Pastor’s Corner June 23
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Psalm 42:11
I know I have mentioned it before, but I will say it again. The book of Psalms is one of my favorite parts of the Bible. The Psalmist expressed the human condition in such powerful and vivid ways. From the heights of the human experience to the absolute depths, the Psalmist managed to find words to capture it all. Psalm 42 came up in our rotation of lectionary readings during the middle of June. Although I chose not to preach on this text when it arose in the lectionary, it was a struggle to leave it behind since it is one of my favorites. During tough times, and we are still in the midst of them, I turn to the Psalms for inspiration and comfort. Perhaps you do the same. So, I decided to devote my Pastor’s Corners for the next two Messengers on this comforting and inspirational part of scripture.
This psalm is called a psalm of lament. What better time than now to acknowledge the sadness, grief, anger and loss that seems to be a part of our lives these days. With all the bad news swirling all around us, close to home and globally, I suspect many of us long for something else. Psalm 42 began with the sentiment:
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? (verses 1-2)
Whenever I read these opening verses I flash back to the movie The Queen. You may remember it. It came out a number of years ago and depicted the days surrounding the death of Princess Diana. As the Royal Family struggled to deal with her sudden death and help her sons move through this tragic experience, we witness the reactions of the various members of the family. Many people felt that the Queen did not react with much compassion, but she dealt with the tragedy in a manner consistent with her personality and position. In one scene as she drives a jeep around the royal estate in Scotland, she came across a large buck standing nearby. Their eyes seem to lock as they freeze in place. The image of that majestic animal always comes to mind as I read the opening to this poem. Like the Psalmist, the juxtaposition of the deer and the Queen was intended, in part, to illuminate the longing they both felt at that moment.
The Psalmist went on in a more plaintive vein. “My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”” (verse 3) Have you ever spent nights like that? I know I have. Nights struggling with physical pain, moving through grief and loss, or wading through struggles uniquely your own. I suspect at one time or another we can empathize with the Psalmist and this often lonely experience. What sustained the Psalmist in the midst of such distress? We are told that it was the memory of past times of joy and celebration. The poet went on:
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I went with the throng, and led them in procession to the house of God, with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. (verse 4)
The author remembered those times spent making the pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Times of worship in the midst of community buoyed the author’s mood. In the midst of low times the Psalmist held on to memories of worship, time spent in God’s presence with others. In my article for the next Messenger I will invite us to ponder the remainder of this Psalm. There is so much to explore, so let’s not rush. I invite us to sit with this Psalm during these next couple of weeks.
In peace and love, Pastor Karen