Monday: Psalm 24, 25, 26, 1 Chronicles 28, Ephesians 6

Psalm 24, 25, 26
1 Chronicles 28
Ephesians 6

from Kelly Williamson

Two passages stuck out to me while reading the Psalms for today. The first being Psalm 24:1-2:

"The earth is the Lord's and all that fills it,
the world and those who dwell therein,
for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers."

I think the first stood out in light of the climate crisis town hall that the Democratic presidential candidates spoke at recently and in light of a book I've recently begun reading called The Overstory, whose main characters are, arguably, trees. Its jacket cover states its "a sweeping, impassioned work of activism and resistance that is also a stunning evocation of - and paean to - the natural world." (if you had to Google what paean means, so did I!)

The second being the refrain occurring in Psalm 24: 7 and 24:9:

"Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in."

The second stood out, because our son recently learned to tilt his head back during bath time to have the shampoo rinsed out of his head. For months, I tried to tell him to "put your head back" or "tilt your chin up' but nothing got through to him. However, I recently unlocked the magic words - "look up to the ceiling". Its revolutionized bath time. Before this, he would cry during the hair-rinsing portion of his bath as water poured down his not-tilted-back face. Now he gets it. He smiles and lifts up his head. He enjoys having the soap washed out of his hair.

How are these two passages connected? I don't know, maybe they're not. But I do think God lays His words on our heart in specific ways at specific times, so maybe they are connected! The first passage gives me deep discomfort with the state of God's natural creation, the ways in which humans have not been good stewards of His works, how we've taken it from the Lord - what is His creation - and exploited it for our own gain. The second gives me great encouragement that by lifting up my head, goodness shall follow, just as Malachi has learned during bath time. As the passage directly preceding this refrain suggests, when "you seek the face of the God of Jacob" and lift up your head to seek Him, you will receive blessing from the Lord (v. 5) and the King of glory may enter.

So how do I lift up my head in the context of the earth and all that fills it? And when I do, am I doing so seeking the face of the God of Jacob, expecting to be met with blessing from the Lord, expecting God to more fully enter my life in the context of where I've lifted my head?

Psalm 27:13-14 provides encouragement on this front."I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!"

God will restore the brokenness in our relationship with His creation and I will see the fullness of his works in the land of the living. I can lift up my head and meet the challenges of today's climate crisis, knowing that I can take action to rebuild God's kingdom now, knowing that by lifting my head I'll be inviting God into the discomfort I feel, knowing that with patience I will revel in the fullness of His creation when the Lord's reconciling work is complete here on earth, our physical earth.

I'm a dancer turned tax attorney, recent Davis Square resident, mother to bath-loving Malachi and a new yet-to-be-named (or born) baby, an ENFJ and Enneagram 3 (probably with a 4-wing, given I'm a dancer turned tax attorney...) and I'm unapologetic for liking things like the Enneagram types and Love Languages to understand people better.

Monday: Psalm 5, 6, 7, 2 Chronicles 20, Ephesians 2.1-10

Psalm 5, 6, 7
2 Chronicles 20
Ephesians 2.1-10

from John ZuHone

The human plight and its solution could not be clearer in today’s Psalm and New Testament readings:

“For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
    evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
    you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
    the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” – Psalm 5:4-6 

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” – Ephesians 2:1-3

And yet:

“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
    will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    in the fear of you.” – Psalm 5:7

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”—Ephesians 2:4-9

In spite of who we are, but by the abundance of God’s steadfast love and mercy, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been saved. It is sometimes alleged that the idea of being saved by grace through faith can lead to moral complacency (St. Paul answered this charge in Romans 6). However, if our works earned us God’s favor, then it seems that our performance of them would be singularly focused on making sure they were “good enough” to avoid his wrath. 

Instead, since salvation is the gift of God, this frees our works to be for his glory and for the needs of our neighbor. These are the “good works which God prepared beforehand,” the works that God is using to build for the future kingdom. As John Calvin once noted, “It is therefore faith alone which justifies, and yet the faith which justifies is not alone.”

Monday: Psalm 119.49-88, 2 Samuel 7, Ephesians 2.1-10

Psalm 119.49-88
2 Samuel 7
Ephesians 2.1-10

from Amanda Bennett

Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. – Psalm 119:67

When my life was consumed by PTSD, my best attempts to describe my inner turmoil always felt like code for something else, a gesture toward a more basic affliction underlying the specifics of my sorrow. My complete personal cataclysm exposed but did not cause the shattering at my center. When my treatment finally began to work and my mental chaos died down, I was able to name the woundedness that did not shift with medication: something was broken between me and God, a hole where union should be, a loss of intimacy that felt both primal and urgent, a tear across the ground of my spirit which is most properly called original sin.

I had always believed that my closeness to God was in direct proportion to the minutes I spent in prayer. When I lost the capacity to sit in silence, I came face to face with my helplessness. I had never quite reached the basic ground of my selfhood in my spiritual disciplines, and I certainly never healed it. Even when prayer returned to me, I felt the gap in my relationship with God, and I no longer believed that if I prayed the right amount and knew the Bible well enough I would one day wake up whole. The distance from God I was aware of enough to avoid acknowledging no longer seemed like a trick of light I could resolve if given time.

I don’t have an explanation for suffering, but I know what affliction did for me: it stripped me down to the nakedness of my spirit and showed me my true poverty. Grief revealed the ache of God’s absence at the bottom of my heart, and by unveiling my soul to me it created the possibility for healing. I learned to ask that this distance might be filled. I cannot say that I perfectly keep God’s law now, but in the last several months I have begun to be conscious of the abiding presence of Christ at the core of my spirit, an immutable bond grounded in grace underneath everything I think and do. Deeper than absence is union.

I study theology at Boston College and always end up quoting the Nicene Creed after I drink cocktails. I never voluntarily end conversations, and I am allergic to practical application and action steps. You can find me in a room by scanning the room for my curly red hair and exaggerated fear of being misunderstood.