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Friday, August 12, 2022
Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
ever singing your praise. Selah
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer;
give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
look on the face of your anointed.
For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than live in the tents of wickedness.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
he bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does the Lord withhold
from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you. (NRSV)
A portion of Brahms’ A German Requiem, to Words of the Holy Scriptures, Op. 45—which is based partially on this psalm—filled my mind as I read the first verse. Google searches produced a Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance of “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place,”which captures the joy I felt worshiping at Fourth Presbyterian Church after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus from in-person worship.
One commentator wrote that this psalm “is classified as a pilgrimage psalm, sung as praise by those who traveled to Jerusalem to worship.” Portions of it evoke the profundity and joy of a Thanksgiving Day worship service at Trinity UCC, our sibling congregation. The narrative, music, and dance chronicled the diasporic journey of Africans through the Middle Passage to slavery and its aftermath in America, including the election of President Barack Obama. The worshipers thanked God for a people’s passage through a “Valley of Baka” experience (verse 6), which a commentator has defined as “any difficult and painful place in life, where everything seems hopeless and you feel helpless.”
Drawing close to God in worship and praise is still effectual and necessary for Christians. “My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (verse 2). The pilgrimage may be from morning prayer to evening prayer with challenges and triumphs sandwiched between prayers. The journey may consist of replays of Sunday services, interspersed between a series of all-too-brief Tuesdays with Morrie-type visits with a loved one whose health is failing while their spirit shines brightly.
Loving God, thank you for being our “sun and shield.” Help us to remain worshipful, going “from strength to strength” as we do kingdom-building work. Amen.
Written by Jeanne Griffin, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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