This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of starting off our new series! Over the summer, we will be working through selected psalms. It will be great to hear from a variety of Commoners over the next couple of months! I really enjoy reading through the Psalms. They have such a richness in the language that gives us permission to bring before God whatever we are feeling and experiencing. The Psalms help us to put even our most painful experiences into a context of prayer that, ultimately, ends in praise. They remind us that even if we are in chaos – God is amidst the storm
I chose Psalm 31. I broke the psalm into 5 working parts:
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
For this first part, we worked through the meditative practice of Lectio Divina.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
I shared with everyone that the word ‘refuge’ came out to me when I practiced Lectio Divina myself. It reminded me that God has promised us refuge … protection … shelter. All too often, I try to deal with all my emotions and experiences on my own. I know vulnerability is good, but I don’t practice it – it is something I am always working on.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.
This part of the Psalm brings in such strong language and gives us space to feel raw emotion. Following this section of the Psalm, we wrote down a personal burden on a piece of paper.
.But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.
How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.
I shared how at first, I did not resonate with the anger written here, but that it brought me to the idea of grace. Thanks to Jen K for passing along this read to me! – The Ragamuffin Gospel
“Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life … It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying; You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not performing, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted. IF that happens to us, we experience grace” (Paul Tillich).
Grace calls out, “you are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanted to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken, or potbellied. Death, panic, depression and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted.”
Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.
Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.
Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full
Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
Here, we again practiced Lectio Divina again.
I shared this video from Soul Pancake and we ourselves took our burdens and placed them through the paper shredder!
We closed with a prayer I wrote that essentially reworded the Psalm into a prayer for the Commons:
In you lord, we seek comfort. Please offer us grace
Teach us in accordance of your will.
Lord, please listen to us and make haste your embrace
You are our rock so we trust you to guide us.
Please don’t let us fall into temptation or the easy way out
Lord, we give you our lives. We commit our spirit to you
Because in you, we trust.
Let us not worship false heroes. Rather, we only put our trust in you
Lord, we love you
Because you can see our pain, our suffering, our distress
You have not given us into the hands of our enemy
You have given us freedom. Teach us to receive it and learn to use it
You have shown mercy and compassion, for Lord, we have grown weak and tired
At times, all consuming
There are people in our lives that see us as inferior
We have been dishonoured and disgraced
We have been pushed aside and misunderstood
There are people who we can no longer see –
We have been discarded and forgotten
We have enemies and they are whispering against us
But in you Lord, we place our trust
Protect us from the ones that hurt us
Your love is unfailing and constant
We ask you to make us feel worthy Lord
Please silence those that seek to shame us.
Lord, we know you have so many blessings in store for us
and that they are safe in your dwelling
Lord, we admire you and raise you up
Because you have been there for us.
There have been times where we could not see you Lord, but you made yourself known
God, we love you
You protect us and we are thankful
We wish to be strong and courageous and trust that you are here with us.