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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thanksgiving Day | Thursday, November 26, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 107

O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
   for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
   those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
   from the east and from the west,
   from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,
   finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty,
   their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way,
   until they reached an inhabited town.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty,
   and the hungry he fills with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in gloom,
   prisoners in misery and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
   and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
Their hearts were bowed down with hard labor;
   they fell down, with no one to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress;
he brought them out of darkness and gloom,
   and broke their bonds asunder.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he shatters the doors of bronze,
   and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were sick through their sinful ways,
   and because of their iniquities endured affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
   and they drew near to the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he saved them from their distress;
he sent out his word and healed them,
   and delivered them from destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices,
   and tell of his deeds with songs of joy.

Some went down to the sea in ships,
   doing business on the mighty waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
   his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
   which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven, they went down to the depths;
   their courage melted away in their calamity;
they reeled and staggered like drunkards,
   and were at their wits’ end.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
   and he brought them out from their distress;
he made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad because they had quiet,
   and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
   for his wonderful works to humankind.
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
   and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

He turns rivers into a desert,
   springs of water into thirsty ground,
a fruitful land into a salty waste,
   because of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
He turns a desert into pools of water,
   a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry live,
   and they establish a town to live in;
they sow fields, and plant vineyards,
   and get a fruitful yield.
By his blessing they multiply greatly,
   and he does not let their cattle decrease.

When they are diminished and brought low
   through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
he pours contempt on princes
   and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
but he raises up the needy out of distress,
   and makes their families like flocks.
     
The upright see it and are glad;
   and all wickedness stops its mouth.
Let those who are wise give heed to these things,
   and consider the steadfast love of the Lord. (NRSV)

Reflection
My high school Latin teacher taught that every good persuasive speech or writing contained three examples supporting each point. I have no idea why I remember this and cannot remember to stop for milk on my way home from work. But I remember three examples. I remember because it seemed important at the time and I find myself doing this when I speak or write. If I make a claim, most often I follow up with three examples.

This psalmist clearly had a different teacher who believed that more examples would be better. There is a pattern: the situation, people cried out to God, and God delivered them. Example after example. It is almost enough to establish some sort of guarantee. The only problem, despite the strength of this writing: I don’t think it always turns out this way. I’ve cried out to God plenty of times and things didn’t resolve the way I wanted. It is easy to focus on those times.

Maybe the psalmist provided so many examples to remind us of how often things do turn out. Maybe we did not get the resolution we wanted. Yet God is still present in a myriad of ways—some enormous and some quotidian. The claim is that God is present. The strength of the writing lies in the examples that connect people throughout times. Our situations are personal and feel unique. In this psalm we are reminded that people throughout the ages have faced similar calamities. Each time, God is present. If I shift my focus, I find that I have many more than three examples.

Prayer
God whose presence is known throughout time, remind me of your presence. When I forget, allow me to listen deeply to the examples from your people. And let my life serve as a reminder to others. Amen.

Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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