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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Today’s Reading | Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
     in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
     studied by all who delight in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
     and his righteousness endures forever.
He has gained renown by his wonderful deeds;
     the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
     he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
     in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
     all his precepts are trustworthy.
They are established forever and ever,
     to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
     he has commanded his covenant forever.
     Holy and awesome is his name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
     all those who practice it have a good understanding.
     His praise endures forever. (NRSV)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” I’ve never felt quite right about this statement. Perhaps “fear” could be replaced with awe or wonder. I have no problem with that. I’m afraid it probably means to rely completely on or to relinquish to God any independent control or perceived power. Drat.

When I started my career as a high-school teacher, I had much in common with these young, indestructible adolescents. It was a fearless time. I was enjoying the freedom of being away from family and yet not having one of my own. I felt invincible, as did my students. This illusion came crashing down when my principal relayed a phone call he just received from a parent. Their son had just overturned his pick-up truck on a gravel road. Three boys had been unbuckled in the cab, driving fast over country roads. They rolled the truck and could not find one boy. The missing boy (one of my strongest, most self-assured seniors) was under the truck and indeed had lost his life. These young boys had not been drinking; they were just experiencing the thrill of invincibility and power. I cannot count how many young boys and girls would look into my eyes after that event and ask, why? My students and I sought answers, and there they were: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Wisdom cannot begin without relinquishing control.

Psalm 111 also says to “Praise God with your whole heart.” Not just your joyful heart, but your frightened and grieving one as well. At the boy’s funeral, his parents came to the podium and the mom spoke quietly to the congregation of high-schoolers. “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,” she said, and then she sat down.

Lord, help me to continually turn my life over to you, to fear you, and to grow in your wisdom. Amen.

Written by Katy Sinclair, Associate Director of Music for Children and Youth

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