Psalm 134 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 134

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord.”  

Psalm 134:1-2

The Orlando murders and the rampant hate targeting a community of color, of those who identify as LGBTQ, and of a specific faith in the aftermath, all has screamed for our constant, diligent attention.   I keep watching the news because we all are aching.  I stay plugged in because some of my brothers and sisters in the targeted groups feel deeply violated by the violence and the spillover of ignorant, demeaning speech which has followed it.  Nevertheless, we humans are not made to constantly bear the weight of the world hours on end with no break.  Only recently in our cultural history has that become the norm for a generation.

So after tending to the heaviest of news, reading responses and communicating feedback to and from friends on Facebook this morning, I put it mostly aside for half a day. I decided it was time to go on a long drive to visit a colleague who recently had surgery. On the way I took a detour to a grove of white pine, fir and European larch trees, planted decades ago, matured and mighty.  They are nestled in what is now an environmental center, quiet and under visited. There I walked down a path and sat still on a bench and tried do what I promised the congregation to do when I accepted their call: pray. I tried to pray for suffering friends and suffering family and suffering world, but mostly I just listened. One old tree was restless and creaking in the breeze; the rest remained silent.  A few rain sprinkles filtered through the maze of branches and pattered on the soft beds of dry discarded needles. The moving air was heavy with the trees’ scent of sticky sap.  Little creatures and insects rustled in the undergrowth.  A woodpecker delved into a decaying trunk.  A wood thrush called.  A crow.  Eastern peewee. Ovenbird. Nuthatch.  Hummingbird.  All were heard but never seen, sheltered by these towering “servants of the Lord” that guard their spot and provide them with shelter day and night.

For me today these trees are shelter from the “night” of grief and fear that people are in, some spewing violence and fear, some sharing peace and compassion, all wondering when and where it will happen again. I’m weary and wonder what words I can possibly say in Christ’s name in days ahead to the strangers I meet or to people in Sunday’s pews.  I stop to realize that I have departed the proffered silence of these servant trees of the Lord only to enter again into my anxious thoughts which I came here to escape.  Breathe.  Listen to the sounds right here, right now—not in Orlando, not in the future, just now.

When I finally open my eyes again, I realize I have been following the sounds that were weaving among the trees, that I have now returned with a measure of stillness, all without having moved an inch.  I rise and walk to my car and share a meal with a friend.  But thirsty again for more, I return to these towering servants of the Lord in the afternoon on my way home.  Driven by hope I suppose.  This time I sit with my bible opened to listen to the gospel story for Sunday.  Bring me a word.  In this pine-incensed house of the Lord, I hear a man screaming out of the gospel’s pages with mental illness, darting among the trees, plagued by a legion of destructive demons (sounds like the news?).  Swine stampede off the cliff and drown, and then the healed man sits calmly in the presence of Jesus.  I bathe the frightening story with the grove trees’ calmness, and wonder what in the world I am called to say about this, about Orlando, about everything?  “Take our peace and the long view we offer: come Sunday all will be clear,” say the trees.  “Tell what God has done for you,” says the other familiar voice from the gospel story on my lap.  I thank the trees, thank the Lord, and make my way back home.

And now?  Well I’m writing this in my living room and it’s dark now, but I can still smell the trees and still imagine that in spite of a fearful world, I am sitting with the healed man in the presence of Jesus and the towering servants of the Lord, ready for whatever tomorrow brings.

Suggestions:

1. Read the verses and reflect on their meaning for you.  How has the news affected you this week.  How or where do you sense God’s peace?

2. Or read Psalm 134 and see how these verses fit into the whole.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this psalm’s meaning for you.

The next post will be on Psalm 135.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at http://elainedent.net or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.

Comments

  1. I sit and listen also. And pray. Thank you