Psalm 96

Sing to God a new song
A song of blessedness, a song of salvation
A song of God’s glory, marvelous works, and greatness
Sing to the God who is above all gods, above all troubles
Proclaim God’s honor and majesty, glory and strength
God’s holy splendor
I offer myself before my God
I offer myself and I tremble
God is Sovereign
And so God’s world is firmly established
And shall never be moved
God’s world around me
God’s world inside me
God’s living Word around me
God’s living Word inside me
I live in God’s world and God lives in me
God is fair and equitable
God is holiness and mercy
And so I shall be judged
With fairness, with mercy
Let me rejoice with all of God’s creation
With seas and land
With field and trees
With thoughts and deeds
With feelings and senses
All sing for joy
Because God comes, God abides, God lives, God reigns
Judging all, judging me
With righteousness, with truth, with love. Amen


Psalm 91

Assurance of God’s Protection

Living in the shelter of the Most High
Abiding in the shadow of the Almighty
I will say to Her
“You are my refuge and my strength
My God in whom I trust”
For She will deliver me from the snare of my doubts
And from my deadly depression
She will cover my faults with Her righteousness
Under Her wings I will find refuge and hope
Her enduring faithfulness is my shield against hopelessness
I will not fear my night terrors
Nor my daily failings
Not my dark depression
Nor my blinding doubts
A thousand doubts may trouble me
Ten thousand failings may preoccupy me
But She will protect me
She will open my mind to hope, to love, to eternal life
Because I have made Her my refuge
The Most High my dwelling place
No evil will befall me, no doom will come near me
She commands Her angels to protect me, to guard me always
To bear me up when I am cast down
To keep me from tearing myself to bits
So I will trample all my doubts and darkness, depression and disasters
God has promised
Through steadfast love, She will deliver me
With enduring faithfulness, She will protect me
When I call to Her, when I cry out, She will answer
She is with me through all my troubles, big and small
She rescues me, saves me, redeems me
With eternal life, she will quiet all my anxious striving
And show me Her salvation. Amen.

Psalm 130 – once and again

Here I am again, God, crying to You,
Please listen, please help, please have mercy
I have failed again, of course
I smile outside while inside I am angry and disparaging
Disparaging: a new D in my firmament – my dark firmament of Ds
I know You forgive me quicker and more completely than I forgive myself
I know that is a fearfully, delightfully, wonderful thing
But does it help me? Will I be a better friend, mother, sister, daughter, lover
I wait for You, God, I wait and I hope
Right down to the bottom of my soul I wait, and I’ll go on waiting
Through my dark night, through my dark night
Hoping, trusting, believing that the morning of Your light will come
With Your steadfast love, with Your full redemption, with Your saving grace
You will redeem me from all my sins, my faults
I wait, I hope, I pray
I don’t suppose You could hurry it up a bit, could You? Amen.

Psalm 130 – again

Despite my dark doubts and confusion
Once again, I come crying to You, God
Hoping You exist, hoping You will hear me
Hoping You will help me
Because if You don’t, who will, who can
I’m scared, I’m getting everything wrong again
I feel hopeless
Until I remember You, until I hope in You
Until I remember Your forgiveness
Your steadfast love, You unfailing faithfulness
And so I have to wait, wait with hope for You
But it’s so hard to just wait
Wait through this darkness
Wait through this doubt
Wait through this confusion
Wait for Your light to show me the way
The way, the truth, the life
Wait with hope, and belief in Your steadfast love
Your great power to help me, to save me
Because I am Israel and You are my God and Savior. Amen.

Psalm 92

A song for the Sabbath

I will give thanks and sing praise to my Sovereign God, the Most High
I will remember and declare God’s steadfast love in my youth
God’s enduring faithfulness in my old age
With music and song, with prayer and reverence, I will give praise
My joy and my gladness are all God’s work, God’s great work in my life
Too great for my limited understanding
Though I struggle, though I doubt, Though I fail again and again
God will prevail
I am saved, forever
Despite my struggles, despite my doubt, despite my failings
God succeeds, forever
And so I am saved and favored, a child of God
Destined for good, not evil
Destined for love, not hate
Destined for peace, not conflict
Destined for hope, not despair
Destined to flourish as God’s good seed grows in me
And bears good fruit, even as I age
Maybe especially as I age
Because God is good, my gardener, my rock
My savior and my righteousness. Amen.

The Other Side of the Parable

(The gospel reading today was Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the generous vineyard owner. As I listened to the Lector reading the parable, another story came to life in my head.)

I wake late, as usual, and reluctantly. And with a splitting headache, also as usual. And a dry mouth. And a foggy memory of the night before. How many beers? How many shooters?

Damn those sounds from the kitchen – my noisy, needy family at breakfast, clattering and squabbling. Soon, soon, Joy will be off to work and the kids to school and the world will be ignorable again.

Did I drive home? What time did I get home? She will be mad again. Please God, let her just leave without a lecture. I am so goddam tired of her lectures, so tired of promises, so tired of trying.

I like to drink. I need to drink. Goddammit, I need to relax after work, I need to be with men who like to drink.

Footsteps coming down the hall. I pull the covers up, turn on my side, close my eyes. Do not respond as she opens the door and calls my name. Do not respond to her loud sigh. Do not respond as she shuts the bedroom door, just short of a slam.

Much later I wake again, pull on boxer shorts and lurch to the kitchen to grab a can of beer, some bread and baloney from the fridge. To the family room for some channel surfing.

Early afternoon, I get dressed. Why shower when I am going out to try to get work? I’ll just get dirty; showering can be done tonight.

I get to the work center without really focusing once on anything much. Stand around, smoking and exchanging nods, the occasional half wave, the even less frequent few words, with the other men.

Then, just as I am about to head back home, grateful and ashamed to have spent another day not working, already rehearsing the story for Joy, some guy pulls up in a big van and hires a bunch of us to work in his fields for an hour.

Lots of men are already working; some have been working in those hot fields all day. Incredibly, at the end of the day, the end of just an hour’s work for me, everyone gets paid the same.

Man, were those who had been working all day pissed! “What kind of shit is this? We busted our balls in your fields all day and you give these jerks, these one-hour wonders, the same pay?”

The guy who hired us didn’t give a shit about their complaining. “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”*

What a windfall for me! I start home, but with all that money, much more than I counted on, I realize I have enough for a few drinks and then some. I put $20 for drinks in my right pocket and the rest, for Joy and the family, in my left pocket. Just a few drinks, then home. Maybe we’ll take the kids to Mickey Ds for dinner.

The next day I wake late, as usual, and reluctantly. And with a splitting headache, also as usual. And a dry mouth. And a foggy memory of the night before. How many beers? How many shooters?

There was no money for Joy and the family. There were no more chances. Joy left and took the kids.

That was twelve years ago. It’s taken me twelve years, twelve years to stop blaming that generous man for giving me so much money for an hour’s work. Twelve years to stop being envious of everything and everyone.

Twelve years to get here. “Hello, my name is Gary and I’m an alcoholic.”

*Matthew 20:13-15

Psalm 93

The majesty of God’s rule

The Almighty is sovereign, robed in majesty, stronger than death
The Almighty created me, all of me
And is with me always
In darkness and despair
No less than in light and joy
My emotions flood me
My wants drown out my peace
My fears thunder
My disappointments rage
But mightier than these is the Almighty, my God
Almighty God, Your decrees are sure peace
Living with awareness of You is holiness forevermore. Amen

Psalm 93 – Again

God is sovereign, in majesty and strength
Creator of all, creator of me
And it is all good, secure forever and good
Except it is not
Evil exists
What we call sin exists
Separating us from good
Inside me and all around me
And I don’t understand that
(But Paul says nothing can separate us from God’s steadfast love)
Because God is mightier than evil, stronger than sin
Bigger, better, greater, more powerful
Than the floods of doubt, depression, despair, darkness
That roar high and overwhelm me
More powerful is my God
But still, still, those floods come
Overwhelming my good, my faith
Yet I am called to believe
Despite all evidence to the contrary
That God’s commands are supreme
That God’s own holiness is mine
Forever. Amen (and sigh)