Refrain for the Midday Lessons – Psalm 107:43
Whoever is wise will ponder these things, and consider well the mercies of the LORD.
A Reading – Colossians 3:12
As the chosen of God, then, the holy people whom he loves, you are to be clothed in heartfelt compassion, in generosity and humility, gentleness and patience.
The Midday Psalm – Psalm 80:7-14
Restore us, O god of hosts; show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
You have brought a vine out of Egypt; you cast out the nations and planted it.
You prepared the ground for it; it took root and filled the land.
The mountains were covered by its shadow and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.
You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea and its branches to the River.
Why have you broken down its wall, so that all who pass by pluck of its grapes?
The wild boar of the forest ravage it, and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.
Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven; behold and tend this vine; preserve what your right hand has planted.
The Small Verse – Psalm 85:11
Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
It is a matter of outlook and attitude whether I see the mercies of God around me. After a season of much loss in our family, we have returned to what is, more or less, normal. And I must say, normal feels pretty good now. It is easy to see God’s mercies: the warm weather, our healthy children, our adequate home, cars that run reliably, enough food and then some, the beautiful things growing in the Spring sunshine, friends, access to good books, excellent musical partners for John, and the list goes on. I think it is even easier to see these things now, though, because we have just come out of a season of mourning and are reminded that life can be filled with loss instead of good things. And it is easier to be compassionate and generous, gentle and humble and patient, blessing the world as we have been called to do. But when my way of life is threatened and I do not see God’s mercies as readily, it is very difficult to act out all of these virtues that affect other people positively.
The Israelites probably felt similarly after they came out of exile. From the words in today’s Psalm, they obviously felt God’s mercies, but something happened that was threatening the good things in their lives, and they were worried that they might disappear. Nobody knows how many tears were sown in the ground and on their own cheeks and each others’ shoulders before they came out of exile. And then when things looked like they might be falling apart after they had been freed, it must have felt like “same song, second verse”.
From the small verse today, it looks as though the psalmist is optimistic that truth and righteousness will make themselves known again – a return to the way things ought to be and cause for great joy. Compassion, generosity, humility, gentleness, and patience will have the opportunity to flourish once again.
It is good to give thanks for the many mercies of God, for they are a foretaste of God’s coming kingdom. Whether we have them in abundance or in tiny doses, our ability to see them makes it possible to be the people of God who bless the world whenever and wherever we are. May he give us each the wisdom to know the good we receive.
Today’s musical selection is another from the Demerits’ latest CD release. It is from Psalm 126 and is sparing with words. When the words arrive, they arrive in power and leave with heavenly pronouncement. This ranks as one of my two favorite songs John has ever written. It draws on the biblical idea that there is hope in time of grief and despair, that we will not always live in exile.
CXXVI – John Mortensen – performed by the Demerits
They who sow in tears, reap with songs of joy.
He who goes out weeping, shall return with songs of joy.