Even When It Hurts: February 27, 2021

Even When It Hurts -- Lent 2021 Devotional Book

Read: Psalms 120-121

I look up to the hills, but where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
-Psalm 121:1-2

These two psalms are among the Psalms of Ascent that may have been used liturgically as people approached the temple in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the city on a hill, was always approached by going up. “Going up” bears metaphorical meaning as well. One ascends to meet God on high. One ascends into greater capacity for faithfulness to the covenant. One ascends into more compassionate expression of virtue. Both of these psalms presume that one begins below, the place of lament, and expresses a desire to ascend.

In the first one, the psalmist finds himself among untruthful people. How can one trust those who do not deal in truth? Deception unravels the social structures that provide security, it is a way of waging war. The psalmist foresees God’s punishment accurately, as the fruit of their own untrustworthy labors. They will go to war and pay the price. He, however, wants peace. One can imagine the psalmist trusting that he, too, will reap the fruits of his labor: peace.

The second psalm begins outside the city gates, looking up toward Jerusalem. The psalmist stands outside, among the defiled and defiling nations, yet he puts his trust in the Lord, the one “who made heaven and earth,”—not Baal, the god of thunder, rain, and fertility, or any of the other Canaanite gods to which surrounding hills had been sacred. He takes his comfort and security in the God worshipped on the holy temple mount.

In today’s world there is a lot of talk, but is it trustworthy? Does it build trust or tear it down? Does it look to the true source of truth, or the hundred lesser gods of our day? We, too, stand in a place we would rather ascend out of. The psalmists name our place because they share it. We can share their hope as well. We, too, can “strive for justice and peace” as our Baptismal Covenant says, knowing that as we do so, God, the ever-vigilant one who never sleeps, who is not caught off guard by untruth or violence, will guard us as we come and go, “both now and forever.”

Loving God, we live in a world full of deceit and war. Shine the truth of your love as a beacon on a hill to guide us up the path to where your beloved community lives in truth and peace. Amen.
-The Rev. Paul Moore