Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Answer to Someone Else's Prayer

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
Ps 86:1
Psalm 86 is one of many psalms which tell me of God's love for the downcast. Calvin reminds me that I should be encouraged by this particular psalm when I find myself oppressed or destitute, writing "that despair therefore may not overwhelm our minds under our greatest afflictions, let us support ourselves from the consideration that the Holy Spirit has dictated this prayer for the poor and the afflicted."

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A New Creed

We are not alone,
we live in God’s world.

We believe in God:
who has created and is creating,
who has come in Jesus,
the Word made flesh,
to reconcile and make new,
who works in us and others
by the Spirit.

We trust in God.

We are called to be the Church:
to celebrate God’s presence,
to live with respect in Creation,
to love and serve others,
to seek justice and resist evil,
to proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen,
our judge and our hope.

In life, in death, in life beyond death,
God is with us.
We are not alone.

Thanks be to God.
—United Church of Canada, 1968 (rev. 1980, 1995)

The Completeness of That Blessedness

Bread Winners by Thomas Blinks (1905)
Likewise, the Lord will grant prosperity: and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before him; and set her steps in the way.
Ps 85:12-13
A literal interpretation of Psalm 85:12 seems a bit shallow—a precursor to today's name-it-claim-it theology which states that if we're good enough or have enough faith, we'll be blessed materially. Wouldn't a strictly spiritual interpretation be better (and more realistic)? Calvin takes both into consideration, and comes down on the side of the former. But he does so (whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don't know) in such a way as to make me think:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Crossroads

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
Ps 85:10-11
Theologians sometimes very dryly refer not to Jesus, but to the Christ Event. I suppose this is supposed to mean the historical Jesus, considered apart from faith. But if you were to ask me, "What is the Christ Event?" I would answer: It's what happens when steadfast love and faithfulness meet, when righteousness and peace kiss one another, when faithfulness springs up from the earth and righteousness looks down from the sky: The point at which they all intersect is the Christ Event. Calvin agreed, saying of this verse, "I cordially embrace the opinion which is held by many, that we have here a prophecy concerning the kingdom of Christ." And what is that kingdom, except the time and place where all these wonderful things come together?

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Brewing of Soma

Yesterday's prayer was one for revival, since that's what the sixth verse of this psalm called for. And the eighth verse puts that into context. I picture revivals to be rather raucous occasions of manipulative preaching and spirited singing, the point being to whip people into an emotional frenzy. But if Psalm 85 is any indication, biblical revival seems almost the opposite of that

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Point of Departure

UCC Series II
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.
—Ps. 43:3

A few years ago, I came across an old schoolbook of mine. Very old. It was my second-grade spelling book, and it was nothing if not a curious volume. For instance, one lesson—the one I’d have read in November of 1967—had a brief story about the first Thanksgiving, followed by a list of words that I was supposed to learn to spell. It was a story of goodwill and inclusion, and the vocabulary words were simple and pleasant, such as beans and feast and eat. The point was well taken: so amicable were the Pilgrims and Indians (as they were called in those days), that together they could teach seven-year-olds how the letters e and a could work together to create a single clean sound.

But then a few lessons later—and this one I would’ve read sometime around March of 1968—came another story about colonial America. The picture above the story was of a frightened blond girl in her log cabin. The text was all about Indians (we still called them that a few months later) attacking her family. “The Indians were on the warpath!” the story proclaimed. And the vocabulary list included words like warpath, and arrow, and tomahawk. The lesson was clear. So untrustworthy and volatile had these Indians become, that they could now be employed to teach second-graders not only the fickle nature of the letter w, but just as importantly, its adverse effects on innocent English vowels.

Revive Us Again

Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you?
Ps 85:6
Eugene Peterson said that "nothing suffers from time quite so much as religion. The skeletal structure of obedience becomes arthritic, and the circulatory system of praise becomes sluggish."*