During the week while browsing an online bookstore (as a librarian does), a comment about Walter Brueggemann caught my attention. In a recent book which is a compilation of his essays, he makes the point that truth must precede hope; otherwise hope is in danger of being a ‘false hope’.
We see evidence of this in today’s world where fake news and political spin seek to deny reality and to give us ‘false hope’. However, in facing up to the truth – both in the difficult and troubling times we try to avoid, and in the good and beautiful times we easily embrace – we can find the possibility of real hope. In reading these words I suddenly had a sense of why God is known as both the God of truth and the God of hope.
And so, as we face our own truth in these topsy turvy times in which our difficulties and our joys may be quite hidden from others, I pray for you the Wednesday benediction in Dayspring Daily Prayers:
May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that you may abound in hope
by the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Romans 15:13, NRSV)
Yes, may the God of truth and hope bless you this week.
In our ‘online church’ we have been discussing the vexed question of petitionary prayer. Does God answer prayer? Is there any point in praying? In this time of worldwide crisis what do we ask for? How can we pray for so many needs? Do our prayers make any difference?
We didn’t find answers to these questions, but we finished our discussion feeling encouraged to keep praying in the ways that each of us can.
For me, I have been captivated by the words in Evelyn Underhill’s poem ‘High Tide’,
The Moon of prayer,
That by the invincible sorcery of love
God’s very self can move ...
(An Anthology of the Love of God, p122)
It is the mysterious ways of love between lovers which moves God, and not so much our words. Love and prayer, so deeply entwined, are equally mysterious in their effects. So as I pray I can be aware that it is not so much my words that are important, but it is God’s love and longing toward us all.
May the sorcery of love, in all its mystic and allure, be in and through your prayers and journey with God this week.
What does it mean to ‘bless’? It is not an easy word to define. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives a range of meanings, which include
A blessing is a form of grace; it is invisible. Grace is the permanent climate of divine kindness.
To bless is certainly similar to being loving towards, to think well of, and to do good for others. In the midst life, whatever it throws up for us, God blesses us, but sometimes that can be hard for us to recognize. The disciples found it difficult to recognize the blessing in Jesus’ death until after the resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. The philosophers at Athens were unaware of the blessings offered to them by the ‘unknown God’ until Paul’s impassioned oration on Mars Hill.
We, too, are called to be like God in blessing others in both the good and the hard times, in all the ordinariness of life. To bless is like O’Donohue’s phrase, ‘the eucharist of the ordinary’:
We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.
God has blessed us so much, and God’s blessing far outweighs and out performs any blessings we might give. But in seeking to bless, to be loving no matter what life is throwing at us, we behave like God, like Jesus. And when we bless, even in difficult times, says Peter, we will find ourselves blessed as well!
At the beginning of May, the lectionary reading of the Psalms begins again at Psalm 1. Some of the short, early Psalms are quite arresting, and I find that so with Psalm 5. The Psalm is a morning prayer. The psalmist prays with groans and laments before ‘my King and my God’. And then waits. I feel the same in my morning prayers, laying out the pain of our world and waiting in my self-isolation for God to answer. So my interest is piqued and I read on in the psalm. No answer comes for the psalmist (how familiar), but I am emotionally caught unawares by the sudden shift in verse 7 (or verse 8 as it is in the Grail translation).
But I through the greatness of your love
have access to your house.
Somehow, as I repeat those words to myself, an answer no longer matters. I can still groan and lament and pray, as I must, but I do that in the greatness of God’s love for me, which brings me into God’s very home.
May you, through the greatness of God’s love, be blessed this week.