Holy Cross Day, Yr B, 2021: Old Testament, Gospel & Epistle Passages – Pondering on the Holy Cross

I feel like the church year is coming to the last lap before we head into Advent and the Christmas season. I have been working ahead on writing my commentaries/blogs, and can see that the number of weeks before Canadian Thanksgiving are dwindling down. That Canadian holiday marks the mid-way point for the month of October; and once we are in October, the weeks until U.S. Thanksgiving tend go quickly. But we are not there yet!

This is Holy Cross Day. And since it comes in the midst of the week, so we are taking a break at this point of the week to celebrate the day. And the process adding an extra commentary entry. Holy Cross Day is the day in the church year that we consider the symbol of the Cross itself. The Revised Common Lectionary gives full depth and breadth of scripture, and my goal is to incorporate several portions in my reflections.

“ . . . but the people became impatient on the way.” (Numbers 21:4b)

An adult version of “Are we there yet?”

“The people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.” (Verse 5)

The Israelites in the desert were guilty of ingratitude – a common human failing that is not confined to just one place or one time or one generation. I recently completed a book extolling the practice of gratitude and another one on positive thinking. Just so you know, this practices inevitably lead to joy and blessing. Ingratitude however . . .

“Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live. So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.” (Verses 6 – 9)

Can you envision that pole with the metal snake wrapped around it? This symbol has also been adapted as a symbol of healing. How ironic that the symbol of pain and death is also a symbol of resurgence of health. The same is true of the cross, a symbol of suffering under Roman law is also a symbol of renewed life beyond the life we know in this world.

“No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” ( John 3:13-15)

When the serpent in the desert was wriggling on the ground, it was feared. But up on the pole it became a symbol of the consequences of doubting Yahweh. And by recognizing that the Israelites were saved and cured. But, while the symbol of the snake and the pole and the cross are both lifted up (thank writer of the gospel of John for that parallel imagery), the symbol of the cross represents the hope that is given to us through Jesus Christ – although that may be pushing the margins of what Holy Cross Day is about.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (Verses 16 – 17)

The image of the cross is used in many ways. Sometimes the cross is empty, meaning that Jesus’ time did not end on the cross. Sometimes the cross is imaged with Jesus on it, representing the suffering and death of Jesus. The cross is not always two beams or lines that intersect. It might be ornate, such as the Celtic cross. There is also the Ankh cross. And many, many more. As many styles as there are ways to use the cross. But, beloved reader, for those who know the story of the cross each representation of it carries the same message.

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)

It has been my practice some years that during Lent I always wear a symbol of the cross somewhere; I have vast collection of jewelry that incorporate the symbol of the cross. And I have been known to add it to other pieces of jewelry. It reminds me of many aspects of the Christian life, not the least of which is Holy Cross Day.

“For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (Verses 19 -24)

I like to think about early Christians finding ways to incorporate the symbol of the cross in their lives. Surely it is not an invention of more modern times. Perhaps it was at the risk of their lives to display the cross openly. I do know when the display of crosses became more acceptable, the crosses grew more ornate. Bejeweled and made of precious metal, they become more a symbol of wealth, power and privilege that a faith statement. But stark and rough, they hark back to suffering that came on the cross. Where, I have to wonder, where is the acceptable medium? I have two cross pieces of jewelry that I rarely wear; one has different colored stones that are embedded in the beams. The other has all black ebony-colored stones and is rather Gothic. Neither are ones I wear often at all. I have an bracelet where all the charms are different styles of crosses. And I have tiny crosses that I have attached to different necklaces so I can wear the cross without “wearing” the cross. It may seem foolish to have so many symbols of the cross to wear, but as the writer of I Corinthians said, well, you know.

May you, beloved reader, spend some time thinking about the cross on Holy Cross Day. Maybe even wear one! I know I probably will!! Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – May you be wise in petitioning and praising the Lord God

I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.” (Psalm 116:1)

I must make a small confession, beloved reader. A small confession; and if any harm has been done, it is very minor. In my zeal seeing a passage on wisdom, I did not realize that the passage from the Wisdom of Solomon was cited as an alternate Psalm passage as opposed to an Old Testament passage – as I assumed it was. It has been my pattern to start out the week with the Old Testament, move to the Epistles, and then finish the week with Gospel and the Psalms. It is when I went looking for the Psalm passage that I realized my error. What to do? Change the passage or the category? Or continue on, and break a pattern?

“Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.” (Verses 2 – 3)

My situation was not as dire as the psalmist. Not even close! However, it does seem lately that I have come up against some unfortunate incidents and oops. As the psalmist did . . . .

“Then I called on the name of the LORD: “O LORD, I pray, save my life!” (Verse 4)

There is gift and blessing, beloved reader, in knowing when you should just lift up your hands to the Divine and ask for help. Or intervention. Or wisdom in knowing how to proceed.

“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD protects the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me.” (Verses 5 – 6)

In times of real need and distress, I have tried to make it a practice to present my situation to the Lord God, and then with faith and assurance see what the Divine will do and make out of the situation. Most times the outcome is better than I could have hoped or dreamed. And those times when the outcome is hard to face and handle, I have been given assurance that the Lord God is with me.

“Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. I walk before the LORD in the land of the living.” (Verses 7 – 9)

I wish you were here with me, beloved reader, so we could sit and talk. We could our circumstances and our stories, and then pray for one another. And then when that path we are to take and the outcome of our situation and circumstances are clear, we could praise the Lord God together! Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Preacher & Seeker minister to each other using the psalmist’s words

Preacher: ”Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!” I am especially joyful this day; not because it is a special day, but it comes at the end of a long week. And I have found the Divine’s Hand on me this world. So I am ready to praise the Lord!!

Seeker: “I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.”
I will join in your praise, Preacher, and am glad to hear that the Lord God helped you through.

Preacher: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.”

Seeker: “Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.”

This is definitely a psalm passage that is well matched to the passage from Isaiah we heard earlier this week. The writer of the book of Isaiah, and the prophet Isaiah, is very good at raising praises to the Lord God. But also good at exhorting his reader to proper and appropriate deeds and actions. But today, it is all praise!! “The LORD watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”

Seeker: “The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the LORD!” (Psalm 146)
May the Divine always keep watch over you, uphold you, and bless you all your days, Preacher – as you watch over others, uphold them, and bless them by your words and actions. Shalom & Selah!

Preacher: Thank you very much for your words, Seeker. The Lord God Divine does watch over all of humanity. Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Preacher & Seeker exegete a work of the psalmist

Preacher: “My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.”

Seeker: Is the psalmist is preparing once again to praise the Divine? The preface of the psalm says it is a love song. Written, maybe, when there was peace and harmony; and the psalmist’s soul turned to appreciate and express gratitude for the shalom. But before that exegesis is confirmed, let us hear more.

Preacher: “You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.”

Seeker: But is this love song written to/for the Divine? Or is it to/for someone who rules and prospers under the leadership and guidance of the Divine? So often biblical commentators assume that because these scripture passages are found in the bible, it must address the Divine. But really, this is just a sensitive person writing poetry.

Preacher: “Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions; your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad; daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.” (Psalm 45:1-2, 6-9)

Seeker: Ah, the scripture passage for today has skipped a few verses. Might the psalmist be considering & praising the Divine? Let me check the scripture notes carefully. Ah again! An alternate transcription might be “your throne is a throne of God, it endures forever and ever.” So it could well be a psalm or poem celebrating a ruler who rules under the guidance and instruction of the Divine.

Preacher: The psalmist’s words twist and turn, it is true. But as you discerned, Seeker, this could well be a poem for a human. Endowed and filled with the Divine, to be sure. But of human form and origin. Those who are so filled with the Lord God seem to rise above others. And their deeds and abilities set them apart. Praise them, yes; but as Paul so wisely says, if there is boasting to be done, let it be boasting of what the Lord God has done in a person.

Seeker: Still, there is great honor in having such a poem written for one. And that, I think, is a double-edged sword. One tends to look at what one has accomplished and forget that it was only through the blessing of the Divine. And having forgotten that, the poetry and accolades warp one’s sense of self. That leads down a dark path that ends in personal destruction. Maybe that was a path that the kings of Israel and Judah went down, taking much of their kingdoms with them.

Preacher: It is never a good idea, Seeker, to assume that the psalms are no more than poetical words from a sensitive soul. They have much to teach!

Seeker: Amen!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Preacher & Seeker have some heavenly talk

Seeker: “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts!”

Preacher: “My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.”

Seeker: “Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God.”

Words of the psalmist speak for me often; and on this theme more than ever. There are some days, Seeker, that I long from the refuge and respite of heaven. I am not young, and have seen many years. My body grows old, and the ailments burden me much. And I have seen enough of the world to know that while the Holy Presence dwells among us, this is not the primary dwelling place of the Lord of Hosts. The psalmist says, “Happy are those who live in your house, ever singing your praise. Selah”

Seeker: “Happy are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.”
I have always felt verses such as this one describe you very well Preacher. Are you not happy?

Preacher: “As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; the God of gods will be seen in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah”
I am happy, Seeker. Life is sweet and good. Companions such as yourself make the days fly. But my happiness is tinged with sadness because I know that as good as this earthly life is, the world to come will be even better. And the pain, hurt, and sadness is this world will have no place in the world to come. And as I said, some days I long for that world.

Seeker: “Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed. For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.”

Preacher: “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Preacher, if the space and place that you have made for yourself and for others by drawn on the guidance and instruction of the Divine is a small foretaste of heaven, I would be very glad and long to be there also. “O LORD of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you.” (Psalm 84)

Preacher: That is very kind of you to say, Seeker. But let us turn to the other psalm passage for this week. In this passage the psalmist has a different message and theme. “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.”

Seeker: “The face of the LORD is against evildoers, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.”

Preacher: “When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears, and rescues them from all their troubles.”

Seeker; It may make me sound sort of dense, but I am just realizing that this type of deliverance would not be needed in heaven. Heaven is already aligned with the Divine; and in heaven all would dwell in peace. Who would not want that type of existence? And yet there are those who destine believe in the Divine and forfeit that type of existence.

That is a severe judgment on unbelievers, and I shudder to think that would happen to anyone. But you are right – scripture tells us that some will not be welcomed into heaven. Here on earth, the psalmist says, “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD rescues them from them all. He keeps all their bones; not one of them will be broken.”

Seeker: “Evil brings death to the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.”
I have heard you, Preacher, plead to the unbelievers to turn towards or turn back towards the Lord God. That on this side of heaven it is never too late to embrace belief.

Preacher: “The LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.” (Psalm 34:15-22)
That is why, Seeker, as long as the Divine gives me voice and strength I will proclaim the Lord God as the only refuge and strength that will endure.

Seeker: Shalom & Selah, Preacher, Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Preacher and Seeker talk wisdom as a guide to living a Christian life

Seeker: “Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.”

Wisdom has been our theme this week, Seeker. And this passage is matched to King Solomon’s request for wisdom in ruling the people that had become his. Do you think this passage is a good companion piece to the Old Testament passage and the emphasis on wisdom?

Seeker; “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever.” It does seem more like a passage that a member of humanity who has Godly wisdom would say, rather than a celebration OF Godly wisdom.

Preacher: “He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds; the LORD is gracious and merciful. He provides food for those who fear him; he is ever mindful of his covenant.” T
hat is my thinking too. If this were a praise passage for a member of humanity, I would say that person shows wisdom by showing compassion. But the Divine is compassion personified. The Divine is also wisdom personified, but (if I may) it is the Divine’s compassion that powers the gifts and blessings to humanity.

Seeker: “He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the heritage of the nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy.”
And it shows the wisdom of humanity to trust the works and precepts of the Divine. The psalmist shows his wisdom in praising them. It cannot be said that the Divine does not have wisdom. But these things are done out of compassion. Maybe, just maybe, one of the greatest pieces of wisdom is to show compassion!

Preacher: Ah, Seeker, you have identified a core piece of wisdom yourself in that thought! King Solomon did show wisdom being wanting to be a wise king, but he is also known for compassion that must have come from that wisdom!

Seeker: ‘They are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever.” (Psalm 111)
I assume, Preacher, “they” are the trustworthy precepts, and surely two of the precepts are wisdom and compassion. And remembering that “fear” of the Lord is honoring and worshiping the the Divine, and emulation Jesus the Messiah who is the embodiment of compassion and wisdom. It just all had to be considered together.

Preacher: The other Psalm passage that is matched to the passage from Proverbs concerning the character and trait of Wisdom echoes the same sort of theme. Listen! “O fear the LORD, you his holy ones, for those who fear him have no want. The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.”

Seeker: “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.”

Preacher: “Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:9-14)

Seeker: That is wisdom. To live your life according to those precepts, that is wisdom.

Preacher: Shalom & Selah, Seeker, Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Preacher & Seeker speak up to assure hope for everyone

Who is Preacher? Who is Seeker? I have been in both in my life, as I am sure you have been too beloved reader. The creation of Preacher and Seeker was my attempt to get “outside” of myself and see the scripture passages from two differing perspectives; a seminary-trained learned spiritual director and pastor – a role I once thought I would fill. And a earnest but inexperienced follow of Christ with no particular Christian affiliation and one who would take some things at face value and be diligent (maybe sometimes over stressing) in applying Christian principles to daily life, and chaffing when the two clash. The two characters were meant to provide a 360 degree approach to scripture and Christian living. But as real life often is, one would have a better insight and surprise the other with wisdom. Yes, both exist in me; and it has become a joy to bring them out each week. The Psalm passages have been a natural fit because, well, quite honestly I see both perspectives in the psalmist.

The reason I use italics for both speakers’ voices is to model the convention in play writing that the actors parts in are italics. And yes, the psalmist is an “actor” speaking the part of “psalmist”. That is why the scripture is in italics; and proper formation demands that quote scripture is bracketed in quotation marks. It makes for busy fingers on the keyboard!

One more thing – I do give careful consider to who says what line of scripture. So, to the passage for today!

Seeker: “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.”

Preacher: “My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad.”

Seeker: Preacher, how can the soul boast and yet be humble? Is the word “in” that strong a exemption for the soul not to boast?

Preacher: It would seem the answer is yes. Paul picked up the practice of using “in” to indicate that the soul or believer was boasting about the Lord or glorifying the Lord without the intention of elevating the self. Of course, believing in the Lord is that sign of Godly wisdom, and that can be credited to the believer. But does not change the “humble” factor. Or maybe the psalmist is saying that the humble should be glad to hear someone boasting about the magnificence of the Lord God, and take that as a cue and clue to believe in the Divine.

That makes sense, because the psalmist says, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”

Preacher: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Seeker: “Look to him, and be radiant; so your faces shall never be ashamed.”
So the believer of the Divine should not be ashamed, but should not be boastful either. But should be humble. That does not sound like the King David that we read about in the Old Testament. Of course, there is not definitive evidence was David, nor was only David. This psalmist seems to be an interesting mix of personality traits.

Indeed. Then he says, “This poor soul cried, and was heard by the LORD, and was saved from every trouble.”

Seeker: It is hard to think of the psalmist as a common every day man. His perspective seems to come from someone above the fray of everyday common life. And given the times it was written in, mostly likely the psalmist was male.

Preacher: I considered for a time that the psalmist might be female; but as you point out, the times that it was written in do not support a women having the education and leisure to write. However, the psalmist gets in touch with his feminine side (if you will) and if not at the level of the general populace, it does seem suited for instruction to humanity in general as opposed to segregated education and instruction.

Seeker: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them.”
It does seem to give hope and fodder for pondering and meditation. And if at times it seems to be out of step with our modern world, it is good that believers step away from the milieu of society and steep themselves in spiritual thinking that transcends time and place.

Preacher: “O taste and see that the LORD is good; happy are those who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 34:1-8)

Seeker: Shalom & Selah, Preacher. Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Trying to follow the difficult lessons of the Christian life, Part II; Preacher and Seeker talk about this lesson

Preacher: “Yet . . . . “

Seeker: “Yet” what, Preacher?

Preacher: The previous verses of this psalm, Seeker, talk about the Divine’s anger and rage at the refugees from Egypt. They have complained to the Lord God and Moses, whined about the conditions of the camp and the supplies, or lack of them. And have completely forgot they have escaped from cruel masters who worked them to death and sought to kill any hope they had. For all of their complaining yet, “he commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven; he rained down on them manna to eat, and gave them the grain of heaven.”

Seeker: When what they truly deserved was a quick kick in their “memory” of what they had endured. As I remember, they longingly remembered the fleshpots which was a source of food. But what good does food do you when it only serves to strength the body so someone can take advantage of you and that strength?

Preacher: Exactly, Seeker! “Mortals ate of the bread of angels; he sent them food in abundance.”

Seeker: “He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind; he rained flesh upon them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall within their camp, all around their dwellings.”

Preacher: The Old Testament passage that was presented this week briefly referenced the passage where King David had abundance of every good thing, yet was not content with what the Lord God gave him and craved more. David did see his sin, when the prophet Nathan pointed it out to him. The Israelites, I am not so sure.

Seeker: “And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved.” (Psalm 78:23-29)
Taken as a whole, meaning the people of Israel and Judah – the ancient called and chosen people – the Lord God was very merciful to them. We often feel, I think, that we are alone in our suffering and blame the Divine for not doing something to help us. We forget that the Divine is right there with us, in each moment of our suffering and that is how we get from moment to moment. And the Gospel passage, where the crowd wanted more food that came without their having to work for it. Jesus presented them with something better, but we are not sure if they understood what Jesus was offering them.

Preacher: Humanity can be a pretty dense lot, Seeker!

Seeker: Isn’t that the truth!!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – Understanding the optimism of the psalmist; Preacher and Seeker narrate it for us

Seeker: “All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your faithful shall bless you.”

Preacher: I get this image, Seeker, of a measuring rod set up to see if believers and followers of the Divine had blessed the Divine enough to qualify as faithful. It is not such an odd thing since so often the ancient called and chosen people of God were accused of not worshiping Yahweh enough or properly.

Seeker: “They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.”
Yes, Preacher, I can see that image also. It is not one the psalmist intended; but then it was the years after the psalmist (or so one theological stream of thinking tells us) that the Israelites and Judahites went down wrong paths.

Preacher: “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.”
The psalmist did have great optimism. And according to biblical commentators could see down the the coming of Jesus Christ. Yet it seems the intervening years were dim mists to him that he could not see how far astray the ancient called and chosen people would go.

The psalmist also said, “The LORD upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down.” That might speak to his optimism. Or he could just be referring to himself. We do need hope, Preacher, that we are never so far gone that the Divine could not lead us back.

Preacher: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.”
We read about this in both the Old Testament passage and Elisha’s household, and Jesus feeding the 5,000 out of five loaves and two fishes. Again, the psalmist has optimism.

Seeker: “You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing.”

Preacher: “The LORD is just in all his ways, and kind in all his doings.”

Seeker: I think, Preacher, if there was a measuring rod that calculated the blessings that the faithful bestow on the Lord God, psalmist would receive high marks. And I think that would be worthy to strive for.

Preacher: “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:10-18)
It is a very simple but efficient system, Seeker. You bless the Lord, and you are better able to see the ways that the Divine blesses you!

Seeker: Shalom & Selah, Preacher, Shalom & Selah!

Sundays After Pentecost, Yr B, 2021: Psalm Passage – How the Divine is good to humanity

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1)

The other psalm passage, in case you were wondering, is the psalmist’s testimony that the Lord God will be faithful to David and David’s line. It is true, after a fashion, because Jesus’ earthly father Joseph was in the line of David. But before that point in the lineage of David there were many poor rules and set backs. Evidenced by the fact that Joseph was a humble carpenter and not residing in the court of any king. The other passage, Psalm 89 verses 20 – 37, was written in seems in a position of power and security. Psalm 23, however, is written for the “little people”, those who may not have great power but have great hope.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul. ” (Verses 2 – 3a)

Take special note of this, beloved reader. Having the Divine in life does not mean you are immune to or never have problems in your life. It means what problems may come will not permanently keep you or weigh you down. Neither does it mean that you body will not suffer, age, or die. But your soul will be safeguarded. When you are in the midst of trouble, and you cry out “Why is this happening to me?!?! How could the Lord God allow it?!?!”, the Spirit will gently ask you, “Which “me” do you mean? The mortal body that will die or the immortal soul that will be lifted up to heaven?”. And if you are wise, this will silence you and comfort you. My physical body has so many illnesses and ailments that I cannot keep track of it. My life has has disappointments, frustrations, and setbacks. But my soul is safe.

“He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff– they comfort me.” (Verses 3b – 4)

I suspect it is these reassurances that have made Psalm 23 so popular and well-known. And why it is quoted so much. Do not, however, let its prevalence obscure the deep well of comfort it provides. Sufficiency, comfort, restoration, and safety are precious gifts. With these gifts, a person could face a whole lifetime of earthly bodily-based problems. But there is more.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.” (Verses 5 – 6)

These gifts and blessings are given right in the face of all that besets you. Right there in front of the whole world a table of grace is laid out for you. And all that believe in the Author and Creator of this ongoing feast are invited and welcomed to share in it! Shalom & Selah!