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Faith Matters

February 11

Oh, how good and pleasant it is,
when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head
that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,
and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon
that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the Lord has ordained the blessing:
life for evermore.

Psalm 133

Of course this is very gender specific but if I set this aside, this psalm celebrates community. My Old Testament prof thought it was the best psalm ever.

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Faith Matters

February 10

give us life, that we may call upon your Name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Psalm 80:18b-19

With all the deaths from illness and terrorism, I find my hope is not in political systems but in God alone.

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Faith Matters

February 9

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the whole earth.
Sing to the Lord and bless his Name;
proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Psalm 96:1-2

This psalm goes on too speak of the ocean and mighty waters. I never thought of the ocean as singing. I suppose this is because the sound of the waves is so often associated with sleep sounds. I personally do not find these sounds sleep inducing. I find myself paying attention to each incoming wave and I listen as it recedes. This is not sleep inducing.

Thinking about waves as a song tells me that ocean sounds have been more thought of as rhythm other than melody. I know that waves are not all the same. They can be soft or loud, rhythmic or staccato. At times they are almost quiet, pianissimo and then forte with a crash and a bang.

This then is the song of salvation, praising God’s saving work in the world.

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Faith Matters

February 7

Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head;
my lying foes who would destroy me are mighty.
Must I then give back what I never stole?
Psalm 69:4

Dr. Li Wenliang, whistleblower on the existence of the coronavirus, was detained and reprimanded for alerting everyone about the danger of this disease. He succumbed to it on February 7, 2020. People spread this quotation to honor him:

He who holds the firewood for the masses is the one who freezes to death in the wind and snow

The righteous have always suffered at the hands of the wicked. God knows both the suffering and the good work of Dr. Li. Rest In Peace.

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February 6

O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

Psalm 16:5-6

This was inscribed on the sundial outside of the library at my seminary. As I had a difficult time with the ordination process and was never ordained in this denomination, I have thought of these words as excluding me and only pertaining to those privileged few who the denomination deemed worthy. It has always made me angry because I was excluded.

Reading this psalm today, I now see that I can claim these words for myself. Jesus does not exclude me. Although I am not worthy, Jesus declares me worthy as Jesus declares all those who trust in him worthy to enter the kingdom.

Jesus is my portion. My boundary lines do fall in pleasant places.

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February 5

The hills stand about Jerusalem;
so does the Lord stand round about his people,
Psalm 125:2

This verse reminds me of the scene in 2 Kings where the city was threatened by a military enemy and everyone was very frightened. The prophet, I think it was Elisha, is calm because he can see God’s chariots of fire all around the city in the hills. Chariotswere the tanks of their day. This was God standing between God’s people and their enemy. Although militaristic in character, the unseen presence of God protecting the people with overwhelming force always thrills me. God’s power is more than I can comprehend.

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February 4

It is better to rely on the Lord

than to put any trust in flesh.

Psalm 118:8

When we read the psalm appointed for the day in church we read it responsively

  • in unison

  • by half verse

  • By whole verse

With the lector leading and the congregation following. Any way it is done, it is done in a monotone.

Many of the psalms (I cannot be sure yet if all the psalms) are expressive of joy, anger, sorrow, despair or delight. In its sometimes repetitive structure, this psalm celebrates God’s protection and saving power.

It is good to know Jesus has my back.

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February 3

“Be still, then, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Psalm 46:11-12

God is in charge; therefore, I am safe.

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February 2

Psalm 24

This has been my favorite psalm since I was a girl. I have no idea how I learned it in some halting way. I’m not that good at memorization. I do not have an identic memory. I only remember partially.

The mystery to me is how I learned it enough. My mother’s voice sounds in my mind. We did not read the Bible. Perhaps I heard it in school? I went to public school when the Bible was still read every morning. It is why I know the Lord’s Prayer. I learned it there. We usually read the psalms so perhaps it was read frequently.

It was the King James or Revised Standard. The language was so ccaptivating. The question of who and what this who would be like. The vastness of making the earth and the wonder of establishing it on the floods. The gates were not as interesting, but the procession was.

It still thrills.

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Talking with Strangers

Listening to Luke’s Gospel (Luke 2:25-38) this morning in church I realized what a strange story the Presentation of Jesus really is.

Picture this. A young mother and her husband (young or old it really doesn’t matter) and their infant son, less than six weeks old, go to the temple. They are accosted by both Simeon and Anna. We act as if this is perfectly normal. Two old people come up to them and say crazy things. Simeon even grabs the child away from his mother to bless him. Simeon is described as just and devout and living in Jerusalem while Anna is homeless, spending all her time in the temple precincts. She must have looked like a scarecrow since she fasted all the time.

People were probably used to her sayings. Did they make any sense to them or did they just write her off, trying to avoid her when they came in? Did Simeon keep his revelations to himself or did he speak in the temple courtyards?

We typically avoid the homeless and people making pronouncements on the streets. We call them mentally ill, disturbed or just religious fanatics.

Would they have a word for me if I listened? Would I marvel like Mary and Joseph or would I be in a hurry to leave them behind? Prudence would suggest removing myself from any situation, especially when physical contact was involved.

Does God still speak in this way to us?