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From the Organ Bench

Psalm 63
Once upon a time, I took my two youngest sons on a autumn walk in the woods. We were enjoying the twigs, acorns, pine cones and other treasures. I hadnt noticed that dusk was fast approaching. The chirping of evening woodland songbirds clued me that we could not continue to dilly-dally around. As we made our way through a clump of thorny thickets, I was hoping to find the old abandoned lane. We needed to get back to the trail that led to the barn, before darkness swallowed us up. My six year old summed up the situation in four words, Mom, are we lost? My eight year old was worried about meeting up with a bear. We could here the snorting of some creature close by. At that moment, singing a hymn or thinking about church, was not on my agenda. Verse one, omitted from todays selection, clues us to the who, what, when and where of the psalm text: A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah. What was the great-grandson of Boaz doing in the wilderness of Judah? The shepherd boy from Bethlehem obviously wasnt tending a flock. Neither was he strumming a lyre as a squire in Sauls palatial tents. The last verses, also omitted, tells the tale. The son of Jesse is on the run, hiding from enemies. Who would dare seek the life of the boy who, once upon a time, slew the Philistine giant? The life and times of King David is a fascinating read of intrigue, power, political conniving, battles, and covert skirmishes. At times, David is a double agent and a cutthroat. Davids rise to power is recorded in I Samuel 16:13 to I Kings 2:12. His popularity as a military leader was clouded by a civil rebellion of three of his sons-gone-wild. David the King, for a period of time, was forced to pack his harp in his camelback and flee his own country. The wilderness provided the perfect cover. In the Hebrew scriptures, the wilderness (midbar) is a desolate, deserted area. It is devoid of civilization. It is a place which is beyond. The midbar is beyond the limits of settlements, beyond government control. Villagers and city folk viewed the wilderness as disorderly and dangerous. Only wild beasts and savage, wandering tribal types dwelt in the wilderness. In times of repression or wars, refugees would flee to the regions of the beyond. Some wandered in desert wastes, Finding no way to a city to dwell in;

Hungry and thirsty, Their souls fainted within them. (Psalm 107:4-5) The great escape from Egypt was into the midbar of Sinai. The Chosen People hated that place with its fiery serpents, scorpions and thirsty ground (Deut.8:15). When one is in the midbar, the human reaction is that of be-wilderment and disorientation. One doesnt have to travel to the secluded geography of Judah to experience midbar. We all have our rocky, uninhabited periods of disorientation. Maybe our relationships at work are rather rugged. Perhaps unemployment has left us on a poverty-covered steppe land. Maybe our own sons and daughters have turned against us. Maybe we find our marriage to be a thirsty ground. Maybe illness and death have left us in the regions beyond the limits of our emotional settlements. Perhaps if we view the trials of our lives as a midbar training ground, we might be able to proceed with the prayer of Psalm 63 with a new perspective. O God, You are my God whom I seek; For You, my soul thirsts, For You, my body longs Like land, dry and weary with no waters. (verse 2) To be alive is to be hydrated. Here the psalmist finds himself with no physical source of water of any kind. There is no stream trickling next to verdant pastures in this place. There is no bubbling spring. Drinking fountains and bottled water are nowhere to be found. Even the moisture of dew is absent in this place of devastation. Yet, the pray-er still searches for the Creator of Life. So, in the sanctuary, I saw You, To behold Your power and Your glory. (verse 3) The psalmist reflects on a previous time; time spent in the LORDS sanctuary. Sanctuary time has a way of permeating and filling all aspects of our lives. Sanctuary time is different from ordinary time. It is a dimension filled with the notable Presence of the Holy One. Imagine time spent in the holy precincts, in the presence of the Living God. Imagine beholding the power and glory of the Holy Blessed One. Because Your steadfast love is better than life; My lips, they will glorify You. (verse 4)

In the midbar, the poet makes an awesome discovery. Gods love is more important than life. As great as it is, life is not the highest good. Someones actions are beyond the limits of human existence. Someones actions define what it means to be a living human being. The realization of this reality affects a response. Even lips suffering from the wages of the midbar; lips dry, parched, and cracked , find the strength to praise the LORD. How many times do we fail, or, refuse to move our lips in the LORDS sanctuary? I find it interesting that the psalmist chose the word, lips, as the organ of praise. Called by the Romans, labia oris, the lips perform many tasks. They are vital for the articulation of sound and speech. Lips shape words for speaking truth or telling lies. They visibly express a wide range of emotions; joy, sadness, whining, perkiness. They can be provocative and pouty. Lips are sensitive to cold, warmth, and touch. In addition to being the organ for receiving food and water, lips are used to express our love and affection to others, which makes the kiss of Judas all the more heartbreaking. Psalm 63 continues, forwarding the reality of praising God. So, I will praise You, while I live, I will lift up my hands in Your Name. (verse 5) So, my soul will be satisfied with fatness and richness, My mouth, with lips singing, will praise You. (verse 6) When I remember You on my bed through the night watches, I think of You. (verse 7) Because You are my help, Then in the shadow of Your wings, I will sing. (verse 8)

Delma Rouleau 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time 6 November 2011