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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, June 24, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 42

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?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?”

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.
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.

My soul is cast down within me;
   therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
   from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
   at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
   have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
   and at night his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock,
   “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
   because the enemy oppresses me?”
As with a deadly wound in my body,
   my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
   “Where is your God?”

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. (NRSV)

I have always appreciated the honesty of this psalm. The writer begins by speaking his sense of divine abandonment. He wants to communicate how deeply he misses a sense of God’s presence in his life. He thirsts for that presence, for that assurance that he is not alone.

I am also moved by the way the writer then uses the power of memory. As he sits in a space of grief and fear, he calls on himself to remember those times in his life when he did sense God’s accompaniment, God’s kindness. He remembers he has experienced bright and shining moments when he felt fully in tune with the wisdom of the Divine One, moments when songs of praises and acts of worship flowed easily and naturally. It is as if the psalmist wants to remember he has not always felt the way he feels now. He is borrowing hope and courage from moments of connection in his past.

I remember in seminary when a pastoral care professor told us we should regularly rehearse our “call stories.” A call story for a seminarian is the moment (or moments) when we found ourselves being summoned into the possibility of ordained ministry. If we regularly remember those stories of call, the professor claimed, we will have a stronger chance of being sustained in our ministry during those inevitable seasons when God seems distant or our work feels in vain.

I believe this is what the psalmist is doing. Even as he is honest about his current sense of pain and abandonment, he is also honest in recalling it has not always been that way and therefore he can have good hope for a sense of reconnection in his present and future. He is praying himself into faith and trust. May we do the same.

Gracious God, as I go through my day today, bring to my mind the moments of love in my past. Bring into my imagination all of those times in which I clearly felt the power of your Spirit moving and guiding me. And may those memories offer me courage and sustenance. Amen.

Written by Shannon J. Kershner, Pastor

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