Monday, December 5, 2011

On Psalm 95.

"Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put Me to the test and put Me to the proof, though they had seen Me work."  (Psalm 95:1, 3-4, 7-8)

That psalm is prayed every day in the church liturgy. Of all the psalms, when the church fathers chose what to include, what they thought we need to hear and pray daily, they chose that one. Why?

I first heard that question explored at a service at Rez last winter. I remember how Justin showed the place where the voice in the Scripture changes: from about God, to God speaking. Up through verse seven we are speaking of God, but at verse eight, He speaks to us:

"...on the day at Massah, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen me work."

That's a reference to Exodus 17. Verse 7 tells us exactly what God is referring to here, what happened at Meribah and Massah. Moses had just led the Israelites out of Egypt, into freedom...

"[Moses] called the place Massah and Meribah (testing and quarrelling), because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, 'Is the Lord among us or not?'".

I was literally breathtaken as I read the words of that psalm, the one the church fathers decided out of a hundred and fifty psalms we need to read every day. Breathtaken with conviction as I saw spelled out, by the Israelites, exactly the question my mind and heart wonder so often.

Is the Lord among us or not.

Is God really guiding this decision I have to make... or not.
Did God see my girls... or not.
Was He with them... or not.
Is any work occurring in my heart... or not.
Am I changing and growing... or not.
Did that conversation happen for a reason... or not.
Does He know how she's hurting?
Is He working in his struggle?
Could my flaws and failures screw everything up?
Does good really come from pain?
Did You know that was going to happen?

Are You among us, or not?

Awareness of that question in my heart has changed my prayers since hearing that sermon.
My prayers in fear; my prayers in uncertainty; my prayers in the various new seasons of the last year; my anguished prayers, still, looking at sweet girls whose lives seem so unfair to me.

I don't have answers. I don't like pain. I hate what those girls- what everyone who's known real suffering- have gone through. I still have very little understanding how the whole our-decisions-affect-our-lives vs. God-is-sovereign-and-guiding thing works.

But I have 'seen Him work', and I know that He is among us.

I may not know what You're doing, God.
I may not understand the balance of Your will and my decisions.
I may not like what You're doing,
and sometimes I may not see if You're 'doing' anything at all.
But, when I ask that question, I can answer: yes.
Whatever it is that You're doing-
yes, You are here. You are among us.

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Human Needs Global Resources Covenant, 2009

As fellow travelers on this journey, we commit to this covenant before God. Lord, in Your mercy, hear these our prayers:

When confronted with scarcity, need, and inadequacy, may we be nourished by the Bread of Life and the Cup of Salvation. Abundance overflows from Your table, sustaining all who come in faith. Father, help us.

When monotony blurs our vision and dulls our senses, may we encounter others as Christ did, through intentional presence in daily life, submitting as clay to be formed into vessels filled with the Spirit. Christ, guide us.

When wounded by the fractured condition of Your people, may we be united by Your Lordship in faith, hope, and love; seeing, as through the facets of a diamond, the beautiful spectrum of Your light reflected onto Your holy Church joined in praise. Spirit, empower us.

When all Creation groans, afflicted by injustice and driven to despair, may the promise of redemption root us in the hope of Your Kingdom: "Behold, I am making all things new!"

Holy Trinity, send us now into the world in peace, and grant us strength and courage to love and serve You with gladness and singleness of heart.