Because Grace Church has held Morning and Evening Prayer online every day this week I’ve been spending more time with the Psalmists. Being with them feels like riding a roller coaster.
For example, Psalm 102 begins by diving head first into a litany of sufferings, then loops around to marvel at the greatness of the Lord who laid the foundations of the world and comes to rest in the acceptance that although we will wear out like a garment, God will remain.
I usually find the psalmist’s, schizophrenic prayer life hard to follow but now, I too am lamenting, glorifying God and repenting at the same time.
Moments after judging my neighbors for hoarding paper towels, I told my wife yesterday morning that we should invest in twenty bags of dried beans on Amazon. Too afraid to actually read the news, I open one eye to see a graph of the COVID 19 virus rocketing off the screen on my iphone in a matter of days.
Ten minutes after that, I’m ecstatic to watch a video of what has happened outside now that the terrified humans have been quarantined for a few weeks.
Today, swans are gliding across and dolphins are playing in the canals of Venice where the sediment has settled and the pollution has cleared because the tourists left and the gondolas are docked. At this very moment, wild boars are scratching their backs on shrubs along the highways of Barcelona and deer are wandering through the subways of Tokyo, asking the few people not sheltered in place for rice crackers.
You really can’t help rooting for the deer, the swans, the dolphins and the wild boar, can you? And while we watch with horror as businesses shutter and millions of people get pink slips, this is another day when, absent us, the air outside is cleaner than it has been in a life time.
And then there sight of your face on Zoom, the sound of your voice on the phone. They have filled me with a love for you I confess I’m usually too distracted to notice. Also, complicated relationships have suddenly have become simple. That air too has cleared.
The Lord has insisted on a Sabbath. The Lord has stripped us of the illusion that we are our own gods and the masters of our own days and destinies. The Lord has bent back our fingers and humbled us.
The Psalmists lived in exile like we do now. They were regularly terrified by what would happen next. They felt punished, sometimes justly, for valuing the wrong thing, for ignoring the suffering of others and worshipping what isn’t God. And they were astonished by the gift of being alive, the glory of this world and by the hands of the One who made it.
Even now, when with the Psalmists,our mouths too dry up like pot sherds as we listen to the news, the silence at rush hour sounds like church during confession, the breeze through the kitchen window plays a hymn of dirt and spring and the sunrise sings verse 25 of Psalm 103,” …. The heavens are the works of Your hands.”
And because we have nowhere to be, we have seen and heard it all. We have remembered how precious this life is and with a trail of dread, joy, fear and awe in Her wake, God has drawn very near.
“Don’t waste now.” advises the Psalmist. “You are learning where God is to be found.”
Your sister in Christ