"Reflection on Psalm 96"
How can we believe
That trees even burned can sing
Praise and trust in You?
Only ancient ones
Sing to the Lord a new song
When Justice has fled.
Their hope makes me weep.
Dare I let their trust in you
Lift up my own heart?
Banish gods of fear.
Help me hear the earth rejoice.
And heal me with Love
So I too sing Love.
This poem by my good friend Ruah Bull captures so beautifully what I've been trying to address this week around the invitation to trust. It is part of our collective reflection on those who lost so much in the fires of northern California and now also the thousands in southern California going through the same devastation as I write this devotion.
Redwoods especially, but also oak trees, have the capacity to withstand the repeated fires that have been part of this area for millennia. Sometimes ancient redwoods become hollowed out by repeated fires and yet continue to thrive through the decades and centuries. They stand as monuments to perseverance and hope, as already with the rains of early December, the burned hills are beginning to turn green with new growth.
I look around at those who seem to be able to hang on in the midst of disaster--and trust. Like the redwoods "their hope makes me weep." And yet that is the promise of the scriptures' witnesses to God's presence and work in their lives. Whatever is happening in our lives God promises somehow to bring new life. Not the old life. Not the same life we've known, but something new and worth living for. It's always a risk to trust. But whatever life brings, this week's witnesses have invited us to ask that God "heal me with Love so I too sing Love." And then we too can be a source of hope for those daring to hope--and trust.
Loving, healing, life giving God, may we be so filled with hope and trust, even like those ancient redwoods. Amen.
"You Have Come Down to the Lakeshore," ELW 817
The text for today's hymn cannot be published due to copyright limitations. We apologize for the inconvenience.
I love this hymn with its reminder of this week's story of Jesus calling the fishermen away from their nets to follow after him--so much so that shortly before I retired I received word through the congregational grape vine that there was someone who would run screaming from church if we ever sang it again.
But the words of this hymn seem so beautifully to echo this week's thoughts about trust: "you have come...only asking me to follow;" "you know what I have...my will for working;" "you need my hands, my exhaustion...a love that's willing to go on loving;" and finally, "Sweet Lord, you have looked into my eyes...now with you I will seek other seas." Perhaps like me you long for that kind of trust that would truly let me park the current boat in which I ride on the beach and follow without question. And yet, what does that trust look like, feel like, act like? It is not something we conjure up from within. It is not a lump of something we can implant. Usually it's something we grow into, feeling our way along day by day and trusting that Jesus is using us even as we live in the uncertainty of where he is calling us.
Jesus, open our eyes and ears and hearts and minds so we can know what you want of us. Amen.
As I write these devotions in early December, I am so aware that the world may look very different by the time you read them in mid-January. So it is all the more important to me that the general theme of trust runs through this week's readings.
We start with Jonah who exhibits a rather bizarre take on trust. Precisely because he trusts that God is gracious and forgiving, he resists God's instructions to go to the great enemy city of Nineveh to proclaim a call to repentance to a people who, in Jonah's mind, deserve no mercy. And sure enough, Nineveh repents and God forgives. This causes Jonah to despair because God was merciful in spite of Jonah's best efforts to avoid what he feared.
Can you think of anyone you hope God will never forgive? If you can't, I will gladly share my list with you. When we trust God to be just, merciful, forgiving and loving, we are compelled to repent of our own lack of those things and align our will and hope for our enemies and antagonists with God's. It is at the heart of our trust in a God, who is not like us, and thereby offers reason to hope for a future of healing and peace.
Forgiving, loving, merciful God, forgive us and transform us into forgiving, loving, merciful and trusting followers both for our own sake and for those we would have you judge and punish. Amen.
Jonah 3:1-5,10 (NRSV)
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time, saying,
2 "Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you."
3 So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days' walk across.
4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's walk. And he cried out, "Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"
5 And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth...
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.