Let us pray.
Our souls are athirst for you.
Pour your goodness over us
As a rapid and a flood.
The Psalms are a really underrated book of the Bible.
We generally read them together in worship.
Sometimes, we even sing them!
But too often, we’re not really paying attention to what we’re saying.
Preachers rarely choose the Psalm as the preaching text of the day.
There’s always something more interesting to be found in the
Journeys of Elijah
Or something Jesus says in the Gospel,
Or a tricky doctrine Paul’s expounding his one of his letters.
The Psalms are expressed so beautifully,
That we run the risk of over-explaining them
And destroying that poetry.
“As the deer longs for the water brooks
So longs my soul for you God”
“God, I’m thirsty.”
But the Psalms are the Prayerbook of the Bible.
They express the deepest longings
Lodged deep in the most secret corners of our heart.
They offer words when our prayers
Are sighs too deep for words.
A priest in this diocese,
Whose daughter was tragically murdered,
Has said that his greatest source of comfort in grief
Has been the Psalms.
The anger they often express,
The challenging, controversial imprecatory Psalms,
Which call for the destruction of our enemies,
Give us permission to cast every care upon God,
Even those cares we would never dare to say aloud.
Psalm 42 lays out some of those cares.
The Psalmist expresses a longing for God
As fervent as a wild animal’s longing for water
In a dry and weary land.
Imagine: you are lost in the desert.
Have been lost, for several days.
You’re out of supplies,
And you haven’t seen anyone who can help.
You can see the oasis ahead,
And you fear it’s a mirage –
In your mind, all your friends are mocking you,
They say it’s a mirage,
You’re a fool for trusting the image –
But your longing continues.
You can’t help but remember
When you were surrounded by those who shared your feelings,
When you were able to go into the house of God
And celebrate festivals with all the pomp and circumstance
Of a Royal Wedding.
And so you chastise yourself.
You ask your soul why it is so full of heaviness and disquieted.
You remind yourself that God’s love
Isn’t just a still pool
In the middle of the desert.
It overwhelms you,
Like a rushing cataract.
If you open yourself up to God,
You will find the rapids and floods
Now that’s a Psalm worth taking a look at.
I think that for many of us,
There are times when we feel lost in that desert.
We imagine that we are being mocked and jeered
For daring to have hope in a cynical age.
It’s hard to imagine earnest desire
For a God who hasn’t unambiguously shown himself in ages
Ever being considered cool.
Like as the deer.
But God is always there.
Not always in the way we expect him to show up.
Elijah expected God to show up with power and might.
Elijah expected that God would punish those who had mocked him,
Would prevent Jezebel from having the power
To murder God’s prophets.
He expected to meet God in a wind so strong
It split mountains
And broke rocks into pieces,
But the Lord was not in the wind.
He expected to meet God in an earthquake
That overturns the world,
Like the earthquake at Christ’s resurrection,
But the Lord was not in the earthquake.
He expected to meet God in a fire,
But the Lord was not in the fire.
The Lord appeared to Elijah
In a sound of sheer silence.
A sound of sheer silence.
Has the whole world in his hands
And can bend the whole universe to his will
And yet chooses to appear
In a sound of sheer silence.
It’s no wonder that that same God
Chooses to defeat death
And so when we are lost in the desert,
When we are surrounded by mockers
And those who think we are fools
For remembering the rushing cataracts of God’s love
In an age where the world shows so little love,
We remember that God is always with us,
Ready to be seen,
As soon as we know how to look.
Not in the place of perfect power
But in the sound of sheer silence.
I invite you to join me in praying through the Psalms this summer.
You could follow the lectionary for the Daily Office,
Found in the green BAS.
If you want to start with Evening Prayer tonight,
You’ll find the Psalms appointed on page 478,
Psalms 19 and 46.
You could look at the Weekly Round Up,
And pray the Psalm for the coming Sunday over and over.
Next week’s will be Psalm 77.
You could listen to musical settings –
YouTube has a whole lot of them!
I invite you to join me in seeking after God
With a thirst as fierce
As a deer
Who longs for water.
Consider the power of the Psalms
As an aid to prayer.
How do they speak to our prayers and longings today?
How do they put our sighs too deep for words
Into poetry so powerful,
It has been prayed daily by Christians
For two millennia.
The Lord is waiting.
Come and seek his face.
Not to be found where we expect,
But in the sound of sheer silence,
In the delight of poetry
That calls his name.