Day 122—Morning and Night—“Witness to God’s Mercy” Psalm 5 – 8
May 2, 2021, 6:00 AM

Day 122—Morning and Night—“Witness to God’s Mercy”  Psalm 5 – 8

I think it must be easier to write a psalm in the morning or deep into the night. I find it easier to read the psalms at either of those times because my mind is clearer and more ready for the type of prayer-song that the psalms represent.

Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite preachers and writers from the mid-19th Century said this about praying in the morning: “This is the fittest time for [connecting] with God. An hour in the morning is worth two in the evening. While the dew is on the grass, let grace drop upon the soul.”

But the evenings can also require settling, consolation, centering. While the Psalms are not stories, they are deep and honest utterances, and they are a part of the writer’s story.  Imagine that, in the time of Jesus, that all good Jews would have memorized the book of Psalms, that simply saying the first line to a good Jew would remind that person of the entire psalm itself so that it could be quoted, depended upon, used for inspiration or strength.

In churches, the Psalm is like the commercial interruption, something unmemorable that gets tucked between the first and second readings, but how many of us remember what we have both said and read? So often we disconnect ourselves from hearing the word of God in church, or we hear it only for the moment and not for a day and a lifetime. The psalms are the best prayers for hospital visits or home visits because people who are in distress respond and hear them. People who need to feel joy can hear joy. Those who are angry with God, with their lives, can find it in the psalms. My son reads and meditates on a psalm every morning. That has become his bible discipline and he told me that if he doesn’t do it for some reason, his whole day is out of balance.

Reading the bible every single morning of this year has certainly become that for me most of the time. See what I said there? MOST of the time. Sometimes reading the bible every day is a chore and what I really want to do is sleep in and forget that God has anything new to say to me. But even before my alarm goes off these days, my sluggy body wakes up as if to nudge me on, as if to help me race the sun as it approaches the horizon, as if it knows that the greatest nourishment for the day is before me, before my peanut butter toast and coffee, before I put on clergy clothing, before I shower and jump start my day.

Hudson Taylor, the famous missionary to China, had trouble finding time alone with God. He began to wake himself up at 2:00 in the morning and used those quiet hours when everyone else slept to commune with God.

And so as the sun begins to pour light into the sky, and as the coffee begins its friendly bubble and drip on the counter, I read these words:

“But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me O Lord in your righteousness because of my enemies make your way straight before me.” (Psalm 5: 7) I realize that these words articulate the focus of my Sunday, of my today, a day of entering the house of God, and acknowledging his mightiness and his power, a day of praising God in the temple which is the house where we dwell together in worship, and suddenly centuries, millennia are washed away. I read David’s words as if they are my own, and then I read them again, savoring the sense of awe and amazement that unites a great king, born in approx. 1040 BCE (before the common era), with a sleepy, aging woman who struggles to remember God’s presence without continual reminders. Today this ancient King is my reminder.

I have read the psalms many times, as many of us have, but today I have the sense of a connection I never really experienced between David and me. Who knew he would write words of wisdom, words that cry out to God, words that speak for me now as well as for him then? Amazing that he could not know, this man born in Bethlehem long before Jesus came, that his words would speak for so many who followed, for people in places that did not yet exist even in the imagination of David or his people?

“I am weary with my moaning; Every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench the couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of grief; They grow weak because of all my foes,” (Psalm 6: 6-7)

Have you ever been there? Does it console you to know that perfect love does not cast out tears, even though our scripture reading tells us for today, on the Fifth Sunday of Easter, that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)? We recognize in David’s words, the words of a royal and powerful man bowing before God, an honesty that we can cling to and an experience that most of us have shared.

Then there are the verses that always make my heart sing: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God (or the angels in some translations), and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8: 3-4).

So here I am, a little lower than the angels, grateful for the fact that today, and for many days to come as we read through the psalms, I can take the words of David, the words of Solomon or Moses or Anonymous, and I can use them as my own prayers, wrestling with God in the morning, in the nook, and recognizing the golden thread of faith that ties us each to another, me to you, you to King David, and all of us to the God whose name is “majestic…in all the earth.” (Psalm 7: 1)

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

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