Psalm 63* – The Third Sunday of Lent – for Sunday, February 28, 2016
“So I will bless you as long as I’m alive . . .” (Psalm 63:4*)
(Maybe not, but if God keeps score . . .)
Like too many, I brood about the worst of my life. During the intense, reflective time of Lent, why pat myself on the back for the swell stuff I’ve done when I can easily grovel in the bad of my past and dread the likely bad of my future?
Moses, near the end of Deuteronomy (and near the end of his days), famously challenged the people of Israel with,
I call heaven and earth as my witnesses against you right now: I have set life and death, blessing and curse before you. Now choose life—so that you and your descendants will live. – Deuteronomy 30:19
The old lawgiver and burning bush buddy of the Holy warned about the inevitable choices everyone faces.
Were my actions a blessing or curse?
In Psalm 63* believers are called to bless God “as long as I’m alive.”
But once I married another, invoking God in the promises I publicly made . . . and then a few years later, I broke them. Before my thirtieth birthday I was divorced, an avowed vow breaker.
Blessing or curse? Curse, I sadly admit.
And, to be frank (and Larry too), I’ve whispered and shouted some nasty four-letter words, including taking God’s name in vain.
Were my words a blessing or curse? Curse, literally for sure!
Let’s not ignore my lying. Oh, I rarely tell “bad” lies. No, no, not clever me! But how often have I told just enough of the truth, and withheld the rest of the truth, to dabble in deceit? If I don’t want to hurt another’s feelings, or if I don’t want to expose my vulnerability, why not only tell only enough to get by?
Blessing or curse? No lie here: half a truth is a whole curse.
Of course, these are the easy things . . . to bemoan my long-ago failed marriage or yesterday’s tidy little white lie because I didn’t want to upset or appear weak around someone. But Lent, the season of honesty and humility, demands I examine my unremarkable life.
What does blessing God “as long as I’m alive” mean?
I believe it means choice, and echoes Moses’ admonition.
As someone who works in hospice, I understand the real consequences of the life and death choices. I understand what it means for a family to grapple with the quality of life versus the quantity of life. Every decision veers between blessing and curse. However, as I read this “as long as you live” snippet from Psalm 63, I don’t view this scripture as speaking to only literal life and death situations.
The intentional daily journey of Lent includes the mundane. Each of the holy or ho-hum 40 days, with their interruptions, obligations, and frustrations, is overloaded with the insignificant.
From the morning’s first splash of water on my face to turning out the lights for sleep at night, doesn’t every action matter? When we greet a co-worker or answer a phone or compose a text, isn’t every “mundane” activity fraught with choices?
In our public mutterings (and private thoughts), we could easily torpedo others with sarcasm, criticism, insult, and indifference.
And yet, we have those choices.
As someone who works in hospice, I also understand the real consequences of the simple blessings. I spend hours each week quietly conversing with people grieving the death of a beloved parent or spouse or child or best friend. So many of them share about missing the mundane and insignificant events . . . or blessings. Holding hands. The final kiss of the day. Sharing morning coffee in the kitchen. Walking a familiar path. Doing a puzzle together. Chuckling at the Sunday comics. Stringing Christmas lights on the tree. Raking leaves.
Mundane moments. Treasures. Blessings.
In my journey of faith, in the large scale of a life, or during the limited 40 days of Lent, I believe I honor God and God’s calling even (and especially) with the mundane.
How will I choose to treat my neighbor?
What words—sarcasm or support—will I choose to use with friends or strangers?
Will my chosen gestures, public or private, help or hurt another?
Lent, the metaphor for every moment of life, is a season of choice.
Oh God, You who blessed us with air, water, and nourishment, you must weep as humans curse each other, but rejoice in those sweet, small moments when we bless the other. Today, now, help me be Your blessing. Give me the strength to choose to support another, offer a hand, and speak a kind word. Amen.
*For Lent 2016, my weekly reflections will be inspired by snippets from the Lectionary’s designated Psalm. During Jesus’ time, and long before, these words have influenced the faithful, the hopeful, the wondering, and the wandering believers in God. They are treasures read in many languages, and with many interpretations. So, for this season, may my meager thoughts join in this ancient tradition . . .