Streams of Scripture

Scripture Focus: Psalm 27.1-3
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, 
so my soul pants for you, my God. 
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. 
When can I go and meet with God? 
3 My tears have been my food 
day and night, 
while people say to me all day long, 
“Where is your God?”

Reflection: Streams of Scripture
By John Tillman

In arid regions, there are rivers and streams that only exist at certain times. These wadis are dry, dead depressions in the landscape for much of the year. Some are little more than ditches. Some are like miniature canyons.

These dusty gulches can go from empty to overflowing in minutes due to rain nearby or rain miles and miles away on higher plains or mountains. When snowmelt or heavy rains rush down from the peaks and the high plains, wadis in the desert flow with water and spring to life.

Wadis can become a source of water but dry up as quickly as they fill up. Animals accustomed to finding water in these places can be in distress when they come to a wadi and find it dry.

The writer of Psalm 27 reflects on the distressed sound of deer in the desert, crying out in thirst. The animal cries out in desperate need searching for signs of water. The psalmist cries out in desperate need searching for God.

Jesus may have had this psalm in mind as he prayed in Gethsemane. Jesus’ words, “overwhelmed with sorrow” (Matthew 26.38) echo the psalmist’s phrase, “Why my soul are you downcast?” In the middle of a garden Jesus experienced a spiritual desert. 

Our lives, especially our spiritual lives, can seem like arid regions. One day, the wadi flows and we feel connected to God. Another, it is dry and we long for greater connection. But we can access water from a higher plane, a greater source, that makes streams in the desert.

Psalm 1 says when we delight in the scriptures, they become like water that fills a tree with life and makes it productive, healthy, and full of good fruit. Jesus, in one of his darkest moments, found scripture within his downcast soul. When you know the scriptures inside and out, they get inside you and come out of you. We need scripture hidden in our hearts for our soul’s darkest moments.

If Jesus experienced dry times, we will, too. During dry days, we can search our souls for streams of scripture. Like animals in the wilderness, calling out in need, we can call on the Holy Spirit to fill our dry depressions. The dusty canyons of our souls can be filled with the living water that Jesus gives, becoming a fountain within us, overflowing with life.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
Let me seek the Lord while he may still be found. I will call upon his name; while he is near. 

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 27 (Listen 2:43)
Psalms 42-43 (Listen 2:31)

This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 28 (Listen 3:07), Psalm 44 (Listen 2:44)
Proverbs 29 (Listen 2:44), Psalm 45 (Listen 2:17)

Read more about Sluggish Grief
Emotional experience is like traveling across mountains…the bright ascent to the peak…But…we must descend into the valley, the dark woods.

Read more about Be With Me
The weight of our sadness reflects the hope of a beautiful life that has been tragically altered.
But we are not alone. God is near to the brokenhearted…

Waiting on the Lord, Loudly

Scripture Focus: Job 40.3-5
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
     I put my hand over my mouth.
 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
     twice, but I will say no more.”

Psalm 27.13-14
13 I remain confident of this:
     I will see the goodness of the Lord
     in the land of the living.
 14 Wait for the Lord;
     be strong and take heart
     and wait for the Lord.

Reflection: Waiting on the Lord, Loudly
By Erin Newton

Waiting on the Lord is one of those phrases we use all the time, but what does it even mean?

We pray for someone to spend our lives with and wait on the Lord in singleness. We pray for the healing of our loved ones and wait on the Lord throughout treatments. We hope for a few quiet days after a difficult year and wait on the Lord while we pour a cup of coffee.

We assume that waiting on the Lord requires some sort of quiet compliance. After all, we ask children to “wait over there.” Customer service says, “Wait one moment” while they connect us. The crosswalk signs chant sternly, “Wait! Wait! Wait!” All of these are expected to happen without complaint, without a fuss, without questioning the person who told us.

Job has not been so quiet. In his suffering, he has made all his frustrations known. No words or feelings have been spared. When God answers him, he admits he has spoken freely but comes up short to finding an adequate answer.

He covers his mouth and resolves to say no more. Is this finally his attempt at waiting on the Lord?

We are tempted to say, “Aha! See, he finally repents and submits.” We have just read chapter after chapter of theological discussion between Job and his friends. Job has begged God to come and answer him. Does God delay because Job wasn’t waiting quietly? Surely not, for we know that even the persistent woman was granted justice against her adversaries (Luke 18).

But we are left with the question we started with: What does waiting on the Lord even mean?

Is waiting on the Lord some sort of spiritual quiet game? Is there no room for questions, complaints, and pleading?

Job has been waiting on the Lord since the first tragedy. Job has waited in the silence of grief. Job has waited in the disagreements with his wife. Job has waited in the heated debates with his friends. Job has waited while scraping the sores on his body. Job has waited even in his harsh words. And Job waits as God speaks in the end.

We are all waiting on the Lord for something. Its various expressions are rooted in this: We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living because God always speaks in the end.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 40 (Listen 2:09)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen 3:13)

Read more about God’s Sufficient Justice
Humans are capable of a certain level of justice and we are responsible before God to bring about justice.

Read more about Sitting with Sinners
The Christian life means we follow the narrow path of obedience, but we must also follow the way of love. It is possible to do both.

The Path of the Betrayer

Psalm 27.12
Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes,
   for false witnesses rise up against me,
   spouting malicious accusations.

From John:
I prepare and post these devotionals approximately 36 hours before they go out, so as I finished writing this post and prepared it for posting, Notre Dame was still smoldering.

Today’s psalm gives us balm for this wound as well:

One thing I ask from the Lord,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
   and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble
   he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock. — Psalm 27.4-5

Our joint suffering with and for one another is part of being made one in Christ. May our prayers continue to rise for our brothers and sisters observing Holy Week in the midst of such tragedy.

Reflection: The Path of the Betrayer
By John Tillman

Wednesday is the day that it is most likely that Judas sought out the religious leaders to betray Jesus. It is amazing that it took this long.

John tells us that Jesus knew early on who the betrayer was and that, early in the week, the idea was already placed in Judas’s heart, by Satan. His motivation could have been simple revenge for being corrected publicly about Mary’s offering. His motivation could have been merely financial. (He was already stealing from Christ’s ministry fund.) But it is surely more complicated than any one, simple reason.

By Wednesday it was evident that the nationalistic dreams of the disciples and the crowds who waved palm branches (a symbol of the Maccabean revolt) were not shared by Jesus. He didn’t attack the Romans. He met with Greeks. He even failed to endorse a religious exemption for paying taxes to an idolatrous government.

For our reflection, it is valuable to remember that all the disciples felt let down by Jesus in the political realm. Peter rebuked Christ for predicting his death and fought to prevent his arrest. Surely Judas and others felt the same. (Judas seemed shocked to remorse when Jesus was convicted.) Even up to the moment of Christ’s ascension to Heaven, the disciples asked, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?

Like the disciples, our longing for political salvation is far, far greater than our longing for spiritual salvation. This is because we don’t want to be made better people. We prefer others be forced to subject themselves to our weaknesses and sins—to accept us the way we are.

We are setting ourselves up for disillusionment if we mistakenly believe that Christ’s mission is to set us up in power, to bring us earthly authority, or to establish any kingdom other than a heavenly one.

By the end of the week, Judas will be dead and Jesus will step fully into the role John the Baptist first identified him as: The Lamb of God. He is the rejected one, the one who washed his betrayers’ feet, the one who submitted to death, the one who forgave his executioners. If we want to rise with him on Sunday, we must be prepared to die with him on Friday.

Jesus and Judas both offer us a path to follow.

What do we long for more than we long for Christ? Not letting go of it is choosing the path of Judas.

Prayer: A Reading
…Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, approached the chief priests with an offer to hand Jesus over to them. They were delighted to hear it, and promised to give him money; and he began to look for a way of betraying him when the opportunity should occur. — Mark 14.10-11

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 21 (Listen – 3:08) 
Psalm 26-27 (Listen – 3:13)

Thank You!
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Read more about Learning from Judas

Jesus Christ Superstar shows Jesus’ last week of ministry as the looming failure that Judas must have perceived it to be.

Read more about In the Face of Betrayal

Imagine his face looking at Judas…The look you imagine on Christ’s face in these moments says a lot about what you believe about who Jesus is and what his character is like.