8th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray.

Oh God, may we seek justice

That your will may be done on earth

As it is in heaven. Amen.

………….

I love lists.

Lists are the best.

I love making them,

I love looking at them,

I love revising and updating them,

And I particularly love

Crossing them off.

The satisfaction that comes

When I get to click the box

On my To Do List app

Is immense.

I have been known to add already completed tasks

To the list

Just to get that thrill

When I get to check it off

Just minutes after it went on.

The problem is that I am also a profoundly lazy person.

So I will often seek cheaper and cheaper thrills,

Prioritize the quicker of the tasks,

Not the most important,

Because important projects generally take time and effort.

Checking off “sermon prep”

Offers the same amount of thrill as

“Check voicemail,”

But one of those sure takes longer.

You can see why I might check off the quick and easy boxes

Before putting in the hours it takes

To really do something like “sermon prep” well.

It would be easy for some of the most crucial tasks

To fall by the wayside

Because they were crowded out

By those more conducive

To instant gratification.

So I understand how the Israelites

Have let their priorities get out of whack

In our Old Testament readings today.

Both the prophet Isaiah

And the Psalmist

Have got some words of judgment for us this morning.

They both describe

In exquisite detail

God laying out his case against his people

As though he were prosecuting them in a court of law.

God’s not just offering a quick word of correction.

God calls for witnesses

To observe his judgment,

Rendered by the one who calls the morning

And bids the night,

Robed in consuming flame

Wreathed by raging storm.

God’s judgment is not against the Israelite’s worship practices.

They are doing a great job

Of offering the animal sacrifices he has prescribed.

The problem is not that they are neglecting church attendance.

The problem is that they have spent all their time on the easy tasks

And neglected the important ones.

As Jesus will later tell the scribes and Pharisees,

The problem is that they tithe mint, dill, and cumin,

And have neglected the weightier matters of the law.

It’s an understandable mistake to make.

It is easier

To focus on getting our worship right.

It is easier

To follow the rules about which bull to sacrifice when

And how many birds ought to be offered.

It is easier

To go to church on Sunday.

To see our friends,

Sing songs we love,

Hear a word of encouragement.

Yes, it is easier to do these things

Than it is

To do the justice God calls for.

The world we live in

Is an unjust world.

It is a world that exploits workers

And oppresses people of colour.

A world that sacrifices human beings

Who get in the way of the almighty dollar.

A world that engages in short-term thinking

About the next quarter’s report

Without regard for the cost that will be levied in the long term

For our plunder

Of this fragile earth.

And Christians,

God’s chosen people,

Too often make not a peep

In the face of such injustice.

Whether it’s because we’re afraid

Or because we have succumbed

To the world’s way of thinking,

I’m not sure.

But we continue to gather to pray

Without having upheld the weightier matters of the Law

Because we get a thrill of checking that item off our list.

And it is an easier thing to do

Than face the overwhelming task

Of doing justice in an unjust world.

I think,

I hope,

We want to see justice done in the world.

But we are daunted by the enormity of the challenge,

And ready to accept the cheap thrill of right worship instead.

Let me be clear:

The rites that God decries through the prophet Isaiah

Are the same ones that he decreed in the Law of Moses.

New moons and Sabbaths

And the burning of incense

Are not what’s wrong here.

Neither do I, or, I think, the prophets seek to discourage church attendance!

These quick tasks

That are easily accomplished

Still need to be done, after all.

(I do, in fact, need to make sure I check the voicemail).

But God

Does not sort his priority list

By degree of difficulty.

God

Does not consider the hazard of the predicament

When addressing its remedy

At all.

After all,

It’s not as if God’s work among us could be called easy

Or quick.

In world consumed with efficiency and ease

With invincibility

And a sure thing

God came among us

As a tiny baby.

His mother, Mary,

Went through all the labour and difficulty

Of a normal pregnancy.

She suffered all the pains

Of a regular childbirth.

And her son,

Our Lord Jesus Christ,

Was just as vulnerable

To all the assaults and snares

Of a regular childhood

In a community with a high infant mortality rate.

He waited 30 years, at least,

Before beginning his ministry,

And then,

When pressured to resort to violence

In order to achieve the specific goal

Of Rome’s overthrow,

He went and died on a cross.

A condemned criminal,

Cursed according to the very same law he had written

And had come to fulfill.

God does this

Precisely because God does not share our same love for efficiency.

God does not share our desire

For the cheap and easy thrill

Of crossing the easiest item off the list

So we can get it out of the way.

God, robed in consuming fire

And wreathed by raging storm

Reminds us

That that which is easy

Is not always the same

As that which is important

And if we are going to follow him,

We have got to get our priorities in order.

“Cease to do evil,

learn to do good;

seek justice,

rescue the oppressed,

defend the orphan,

plead for the widow.”

These are God’s priorities.

To care for those who fall through the cracks

Demanded by systems that care more for their own gain

Than for individual human dignity.

These are the people God loved so much

That he came among us as one of us

And let himself die

Rather than crush them beneath the wheel

Of violent insurrection,

Even for a just cause.

We who follow after him

Must not allow ourselves to become complacent,

Complicit

In the injustice of the world,

For to do so is to accept as acceptable loss

The children of God for whom Christ died.

As a collection of Jewish teachings says,

“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly, now.

Love mercy, now.

Walk humbly, now.

You are not obligated to complete the work,

But neither are you free to abandon it.”

It is not too late to make a change.

It is not too late to embrace God’s priorities.

God is always ready to wash away our sins

That the blood on our hands

May become white as snow.

Even now,

God calls the heavens and the earth to witness

That we might heed his judgment

And turn around

To follow after his way.

To do the work he has given us to do.

For where our treasure is,

There our heart will be also.

Amen.

6th Sunday After Trinity

When I was growing up,

The go-to church nursery movie was

The Princess Bride.

My parents volunteered a lot,

So I watched The Princess Bride

At least once a week

From around age 6 or so.

It’s a quotable movie,

And one of my favourite scenes

Is when Vizzini, the kidnapper,

Keeps using the word

“Inconceivable!”

Vizzini and his gang have kidnapped Princess Buttercup

And are being pursued by the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Despite their efforts to shake him off,

The Dread Pirate Roberts persists.

“Inconceivable!”

Vizzini says each and every time.

Finally, Inigo, one of his minions, replies,

“You keep using that word.

I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

In our faith, there are a whole lotta things that seem inconceivable

But then they happen.

An old woman, long past menopause,

Gives birth to the child of the promise.

The Red Sea is parted

And the Israelites walk through on dry ground.

A virgin becomes pregnant,

And her Son

Is fully human

And fully divine.

That Son, although God Himself,

Dies on a cross

And then rises to new life

On the third day.

Inconceivable!

There are a lot of beliefs Christians hold

That seem inconceivable,

But the one I think that we have the most trouble with

Is the reconciliation of Law and Grace.

…………….

In my experience with church people,

I have discovered

That you’re either a Law person

Or you’re a Grace person.

And the caricature of the extreme on both sides is intense,

Especially if you’re on the other side.

Law people are mean, judgmental.

They want everybody to sit down and shut up

To button their collars all the way

And act right.

Sometimes, Law people have really, really good motives!

The Law, as a theologian has said,

Exists to protect my neighbour from me.

So for people who fiercely love their neighbours

It makes a whole lotta sense

To insist that people follow the Law.

Grace people, now,

Nobody knows what they believe.

They’re all loosey-goosey.

It’s all about love

And freedom,

And nobody needs to do anything or change anything at all about themselves

Because God is too nice

To ever do anything so gauche

As criticize your lifestyle.

Sometimes, Grace people have really, really good motives!

God really is all about love.

If you don’t believe me, take the 1stletter of John out for a spin.

And the Church has, in the past,

Been awfully quick to condemn

And raaaaather slow on the uptake

To show compassion

And mercy.

So for people who’ve been studying their Church history,

It makes a whole lotta sense

To set your hope on Grace.

But what if we didn’t have to choose?

What if we could have them both?

What if God

Really did care

About our following the commandment

To love the Lord our God

With all our heart, soul, mind, and strength,

And to love our neighbour

As ourselves

AND that same God

Was able to make things right

When we failed to do that?

Inconceivable!

And yet.

We see the Psalmist hint at this idea in Psalm 85 today.

“Mercy and truth have met together;

Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”

Mercy and truth

Don’t always seem to go together.

Sometimes I think we reject the stories

That come out of places like

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission

Or the National Inquiry of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls

Or the #MeToo movement

Because the bad guys in those stories seem so cartoonishly evil

That we who are not

Cannot fathom anyone would ever behave in such a way.

And yet the volume of those stories

Provide an avalanche of evidence

That yes: real people have done these terrible things.

For the victims of these terrible crimes,

The survivors who bravely tell their stories,

It feels dismissive of their truth

To hear of God’s mercy.

It feels dismissive of their truth

To hear that God forgives the ones who hurt them.

When we hear these terrible, terrible truths

It is inconceivable

That God would show mercy.

And yet.

God is able.

God is able to forgive the iniquity of God’s people,

And blot out all their sins.

This does not erase the truth.

This does not negate the fact that these sinners

Have failed to follow the Law.

But God has the power

To take what is wrong

And make it right.

The Greek word for this

And here I am indebted to the work

Of the Rev. Fleming Rutledge

The Greek word for this is logizomai.

It’s the verb tense of word.

God words, and transformation happens.

God words, and that which cannot be reconciled, suddenly is.

God words, and wounds are healed

Sins are forgiven but not forgotten

Righteousness and peace

Kiss each other

God words and the new creation God is calling into being

Is made manifest

In our midst.

Inconceivable!

This does not mean there’s not a cost

To the kind of reconciliation

God words into being.

Civil Rights activist Bayard Rustin

Said this of Martin Luther King:

“He had this ability to communicate victory,

And to let everybody know he was prepared to pay

For victory.”

He had the ability

To communicate

Victory.

Victory, in Dr. King’s mind,

Was already won.

It was assured.

It was never in question

That it would one day be.

The fact that such a future

Was out of step with the world

The Freedom Riders

And Marchers on Washington saw around them

Made no difference.

He had the ability to communicate victory

To world mired in defeat.

And.

Dr. King also had the ability to let everybody know he was prepared to pay

For victory.

We have seen the price Dr. King paid for victory.

When he was 39 years old,

Just five years older than I am now,

Younger than my husband is,

He was killed

As the price

Of victory.

He wasn’t the only one.

Others of his cohort were beaten, jailed, killed.

They paid a price

And they won victory.

We who follow a God

Who died on a cross

To pay the price

To accomplish the ultimate victory

Over sin and death

Ought to have no illusions

About the price that will be paid

To word into being

God’s new creation.

And so yes,

It seems inconceivable

That truth and mercy can meet together,

That righteousness, perhaps we should say justice,

And peace

Can kiss one another.

If human beings are in charge,

Such a project is probably indeed doomed to fail.

But when we look at God,

We can never say that anything is inconceivable

Without looking as big a fool as Vizzini.

Because God is able.

Able to rectify all that is wrong in this weary world

And make it right.

We can’t always see how.

We can’t always see a way around the fact

That Jesus is dead and in the tomb

That Martin Luther King is dead and in the tomb

And a whole lotta folks working on his mission

Are on the chain gang

And there doesn’t ever seem to be an end

To the hatred and violence

And denigration

And humiliation

And violation

Of God’s precious and holy people.

No, we can’t always see a way.

We live in a Holy Saturday time

And sometimes Easter Day looks far off.

But the God who has won the victory before,

I should say,

Has won the victory already

Is able

To word the inconceivable

Into reality.

Amen.

5th Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray.

May our loving, liberating, lifegiving God

Give us ears to hear

His message today. Amen.

…………………

The God of the Old Testament

Is a liberating God.

The whole project that God is embarked upon

Throughout the entire First Testament

Of the Bible

Is one of liberation.

The authors return to this theme

Over and over,

In particular the story of Exodus,

The story of how God freed God’s people

And led them through the Red Sea

To the Promised Land.

If you’ve never heard the story,

It goes like this:

The Israelites had become enslaved in Egypt.

They had journeyed down there

To escape a famine in their own land.

And when they became numerous,

When they had so many children

That the inhabitants of Egypt began to fear they would take over

Those Israelites found themselves enslaved.

Sentenced to hard labour

Their children tossed into the river Nile.

But God heard their cries.

God sent Moses

To tell ol’ Pharoah

To let my people go.

There were some plagues in there,

But the result was, finally,

That Pharoah did let God’s people go.

Until he didn’t.

And pursued them

To the shores of the Red Sea.

The Israelites needed a miracle.

So God gave them one.

God parted the waters of the Red Sea

And led the Israelites through on dry ground

Before sending the waves crashing down

On the Egyptians behind.

If you read the Old Testament,

You’ll see that this story

Is referred to again and again.

The Psalmist, in particular,

References it constantly.

To remind the Israelites

That their God is about liberation.

Now, I know that’s not something many Christians are used to hearing.

I often hear from folks that they don’t like the God they encounter

In the pages of the Old Testament.

He’s angry,

They say.

He’s mean.

I want to worship the God of the New Testament.

That God’s about love

And kindness

And mercy.

But here’s the thing:

They are the same God.

Because God,

The same God who’s about love

And kindness

And mercy

Is the God who is also about the project

Of liberation.

And while that is good news

For the Israelites who walk through the Red Sea

On dry ground

It might sound kinda angry and mean

To Pharoah.

…………………..

In our Psalm today,

We hear a story about a tyrant.

The Psalmist addresses the tyrant directly,

Asking why he boasts of wickedness

And plots ruin.

He accuses this tyrant of loving evil more than good

And lying more than speaking the truth.

And then he prays this angry, shocking prayer:

“Oh, that God would demolish you utterly,

Topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling

And root you out of the land of the living.”

Yikes.

I hope that nobody who says they’re praying for me

Is praying that prayer.

But I accept it’s a possibility.

It’s a tough thing

To do the examination of conscience we need to do

To consider the fact that we might

Actually

Be Pharoah to somebody.

We all want to be Moses.

But what if we’re Pharoah?

The Israelites thought that they couldn’t possibly act like Pharoah.

They were the good guys, right?

But then the prophet Amos comes along

And tells of God’s judgment.

Just like the tyrant,

They practice deceit with false balances.

They oppress the poor,

Buying and selling them

For hideously low prices,

Exploiting their hunger and poverty

To enrich themselves.

God sees this behaviour and judges it.

Not because God is mean.

Because God is about liberation.

What does this prophecy sound like

To the poor and needy who are being sold?

Pretty good news,

I would think!

To hear that while human beings may assault and oppress you,

That human beings may harm you

May insult your dignity

May smother your smudges

Forbid your pipes,

Stop your drums,

Hide your masks,

Destroy your totem poles,

Silence your songs,

Still your dances

And ban your potlaches

But God

God hears your cries.

God sees your pain.

God judges the people

Who are hurting you.

Because it is not loving

To allow God’s beloved

To become enslaved.

It is not kind

To ignore the cries

Of those who are being sold for a pair sandals.

It is not merciful

To pretend that pain and anguish

Are somehow okay with God almighty.

And so what are we

Who are Christians,

Who worship the God of the whole Bible

The Old Testament and the New Testament

The God who is about liberation

And love

And kindness

And mercy

To do with these passages?

With these pronouncements of judgment

That anyone –

Even those whom God previously liberated

From their own oppressors –

Can become a tyrant?

Even those who had once fled Pharoah

Can become

Pharoah.

We who follow after the way of Jesus

Are no more exempt than anyone else

From God’s judgment

Upon our tyrannical impulses,

And we would do well

To see and tremble

Lest we be toppled

And rooted out of the land of the living.

Because there is more than one way to demolish a tyrant.

There’s the obvious way, right?

The way we’re all thinking of.

Where God strikes down the one

Who trusted in great wealth

And relied upon wickedness

With a lightning bolt,

Fire from heaven.

But there’s another way.

What if the tyrants

Toppled themselves?

What if Pharoah

Hadn’t had a hardened heart?

What if Pharoah

Hadn’t needed 10 plagues

To convince him that he was on the wrong path?

What if Pharoah

Hadn’t chased after the Israelites

Into the Red Sea?

What if Pharoah

Had recognized the error of his ways

And repented,

And returned to the Lord?

That’s what we promise in baptism,

Isn’t it?

That when we fall into sin,

We will repent,

And return to the Lord.

We don’t say if

In that promise.

Because there is no doubt we will fall into sin.

And since there is no doubt about it,

There needn’t be any shame about it, either.

We are sinners,

Every last one of us!

We have all been tyrants

In our own way

In our own time

To somebody

That God loves

At least as much

As God loves us.

The important part is

That we repent

And we return to the Lord.

That we not make excuses for our behaviour,

And get defensive,

And say stuff like, “Well, that’s just how I was raised,”

To excuse the way we treat

God’s beloved children.

We may all be tyrants,

One way or another,

But we have a chance

To topple ourselves

Before it’s too late.

Before God sends a famine on the land

Of hearing the words of the Lord.

We have a chance

To take a step back.

To get off our high horse.

To listen to the cries

Our neighbour is offering to God

Because of the persecution

We are inflicting upon them

And to demolish utterly our tyrannical ways

With repentance,

With gentle and humble hearts

Willing to change our ways

To follow after God’s way.

So we all may be liberated

Not only from the clutches of earthly tyrants,

But from the greatest tyrant of them all: sin.

Because the great project of God

The God of the whole Bible

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

The God of Moses, and Miriam,

Of Deborah and David,

The God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Is one of liberation.

May the God who made us

Make us all free.

Amen.

3rd Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray.

O God, you have turned our wailing into dancing.

Clothe us with joy,

No matter what we face.

Amen.

………………….

The 42ndGeneral Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada

Begins with worship on Wednesday night.

Now, some of y’all may not know what General Synod is,

Or why we’re having one,

So I thought I’d take just a moment

To explain the purpose of General Synod.

Every three years,

Representatives elected from each diocese

Gather together to listen for God’s voice

And discern the calling He is giving

For the future of His Church.

Because the actual processes of a synod

Closely resemble those of a political body

Like Parliament,

It would be easy for us to confuse this as a democratic exercise.

We elected representatives from the Diocese of Edmonton,

We are their constituents,

They represent us and our concerns

And are accountable to us in some way.

But that’s not actually how it works in the Church.

Yes, we do elect clergy and lay representatives

Whom we trust,

Who we believe are in some way representative of the whole people of God

Gathered in the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton,

But we didn’t elect them to advocate for us

In some contentious, adversarial process

Of argument with Anglicans from other dioceses.

We elected them to listen.

We elected them

Because we believe

That they are best equipped to join with Anglicans from coast to coast to coast

To listen for the God who is calling us by name

And to look for the way forward

God is showing us.

As the then-Archbishop of Canterbury offered to the Anglican bishops

Gathered at Lambeth 10 years ago,

That’s the only way forward for Christians,

To go where Christ has gone before

To clear the way.

“The only way Christians lead,” he says,

“Is by following – following Jesus’ way.”

Now, some synods do better at this than others,

Bishop Jane reminded us this week in her letter to the diocese.

It is the official position of the Anglican Church

That the Councils of the Church – even the famous, historic ones

That decided important, central doctrinal things –

Can and have erred,

And I have no doubt that the imperfect sinners who will gather in Vancouver

Are likely to err in some way.

Because human beings aren’t great at listening for God.

Often, God’s voice is drowned out

By the rush of words that surround us

Words of advertising,

Words of politicians,

Eager to persuade,

To capture our attention,

Even our own desires crowd in,

Shouting “Me, me, me!”

Over a God

Whose native language

Is silence.

We hear in today’s Psalm

That the Psalmist felt pretty confident he could discern God’s voice.

Everything was going great for him,

So he said, “I shall never be shaken.”

Nothing bad enough to test his faith in God

Would ever happen to him.

Y’all can see where this is going, right?

God hid God’s face,

And the Psalmist was filled with fear.

God hides God’s face

Rather more often in Scripture than we are comfortable with.

The book of Job is only one example

Of a time when God is silent in the face of Job’s contention

That all the calamity which has befallen him

Is unfair.

Job’s friends attempt to fill the silence

With justifications for God,

With interpretations for what God’s actions might mean,

But when God Himself appears on the scene,

He shushes those friends

And praises Job

For recognizing the profound unfairness

Of all that he has experienced.

Even then, God gives no answer,

No explanation as to why.

Why Job had to suffer.

Why Job’s children had to die.

Why Job’s wife had to scrape her skin with potsherds

Until she was moved to curse God and die.

Terrible things happen in the world.

And sometimes the Church acts in the place of Job’s friends.

We attempt to explain, to interpret,

To fill God’s silence with our words,

As though that will somehow make

The suffering of children

The evil, racist violence of the world

The callous indifference of the people

All better.

I don’t know about y’all,

But I am praying hard for these synod delegates

Whose job is to seek God’s face,

Because it sure appears hidden right about now

And that fills me with fear.

And yet.

And yet.

Weeping may spend the night,

But joy comes in the morning.

This Psalm is often read

As part of our Easter liturgy.

Because God is able

To turn even death,

Even the death of God Himself,

Into joy that comes in the morning.

Whatever happens,

Even something so terrible as death,

We are promised,

God is able

To clothe with joy.

Now, this isn’t to say that “it’ll all be okay,”

Or that there might not be pain involved in the process.

We often look to butterflies

As a metaphor for our belief in resurrection.

But caterpillars don’t turn into butterflies

Just by taking an afternoon snooze in a cocoon.

The caterpillar’s stomach enzymes

Literally dissolve it

From the inside out –

Basically, it eats itself with its own stomach acid.

I don’t know that they’ve done studies

On caterpillar pain,

Though Derek tells me that they have discovered

That caterpillars scream at a pitch too high for human ears to catch,

But, regardless, it sounds awful to me.

Death hurts,

Even when there’s life on the other side.

The Psalmist wails

Before he begins to dance.

Job rails against God’s silence

Before listening to God’s response.

It’s not that death isn’t terrible.

It’s that it’s not the end.

Death does not have the last word.

Mourning

And crying

And pain

Do not have the last word.

No matter what terrible things

We see in the world around us,

We trust God’s promise

That God will bring joy in the morning.

And we commit ourselves

Not to explaining God’s silence to suffering people

As though God need our help with His PR,

But becoming bringers of joy

And hope

To those who have been burned so often in the past

That they can’t yet trust that promise themselves.

We commit ourselves

To going out into the Lord’s harvest

To share the Good News

That the Kingdom of God has come near

That help is on the way

That whatever terrible thing is happening

Is real

But it’s not the end.

So: if we trust that God can bring life out of death

And dancing out of wailing

Then why can’t we trust

That whether we’re happy or unhappy

With the results of one synod

God can bring joy?

If we trust

That God has triumphed over death itself

Why can’t we believe

That God is so far beyond our arguments

About circumcision or uncircumcision,

As they were in Paul’s time,

Or whatever we’re arguing about this time

As to make a new creation

That is everything

No matter what we do?

I know it’s scary when God hides God’s face.

I know the temptation to fill God’s silence with words.

To prefer our certainty

To God’s openness.

To prefer the paths we have trod before

To the new way that Christ is clearing before us.

But I ask you in the weeks ahead

To trust.

That God is able.

God is able to turn death into life

And wailing into dancing.

No matter what.

Amen.

 

1st Sunday After Trinity

Let us pray.

Our souls are athirst for you.

Pour your goodness over us

As a rapid and a flood.

Amen.

……………………

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,

So poetically,

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”

Can become

“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.

Martin Hattersley,

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

Better times,

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

Overflow.

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.

We thirst.

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.

God almighty

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

By dying.

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.

Amen.