Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Challenge Continues, Day 51: Numbers 7-9; Psalm 42; Mark 16

Dedication, Desire and Resurrection....
Psalm 42 is one of my all-time favorites. I love the images it provokes in my imagination. I love its organic and natural tones. I love the language, regardless of translation that links in the first lines our desire for intimacy with God to the thirst that a deer/hart has for the living water of a rushing brook. That thirst is one that sustains the psalmist through multiple trials, conflicts and dark nights of the soul. It has sustained me through many dark hours. I have seen it offer consolation to people going through difficult times; giving them words of comfort as they lie in hospital beds, consoling families and friends as they grieve the loss of a loved one and tendering a deep and loving promise of hope to us each time we stumble across it in the relentless advance of lectionary readings for Sunday and the Daily Office.

Sicut Cervus is the Latin for the first words of the Psalm. One of my favorite pieces of choral liturgical music begins with a male tenor voice calling out those words...


Dennis Keane and the Voices of Ascension performed this piece by Palestrina. I was fortunate enough, and blessed, to be able to serve the Church of the Ascension twenty years ago as their seminarian intern. Several times, I was serving in the sanctuary when this piece was sung during the Sunday morning liturgy. I was able to quite literally sit inside that music.

When I really feel that deep thirst for God, those words and that music come to mind.

In the midst of that reverie, as I was hanging suspended between this morning between the readings from Numbers and the concluding narrative of the Resurrection from the Gospel of Mark I had a vision of how deeply connected we are to a cycle of relationship with God that moves from dedication, through that above-mentioned thirst/need/hope and on to Resurrection.

As the tribes and their leaders offer the sacrifices for the dedication of the tent of meeting, and as the Levites are cleansed and set apart for service to the same, I look around and wonder at how many times we are called back to those moments of dedication, and re-dedication, to service and life in God. That continually brings us back around to the nuts and bolts of what we need to do in order to connect to God and to each other.

That dedication, devotion really, is seen in the early hours of the morning on that first day of the week after Jesus' death on the Cross. They are going to the tomb where his body was laid in order to complete the preparations for his burial. Carrying ointments and spices, they are going to a place of sorrow and loss to perform their final acts of dedication and devotion that will commit his body to corruption. When they arrive, they instead experience a torrent of wonder coursing from the void of an empty tomb. All their hopes are affirmed when the young man, suddenly present, tells them that Jesus is risen and alive...and sends a message that the disciples are to go to Galilee and meet him there. With that, the Gospel closes with an invitation to return to its beginning and the moment when Jesus emerges from Galilee to proclaim the Kingdom's glory. That is such a dramatic invitation to re-dedicate ourselves to life in Christ! Though the women were afraid, the Gospel is still proclaimed...the thirst we have for new life in Christ is sated. Again and again, we are called to a life consecrated and dedicated to serve God as a people who yearn for, and proclaim, the Lord's favor.

As the deer longs for the waterbrook, so longs my soul for you, O God.....

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