We are six months in, beloved ones. Our lives were changed six months ago when we were asked to stay home and live life differently, more carefully, more cautiously. So many of you reading this newsletter are leaders in your church contexts: pastors, lay leaders, committee chairpersons, the one everyone looks to for permission or approval or affirmation.
In this week’s lectionary, Psalm 19 is one of our texts. This psalm, in the NRSV, is addressed “to the leader.” So, leaders, read this psalm today. Hear the word of the Lord
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament[a] proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;[d]
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
This psalmist begins “The heavens are telling the glory of God. . .” and, thanks be to God, this is true. The pandemic has not changed nature. The heavens speak and the stars sing, and nature cries out in beauty! As we move from summer to fall, we are beginning to have gloriously cool mornings and finding a tiniest hint of color on the leaves. I am reminded that the pandemic has changed a lot in my life, but not everything. Some things remain the same. And I’m thankful. I need some things to reliably run “on time” and find me when I need a lift. It is good to focus on what is steady and true in the midst of so much change.
I am finding that our leaders are working hard to provide worship, fellowship, and community throughout this strange and interesting time. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed. You are providing steady opportunities to gather, virtually and in person, inside and outside. As clergy and laity, you are finding ways to bring the liturgy to life, to share God’s word read and proclaimed, to bring hymns to living rooms and to bring inner rooms of the heart to life. You are trying your best to offer meaningful, hopeful worship, something steady and true and dependable in its gathering. The congregation and community are looking to you and the church, looking for a familiar way to experience faith, hope and love. And they need that. We all need this connection point with God and neighbor. Worship, though looking and feeling a bit different, is familiar, comforting, compelling, and hopeful.
Ellen Charry, in The Brazos Commentary, offers insight into this psalm which speaks to me today. She shares this:
Psalm 19 hopes to attract us to the glory of God in stages. Beginning with the Creator (perhaps because contemplating God as Creator is relatively easy), the psalmist lures us to consider the wisdom of God the legislator as he carries us into deeper water. His final step is meant to stir up longing to become the beautifully pure self that God deserves from those on whom he lavishes such care and effort.
God attracts us or woos us, step by step, to deeper love, to a more steady walk, with God. As faithful ones, we begin with our love for our Creator and then find wisdom in God’s commandments for our lives. And the final step is not becoming a pure self but longing to become such for a God who loves us so fully and so well.
Where are you right now in relationship with God? Are you struggling to sink into scripture with such turmoil in our culture? Are you longing for more? Do you simply need some time to reset things?
You are not alone as you consider your relationship with God and your spiritual needs; we are reassessing life. We are or have been grieving during this time without knowing it. If you are longing for more, I encourage you to create a routine that works for this time. Even if you find yourself “running,” set several STOP times throughout the day. For example, before you make that scheduled phone call, take a one minute (timed on your watch or phone) mindfulness break. Simply breathe, perhaps meditate your name for God, for one full minute. Then make your call. You might have a mindful minute every hour. Say a prayer, simply breathe. If you find yourself with long phone calls, walk while you talk; or take a walk between zoom meetings to stretch, breathe the fresh air, and reset for the next segment of your day. When we are mindful of ourselves and our needs, there is intentional space for God to come into our minds and hearts. (adapted from St Jude’s Together web page)
I pray that as you make space for God to move in your life, you will experience a familiar calling, hear that voice that called and continually calls you to ministry. As leaders, you may feel at fault for how things are going in a struggling congregation. The psalmist (in v.12) wants to be blameless and cleansed of all hidden faults as well as great transgressions. God is with you! Ellen Charry says “Psalm 19 aims for a person’s best self in the hope that she will enlist as one of God’s radiant servants.” You are one of God’s radiant servants, giving your all, to the needs at hand. Center yourself in this knowledge.
My hope for you is to find the familiar, some comfort, in this strange land called pandemic. My hope is centered on a faithful and redeeming God who is always WITH us. Drink in Psalm 19 – there is so much here for you and for us all. Thankfully, God is here. And that is my comfort, the familiar and sustaining for this time. May you find comfort in God with you.
If you would like to view past editions of Time with Tara, follow this link: https://harbordistrictnc.org/category/from-the-ds/