Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

A Place for the Lord

“I won’t enter my house, won’t get into my bed. I won’t let my eyes close, won’t let my eyelids sleep, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the strong one of Jacob.” – Psalm 132:3-5 (Common English Bible)

Psalm 132 remembers David and his hope to build a temple. His journey to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem showed him both its awe-inspiring energy and the blessing of its presence. The ark represented the presence of the Lord, and David pictured a physical structure to honor and protect it. We read in the psalm the strength of his desire. He would not go home, or let himself rest, he said, until he could make that place.

We may tend to think of that “place for the Lord” as the church, a building set aside for particular activities of worship, and education, and perhaps care for the community. But in this chaotic and complicated pandemic season, when social distancing meant church was on a screen for many of us, we may have had to find some other dwelling place for God. Was it a corner of our minds? A room in our hearts? Did we find it in the work of our hands, or a fragment of song on our lips? Or did we search and remain unsatisfied?

David found himself distanced from his dream. To build the temple was not his work to do. He would pass the plans down to his son, Solomon. As we near the end of two years disrupted by the pandemic, we may identify with David’s longing. When will we connect with God? And how? And where?

Prayer

Holy One, send word of where you are that we might find you. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

The Doorway

Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. – John 13:1 (NRSV)

Jesus gathered the disciples for a dinner we have come to call the Last Supper, a story we tell every time we gather for Communion. We ritualize the different events in John’s Gospel on Maundy Thursday with the washing of feet (or hands for the more cautious among us). In one version Jesus serves his followers, and in the other he serves himself to us as the bread of life and the cup of blessing.

With my Cousin Jack

The way we tell those stories brings us to a threshold between what was and is to come, like a doorway between memory and possibility that is right now and yet not. We tell our own stories like that. I remember my father at an airport handing me a crisp $100 bill to take my son out to lunch. I remember his cousin, years later, making sure to sit with me at a family wedding to put me at ease. I remember eating a holiday meal with my godmother after she moved into a nursing home, an effort that cost her more than I knew. Every time I tell their stories we stand in the doorway together.

The Gospels tell us Jesus ate meals with his disciples again after the Resurrection, which makes it odd to call that Supper “Last.” It gives me hope for meals to be eaten somewhere beyond the doorway, farther than I can see now, with nothing of past love lost.

Prayer

Gracious God, we thank you for love that lasts until the end and beyond. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.

Reflectionary, UCC Daily Devotional

What to do?

I detest the company of evildoers, and I don’t sit with wicked people. I wash my hands – they are innocent! – Psalm 26:5-6a (CEB)

I started the day mad, chewing on the wrongs of someone else. Then I considered what I might do in response. My gut reaction tends to be “flight”: to figure out what can I quit or leave (or slam shut) to show my displeasure or disapproval, to show how deeply “I detest the company of evildoers.” I look back, though, and remember times I reacted to a communal injury by fleeing, and I can see that my decision hurt me, or hurt innocent parties, while having zero impact whatsoever on the deserving target of my anger.

Were my hands washed? Were they innocent? What to do? What to do…

“I don’t sit with wicked people,” claims the psalmist, but sometimes, often, just going to church and sitting down with an average group of people means we’re doing exactly that. They’re sitting with us and our wickedness, too. And the challenge and the beauty of living in community, at its best, is that the connection we care about having to one another offers the opportunity to hold each other accountable.

The harm done by the person whose actions I’m mad about today is real and is causing a widening circle of damage. The honest truth is my running away or huffily washing my hands of the situation won’t help anyone. So I’m going to take note of my gut reaction but not let it rule me. I’m going to breathe and pray and take more than a minute to listen for God before I decide how to respond.

Prayer

Holy One, you know why we’re mad. Help us to see what to do. Amen.


Written for the United Church of Christ Daily Devotional.