For Sunday May 24th, our appointed Psalm is Psalm 68. This psalm wonderful speaks of the way in which God sides with the poor, the broken, the orphans and widows of the world. Who among us has not felt a little broken during these trying times? May you find strength and encouragement listening to these words. We are also grateful for Flathead Lutheran Bible Camp for the location of this Psalm reading. What a beautiful "holy place" to hear God's word.
For next Sunday our appointed Psalm is Psalm 31. The language about God being our stronghold really stuck out to me and we certainly live in a place where imaging what a natural stronghold might look like is not too hard. May the words of the psalmist speak to you this day as you see God's Word in our world. And many thanks to Julie and Philip Brous who invited me to come and use their driveway for this shot today.
This week our Psalm is the iconic Psalm 23. I choose two setting for this reading this week. Which one strikes you most? Which one invites you to experience God's grace anew? Which one challenges you to see God's giftedness? What if you tried to switch those emotions from one location to another?
In what will hopefully be a new weekly inspirational moment for you, I will be finding a new place each week to read the Psalm for the upcoming Sunday. I am not going to offer a lot of interpretation but merely read the Psalm and allow the words of the Psalmist and the location reassure you of God's involvement in your life.
The interpretation I intend to use is our dear friend Eugene Peterson's wonderful translation of the Psalms. His frankness and candor in interpreting God's Word seems appropriate for these times we're living in.
Today's location is on the far most island in Somers Bay which is now accessible due to the lowered winter water level.
For some reason music seems to be calling to me during these days. I, as a rule, am generally not a musically gifted person. I took piano for a number of years and appreciate music but my gifts lie elsewhere. That said however, I do recognize the power music has to convey reassurance during times of challenge like we are experiencing now and am so appreciative of the various ways it can move us to sense God's presence anew. May you be reassured this evening as you hear these words from the St. Olaf choir first recorded back in 2012. And may God indeed abide with you.
5. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
Update: From Becky Miller in Atlanta, Georgia - another version of Abide with Me for you.
One of the unexpected gifts that I have received over the past few days during this pandemic has been the accompaniment from our friends serving in Nepal. For those who don’t remember or haven’t heard, we have friends from our local YWAM base that we have been supporting and journeying with for the past 3-4 years or so. (I’m purposely not using their names due to the sensitive nature of their ministry.)
On several occasions now they have reached out to share how they are doing, express their prayers for us and thank me/us for our walking with them. And they have also shared their journey through songs that they have said are giving them strength right now. It is a witness to the ways in which music can be a way for us to unite across time zones, across shut doors, across whatever barriers we or the world may need to erect. I thank them for their sharing and share their latest offering with you now. It is a piece from Sandra McCracken called “My Soul Finds Rest” based upon Psalm 62. I’ve copied the Psalm below and a link to the song on youtube below it. Enjoy.
But, they say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet the sky is no longer thick with fumes but blue and grey and clear.
They say that in the streets of Assisi people are singing to each other across the empty squares, keeping their windows open so that those who are alone may hear the sounds of family around them.
They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know is busy spreading fliers with her number through the neighborhood so that the elders may have someone to call on.
Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples are preparing to welcome and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary.
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
all over the world people are looking at their neighbors in a new way
all over the world people are waking up to a new reality to how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.
Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe. Listen. Behind the factory noises of your panic the birds are singing again the sky is clearing, Spring is coming, And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul and though you may not be able to touch across the empty square,
What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath--
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.
Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.
–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20
“Conversations will not be cancelled.
Relationships will not be cancelled.
Love will not be cancelled.
Songs will not be cancelled.
Reading will not be cancelled.
Self-care will not be cancelled.
HOPE will not be cancelled.
May we lean into the good stuff that remains.