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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 29

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
   ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
   worship the Lord in holy splendor.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
   the God of glory thunders,
   the Lord, over mighty waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
   the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
   the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
   and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
   the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
   and strips the forest bare;
   and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
   May the Lord bless his people with peace! (NRSV)

Anyone familiar with Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur” (1877) might’ve recalled a few lines from that sonnet while reading Psalm 29. The poem opens with a similar sense of majesty: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.”

In proclaiming the magnificence and power of God, both psalm and sonnet ask us to see holiness in the world around us. Both encourage us to think about our relationship to God and God’s creation. But from there, the poem and psalm diverge. The poem moves on to decry the effects of humankind’s creation on God’s creation. The psalm, by contrast, widens our thinking about God’s might and majesty.

For example, the psalm shows us that God’s ways are not our ways. It reminds us, starkly, that we are not the center of creation; God is. And it challenges us not to comprehend God solely as a holy friend at our disposal but to praise all God’s works. How, then, do we relate to such a God?

Reflect, for a moment, on the somewhat cynical saying “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Surely, we are not guilty of believing in God only when we need him or thanking God only when we feel blessed. But are we guilty? Shouldn’t we strive to have faith so strong and so enduring that it ceaselessly courses through our lives, even when flood, fire, thunder, hurricane, or earthquake leave devastation in their wake—and in our lives? Psalms like this one can equip our hearts and minds for unwavering faith, come what may. They remind us that cedars of Lebanon may be broken and the forests might be stripped bare, but we will sing praises to the God of creation.

Fearsome, awesome, wondrous God, keep us steadfast in our faith, and even amid tumult or restless seas, make us grateful for all the days we spend in your creation. Amen.

Written by Sarah Forbes Orwig, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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