Restore us again, O God of our salvation. Psalm 85:4
This week I started working for the U.S. Census going door to door asking strangers personal information. Of course, there was agonizing over Covid19, but honestly there was more angst, and lots of training, about the responses of angry, mistrusting people. Many have lost a lot of trust in the government, well, in just about everything and everyone. Yet, so far, thanks be to God, there are many who display kindness to strangers.
One man’s response really restored my trust in humanity. When I first introduced myself, he quickly got angry and slammed the door. Instinctively, I called out: “Please help your community.” He reopened the door and smiled and we had a good laugh and a talk. A woman living alone told me she is an ICU nurse caring for 20+ patients on ventilators. After the census was done, I asked her as a concerned stranger, “Are you a person of faith?” She answered no, but I said I would remember her name and pray for her. And I don’t think I’ll forget her face and will continue to ask God’s favor over her life and very critical work.
Restore our faith in each other, O Lord.
Last week, in the Gospel story, we saw Jesus blessing and multiplying the loaves and fish for the crowds. The story continues in this week’s Gospel: Jesus Walks on the Water. “Immediately (after the people “listened” to Jesus and were satisfied), Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:22-23)
As a busy manager of a team serving thousands of people, Jesus worked long days and nights. He knew when it was time to walk away and find restoration of spirit, soul, and body with his heavenly Father. The words, “he made or ordered” the disciples to go on ahead of him, and “he dismissed” the crowd, show the strong resolve of Jesus to get away from people in order to find solitude and rest in a quiet place of prayer.
Restore my soul, my mind, my body, O God.
“Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints, but let them not turn back to folly.” Psalm 85:8
I like the word “folly,” to describe our fearful responses to life. The disciples were caught in a storm in the middle of the night, and they were surprised and terrified by the sight of Jesus: “he came to them, walking on the sea.” As they cried out in fear, Jesus said, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.” Simple words for a crisis. Yet Peter responds by jumping out of the boat to walk on the water with Jesus. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord save me.‘” (Matt 14:22-33)
Restore my faith in you O God, save me in times of fear and mistrust.
I wonder if dismissing my “crowded” heart full of fear and mistrust, quieting and restoring my soul, could lead to walking on water.
Mercy and truth have met together.
Righteousness and peace have kissed. Psalm 85:10 NKJV
This verse in Psalm 85 has stirred the imagination of believers for centuries. In medieval literature, there is a popular allegory called, The Four Daughters of God. According to the allegory, four attributes of God: Justice, Mercy, Peace and Truth, quarreled concerning the ultimate destiny of sinful man. God’s Justice and Truth demanded satisfaction through punishment. God’s Mercy and Peace urged forgiveness. Sounds so much like our polarized arguments today. The reconciliation of the four daughters opposing attributes was accomplished when the Son of God offered himself as a redeeming sacrifice. Reconciliation between opposing views today must also be brought about by offering ourselves to meeting together and embracing the other.
Reflect. How can you allow mercy (steadfast love) and truth to meet together? As Eugene Peterson writes in the Message: “Love and Truth meet in the street.” Be mindful of your daily interactions with strangers and neighbors. What do you offer when you meet on the street?
Reflect on how righteousness (justice) and peace can embrace each other in your interactions with others. What do you offer on social media, in conversations about politics, or in service to your neighborhood and global community?
Prayer. Restore us again, O God of our salvation. May we be participants in reconciliation with the restoration of our own lamenting faith in God, humanity, and ourselves. Amen.
Fun Postlude. Walking on Water (Henri Nouwen, The Road to Daybreak, attributed to Tolstoy):
Three Russian monks lived on a faraway island. Nobody ever went there, but one day their bishop decided to make a pastoral visit. When he arrived he discovered that the monks didn’t even know the Lord’s Prayer. So he spent all of his time and energy teaching them the “Our Father” and then left, satisfied with his pastoral work. But when the ship had left the island and was back in the open sea, he suddenly noticed the three hermits walking on the water–in fact they were running after the ship! When they reached it they cried, “Dear Father, we have forgotten the prayer you taught us.” The bishop, overwhelmed by what he was seeing and hearing, said, “But, dear brothers, how then do you pray?” They answered, “Well, we just say, ‘Dear God, there are three of us and there are three of you (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), have mercy on us!'” The bishop, awestruck by their sanctity and simplicity, said, “Go back to your island and be at peace.”