May 9, 2020

Turning of the Rivers

The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches all the inhabitants of the earth—he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds.
—Psalm 33:13-15

Words written over three centuries ago by a biblical scholar named Matthew Henry give me insight into these verses of the 33rd Psalm*:
God still molds our hearts, turns them as rivers of water, however he pleases, to serve his own purposes. He darkens or enlightens people's understanding, stiffens or bows their wills as he is pleased to make use of them. He that fashions our hearts fashions them all. And our hearts are like our faces: though there is a great difference, and such variety that no two faces are exactly alike, so no two hearts are exactly of the same temper—yet there is such a similarity that, in some things, all faces and all hearts agree...
Belief in an almighty God seems no longer to be stylish. The United Church of Christ is a church in which process theology has found a home—a school of thought in which God is less than all-powerful, but incredibly all-present. God is forever at work within creation to influence, but not to control—at least that's my reading of process theology. And though Matthew Henry would definitely have believed in an almighty God, I can find agreement with process theology in the above quotation. It's all in the turning of the rivers of waters. I can envision these streams as strands that are woven together, separated, and redirected, each maintaining a unique identity even as they become part of a greater whole. Such are our hearts as they are influenced (literally flowed into) by the Spirit of their Creator. Thus we become one with God and one with each other—the same and yet unique.

In this way, when I think of God looking upon us and observing us, I might remember that God is Judge. But I am also free to remember that God's observance and knowledge of me are much more intimate than that. God is part of what I do, and all my actions are a witness to the faith I profess. Just as God influences me, I might also—through my words and deeds—influence my environment for good or ill. May my stream not muddy the waters of the great river of life, but bring clarity and refreshment.

Thank you, Lord, for your influence over my life. May the influence I exert on those around me reflect your abiding, loving presence; in the Name of Christ, who taught me to pray: Our Father...

*Paraphrased to make more sense to 21st century readers.

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