By: Brittany Fiscus-van Rossum
Reflection—v.3, He who keeps you will not slumber.
When reading this psalm, I cannot help but to think of the harsh conditions of the outdoors. Have you ever sat out in the sun too long without shade or enough sun-block, knowing your skin is burning and your body temperature is rising? Have you ever shivered as the wind whipped you and cold rain drops landed on your face, knowing that soon you will be shivering and chilled to the bone? Such feelings can capture the intensity of feeling unequipped, uncared for, and unsafe. Sometimes the only relief comes when you rush indoors with a deep sigh, trusting that you are now protected from the elements. However, many of us do not have the safety and comfort of such places of relief. Whether it is because they are fleeing unsafe conditions in far-off countries, or living on the streets within our very own neighborhoods, many of our brothers and sisters find it difficult to experience the relief of a safe night’s sleep indoors. But, as Christians, let us acknowledge that we have a God who wants that for us, and for all humans. Our God is one who would shield us from the harsh elements, and keep us while we slumber. Let us participate in this, God’s work, that all may feel such relief and protection.
Prayer God, you stay up while we sleep. You never slumber. May we do a better job of caring for one another, even as you so lovingly care for us all.
By: Chad Hyatt
Psalm 72.1-7, 18-19
Reflection—v. 4, ‘defend the cause of the poor of the people’
Psalm 72 paints a clear picture of Jewish expectation for God’s kingdom by the portrait of an ideal king. The king is praised for a prosperous peace and the defeat of foes. But the key to the success of this king is ‘compassion for the weak and needy’ (72.13). The ideal king ‘delivers the needy who cry out, those who have no helper’ (72.12). This king ‘redeems their lives from oppression and violence; their blood is precious in his eyes’ (72.14). As one who works on the streets, not only does this psalm describe our hopes for justice and liberation, but it seems to understand the grinding cruelty of poverty—what it is like to feel the humiliation of ‘needing’ what others take for granted, what it is like to go everywhere looking and to find ‘no one to help,’ that oppression is ‘violence’ and that it kills all of us. This psalmist knows that a truly just king must value the life of each person who is poor—not just as an impersonal group or as the beneficiaries of some benevolent program. This is what the kingdom of God looks like. This is what God wants. This is precisely the ideal king we see embodied in the poor Nazarene, Jesus.
Prayer O Nazarene, teach us your compassion in the depths of our hearts.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection-—v. 12, ‘Restore the joy of your salvation to me, and sustain in me a willing spirit.’
If I haven’t been exercising for some length of time, I forget how good it makes me feel and how necessary it is for me to remain sane in my day to day life. I know it intellectually, but that isn’t enough to get me off my tukhus. As easily as I lose my sanity, flexibility, and strength when not exercising, I lose my joy when I choose to live outside God’s grace. We tell ourselves that to be truly happy we must be free–and to be free is to do whatever we want, whenever we want. But that usually leads us down a very unhappy, self-centered, and destructive path. To experience the grace and joy always being offered to us by God, we must shed the self-centered, destructive habits we have developed. Sometimes this process feels counter-intuitive, and it is easier to fall back into old patterns than to consistently practice a new way of being. We must continue to turn to God for our inspiration if we are to continue to live freely in God’s love.
Prayer God, help me to be less self-centered and to live more joyfully in you.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 4 and 7, ‘sin’ and ‘de-sin’
Since most of us are not able to read the psalms in Hebrew, we sometimes miss out on the simplicity and beauty of the original poetic language of the biblical writings. In verse four of this psalm, the writer confesses to God that ‘against you, you alone, have I sinned’ (root, chata, with basic stem). In verse seven, the writer pleads to be ‘de-sinned’ (same root, chata, with intensive stem). The word is commonly translated as ‘cleansed.’ Our bad behaviors are something to be removed, something of which we must let go, something that clouds and obscures our true, beloved selves. God restores us, re-making us with a clean heart and right spirit. We are renewed, becoming humbly aware of God’s presence and full of joy once more. But we must give in to being re-made; such transformation comes only after honest confession and an openness and readiness to change.
Prayer God, cleanse my heart and make it right once more; all I have and all I am is before you, and I hold nothing back–I am ready for change.
By: Maggie Leonard
Reflection—v. 1, ‘Have mercy on me…’
I find this plea striking–and I don’t think this phrase can be uttered as anything other than a plea. Mercy is a request for compassion when justice would require otherwise. By definition, it is undeserved and born out of love. A cry for mercy comes from a person in a desperate circumstance who feels the unbearable weight and ache of lowliness and emptiness. A cry for mercy comes from a person who sees no way out, from someone who needs help and has thrust their pride aside. It is a confession of desperate and impossible need, and it is the first step toward healing. So often, we do not even know when we need mercy. We walk around blind to our own shortcomings. During this Lenten season, may we come face to face with our brokenness. May we empty ourselves so that we might be ready to receive the only grace that can make things better—God’s mercy and love.
Prayer God, help me to see myself for who I am: one beloved by you and ever in need of your mercy.