was very difficult in the early ’80s to be a women who felt called into ministry.  It was amazing how angry people got at me because I wanted to go to seminary and move towards ordination.    In the midst of the difficulties and doubt, I just believed in my love of God.  To me it really has always been as simple as loving God and trying to please God.

My brothers shun me like a bum off the street;
My family treats me like an unwanted guest.

I love you more than I can say.
Because I’m madly in love with you,
They blame me for everything they dislike about you.

10 When I poured myself out in prayer and fasting,
All it got me was more contempt.

11 When I put on a sad face,
They treated me like a clown.

12 Now drunks and gluttons
Make up drinking songs about me.

13 And me? I pray.
God, it’s time for a break!

God, answer in love!
Answer with your sure salvation!

God’s rescue has always been there for me, even in my darkest days.  Thinking about all the blessings God has given me helps me to center on what is most important in my life and not worry so much about what others think about me.

14 Rescue me from the swamp,
Don’t let me go under for good,

Pull me out of the clutch of the enemy;
This whirlpool is sucking me down.

15 Don’t let the swamp be my grave, the Black Hole
Swallow me, its jaws clenched around me.

16 Now answer me, God, because you love me;
Let me see your great mercy full-face.

17 Don’t look the other way; your servant can’t take it.
I’m in trouble. Answer right now!

18 Come close, God; get me out of here.
Rescue me from this deathtrap.

19 You know how they kick me around—
Pin on me the donkey’s ears, the dunce’s cap.

20 I’m broken by their taunts,
Flat on my face, reduced to a nothing.

I looked in vain for one friendly face. Not one.
I couldn’t find one shoulder to cry on.

21 They put poison in my soup,
Vinegar in my drink.

22 Let their supper be bait in a trap that snaps shut;
May their best friends be trappers who’ll skin them alive.

23 Make them become blind as bats,
Give them the shakes from morning to night.

24 Let them know what you think of them,
Blast them with your red-hot anger.

25 Burn down their houses,
Leave them desolate with nobody at home.

26 They gossiped about the one you disciplined,
Made up stories about anyone wounded by God.

27 Pile on the guilt,
Don’t let them off the hook.

28 Strike their names from the list of the living;
No rock-carved honor for them among the righteous.

Of course, I have not been through anything like a real prophet, but I never wanted God to punish them (OK, maybe once or twice.)  But I have always believe that people who wanted to make trouble for me, or others who were honestly just trying to share God’s love, were their own worst enemy.  Their anger, hatred, negative thoughts and words rebounded on themselves.

29 I’m hurt and in pain;
Give me space for healing, and mountain air.

30 Let me shout God’s name with a praising song,
Let me tell his greatness in a prayer of thanks.

31 For God, this is better than oxen on the altar,
Far better than blue-ribbon bulls.

32 The poor in spirit see and are glad—
Oh, you God-seekers, take heart!

33 For God listens to the poor,
He doesn’t walk out on the wretched.

34 You heavens, praise him; praise him, earth;
Also ocean and all things that swim in it.

35 For God is out to help Zion,
Rebuilding the wrecked towns of Judah.

Guess who will live there—
The proud owners of the land?

36 No, the children of his servants will get it,
The lovers of his name will live in it.

I hope you are a ‘lover of God’s name’.  It is a wonderful kind of person to be.  As you continue to enjoy your Lenten journey, I hope you can hear God’s voice and it will help you to grow in faith.