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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, December 1, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 90:1–8, 12

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
   in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
   or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
   from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust, and say,
   “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
   are like yesterday when it is past,
   or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
   like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
   in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are consumed by your anger;
   by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
   our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

So teach us to count our days
   that we may gain a wise heart. (NRSV)

I was doing just fine with this Psalm until I came to verses 7 and 8. I’m good with being a mere mortal whose existence cannot be compared to God, and I like being in awe of the One who is everlasting to everlasting. But then we have to get to that anger and wrath part, not to mention iniquities and sins. Those verses stir childhood memories of being afraid of God. In the tradition in which I was raised fear and judgment were primary motivators. There sure was a lot of stick and not much carrot.

I guess that’s biblically pretty acceptable and normal since to be “God-fearing” is to be religiously devoted and pious. But it certainly didn’t feel very good, and my own reaction was to head in the opposite direction, away from religion and devotion.

It took a lot of years before I turned back again to God. Now I am filled with God-love and not God-fear. William Eisenhower wrote this in Christianity Today, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but love from the Lord is its completion.” I’m not sure about the first part, but the rest makes sense to me.

The psalmist entreats God to “teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” I do think I have learned to count my days, and this does not mean a countdown or fear of the unknown. Rather it means to make the most of each day, to be a good person, to give freely, to care about others, to love fully, and to maybe gain some understanding about who I am along the way. And if my heart does become a little wise, it will not be through fear but only through the grace of a loving God.

Loving God, make each of my days a reflection of the unconditional love you give. Amen.

Written by Ken Ohr, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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