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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, December 2, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 80:1–7, 17–19

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock!
You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might, and come to save us!
Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
O Lord God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.
Restore us, O God of hosts; let your face shine, that we may be saved.
But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved. (NRSV)

Psalm 80 seems to have been written for the year 2020. How easy it is to identify with the tone of dismay and lament—the felt darkness conveyed in this psalm. We were doing so well; our country felt so blessed. God, you grew us into such a powerhouse, a “godly” nation that was the envy of the world and we thought the “apple of your eye.” And then in 2020 many problems that have been forming over time all converged into this perfect storm.

A polarized political system and too few people in what now is the radical middle. This reality seriously hampers our ability to work through differences using love and compromise and to collaborate for the common good.

We are struggling with the ugliness and ramifications of decades of racial inequity and a system that has not treated every person equally and fairly.

We are one with the rest of humanity as we all contend with a global pandemic. Much to our chagrin we are not as great as we thought we were in our management of this crisis. Our polarization and division have hampered our ability to keep the main thing the main thing—following the science and doing all we can together to minimize the virus’s impact.

This is a dark place and time we’re in, and many of us feel it. We need some light!

I cannot identify with the psalmist’s view that hardship is happening at the behest of an angry punitive God. I believe the Divine presence is with us always and has given us the directives and tools to love. John Lewis, a truly godly man we lost in 2020, stated, “Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won.”

We know what to do to be Divine agents of light in this dark time. I invite all of us to join with the psalmist’s petition: “Restore us the light of your favor so we may be delivered.” Advent reminds us that Light is here amongst us. We can both receive it and be the source of it through our love to others.

Dear Source of all goodness and light and love, we are hurting and have lost our way. We know what to do but need a boost from you. In this Advent time may we notice your love and light and feel your favor in our daily lives and relationships. Help us to also be your love and light in all that we are and do. Thank you for the ultimate gift of Jesus, who models for us how we can be the love and light our world needs. Amen.

Written by Thomas Schemper, Director, Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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