Read: Psalm 102
I am like an owl of the wilderness, like a little owl of the waste places. I lie awake; I am like a lonely bird on the housetop.
In the prayerbook version of this psalm, the first owl is like a vulture, circling above. My Hebrew is too poor to know whether the bird in question is an owl or a vulture, but I know both circle overhead looking for food. The vulture looks for the carcass, while the owl looks for the snake or the rodent. Then there is the swallow, sitting on the rooftop watching for the squiggle of the worm beneath. All hunger. Each needs nourishment. Each must be vigilant. Closing their eyes, they will see nothing. Seeing nothing, they would die.
When I wrote my book, Who the Blazes is Jesus, I couldn’t help but see Jesus (in the Gospel of Mark) as One who always kept his eyes open, but not with a desire to devour what he saw, but to see God at work in the world around him. When Jesus hung upon the cross, I wonder if this passage came to mind. As the people around him circled, and mocked him, and spit upon him, I wonder if he saw them as vultures and owls. As others mourned his death, I wonder if he remembered what he had said about “not one sparrow falling from the sky but that God knows about it.”
It has been a long time since I have felt like smoke blowing away on a gentle breeze. Maybe it is a scary image. Maybe it is a sad and lonely image or feeling. But I trust God’s promise that God will gather us all up at the end. Our lives may decline and dissipate in the manner of all that is organic and corrupt, but I know our Redeemer lives, even when it hurts. That’s all I need, even when the worm turns; the swallow will carry us up to high places in the end.
God, sometimes I am not all here. Sometimes, like smoke, I find myself carried aloft or carried away. And yet, you bring me back. You circle, you see, you find, you grasp, and you save, even when it hurts and especially when it hurts. And you make it better. Thank you. Amen.
-The Rev. Keith Axberg