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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Today’s Reading | Psalm 66

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
  sing the glory of his name;
  give to him glorious praise.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
Because of your great power,
  your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth worships you;
  they sing praises to you,
  sing praises to your name.”

Come and see what God has done:
   he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
He turned the sea into dry land;
   they passed through the river on foot.
There we rejoiced in him,
   who rules by his might forever,
whose eyes keep watch on the nations—
   let the rebellious not exalt themselves.

Bless our God, O peoples,
   let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept us among the living,
   and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us;
   you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
   you laid burdens on our backs;
you let people ride over our heads;
   we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

I will come into your house with burnt offerings;
   I will pay you my vows,
those that my lips uttered
   and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.
I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings,
   with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams;
I will make an offering of bulls and goats.

Come and hear, all you who fear God,
   and I will tell what he has done for me.
I cried aloud to him,
   and he was extolled with my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
   the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
   he has given heed to the words of my prayer.
Blessed be God,
   because he has not rejected my prayer
   or removed his steadfast love from me. (NRSV)

Recently while sitting in a pew I visualized the people in the First Presbyterian Church of Havana coming forward in a service to share how God is at work in their lives. They spoke about where they had seen God’s healing or justice breaking out or when they had experienced God’s comfort and God’s challenge. It was within that context that I read and reread Psalm 66 seeking some modest inspiration. The psalmist’s phrases “make a joyful noise,” “tell what he has done for me,” and “that which my lips uttered” are examples that tell of the importance of speaking of God’s power. This theme was coming into my consciousness in everything I was reading and hearing.

And then a young man walked into Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, sat with members at a Bible study, and thereafter killed nine parishioners. Relatives of some of those killed addressing the alleged shooter during a bond hearing just one day later spoke these words:

Nadine Collier, daughter of a victim: “I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. If God forgives you, I forgive you.”

A relative of another victim spoke. “I forgive him, and my family forgives him. Give your life to the One who matters most: Christ. So that He can change him and change your ways, so no matter what happens to you, you’ll be OK.”

Like Psalm 66, these were powerful words of faith. I too have personally experienced God’s comfort and healing. I can write it, but when am I called to speak it?

Almighty God, I give thanks for the people who have the gift and courage of public witness, because it is through their voices that I so clearly hear your voice. Amen.

Written by Marilee Hopkins, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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