October 29, 2020

Goodness Gracious

Minced oaths are benign words or phrases with which we replace God's Name or even curse words. Some common ones include darn, gosh, heck, and shoot. Sugar, fudge, and dagnabbit are less common. Some others I grew up hearing were For Pete's sakeSo help me Hannah, and of course everybody knows For crying out loud! I also understand enough Spanish to know that when Latin Americans shout Wednesday! they're not always planning their week (miércoles shares its first four letters with a less savory word).

My personal favorite—and one that I use all the time—is Goodness gracious, or simply Goodness. This one is unique in that it uses one of God's main attributes in order to keep from breaking the Third Commandment. Though we're often told that God is good, Psalm 100:5 is one of the most

October 28, 2020

Sheep of His Pasture

Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.  
Ps 100:3 

Psalm 100:3 emphasizes a lot of stuff I tend to take for granted. First, what it emphasizes:
  • It reminds Israel that יהוה (and no other entity) is God,
  • It is יהוה (and not some other god) who made Israel,
  • Israel belongs to יהוה as the particular people of the Creator God,
  • יהוה cares for Israel as a shepherd cares for a flock.
I usually read this as though everybody agrees that there's only one God (יהוה), and that everybody has always acknowledged this. But of course, at the time this was written, many gods were acknowledged, and so Israel's statement of faith that יהוה was the One God and the only Creator was revolutionary. Though we give this article of faith lip service today, we, too,

October 27, 2020

Make a Joyful Noise

Psalm 100 is designated in the scriptures as A Psalm of Praise. This is the only time those precise words are used to identify a psalm. It is a brief psalm (only 5 verses), and—unusual among the psalms—overwhelmingly positive from beginning to end. Any metaphors found in this psalm are quickly identified and easily understood. It's easy to see why it is so frequently used in worship, and why the most frequently sung tune in any church I have ever served is called Old Hundredth—a centuries-old piece of music written to embrace this psalm's message of grateful joy.*

I have to admit that I too often take this psalm for granted. But there's something in these first two verses that I should give serious thought to:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.  
✙ Ps 100:1-2 
The psalmist is looking ahead here to something that was not possible at the

October 26, 2020

All Saints Communion Prayer

Eternal God, author of life abundant,
we thank you for the cloud of witnesses
who make the mysterious heaven
a home for our hearts.
Before you,
we remember those faces we love
and those spirits we treasure.

At radiant dawn and in the quiet of dusk,
we remember them.

Under summer skies with shimmering fields,
we remember them.

At the falling of autumn
with trees clad in gold,

God's Footstool

Extol the Lord our God; worship at his footstool. Holy is he!
Ps 99:5
When King David centralized political power, he also consolidated religious practice, making Jerusalem the seat both of government and of all sacrifice. The One God was no longer to be directly approached on whatever high place an individual chose, but only in the tabernacle (tent of meeting), which had found a home on Mount Zion. After David's death, his son Solomon built a permanent temple, which was said to be God's dwelling place on earth.

When humans designate some places as holier than others, there suddenly exists a grave danger of idolatry. Holy shrines naturally require special treatment. And once I begin to treat a place as special, then I quickly begin to imagine that that place's holiness is an end unto itself, forgetting what it