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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 89:1–4, 15–18           

I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever;
   with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.
I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;
   your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.

You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
   I have sworn to my servant David:
‘I will establish your descendants forever,
   and build your throne for all generations.’”

Happy are the people who know the festal shout,
   who walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance;
they exult in your name all day long,
   and extol your righteousness.
For you are the glory of their strength;
   by your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the Lord,
   our king to the Holy One of Israel. (NRSV)

Though I wanted mightily to skip over it, I kept getting stuck on verse 16. The translation I was working with renders it as “Blessed the people who know the war cry / who walk in the radiance of your face, O Lord.” What war cry? The language of war isn’t really mine; I don’t think of life as a battle, nor do I see myself as a warrior. (Heck, I don’t even “lean in” very well.) Shields and spears and military victory are metaphors from another time and place. I can just ignore them, right?

Apparently not.

So what’s a war cry? You can find some pretty interesting examples if you type “war cry” into your favorite search engine. Basically it’s some word or phrase directed at troops, which they’ll hopefully repeat, that unifies, rallies, encourages. Look at that last word. Though I toss around the word “encouragement” pretty easily, I never (can you believe this?) never really noticed the root of that word. Encouragement. It’s something that heartens us, that emboldens us, helps us to be brave.

I went back to the psalm passage we’re given today to see what our war cry is, what we’re given to encourage us. Two words are used three times in these eight verses: mercy and faithfulness.

So maybe, in our case, it’s not about vanquishing enemies (unless the enemies are rigidity, hardheartedness, condemnation, and acedia). We are being called to keep going, especially when it seems futile and boring and hard. We are being called to love as God does, freely and extravagantly and foolishly. We don’t need to keep track of who deserves it or whether it all comes out even.

This can require courage. Swallow hard.

Powerful God, our king and shield and protector, lead us into all the little (or big) battles this day presents. Rally us around what you modeled for us in Jesus: humility, selflessness, integrity, radical love. Encourage us. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator,
Center for Life and Learning

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