Friday, September 25, 2015

Shelter and Shadow: Speaking to the Soul, September 25, 2015

This was first posted at The Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on September 25, 2015.

The Psalms appointed for evening prayer today are among my favorite in scripture. Together with Psalm 90, they form an introduction to what is known as Book IV of the Psalter. They radiate hope and trust. They comfort us in times of grief, when we are anxious or afraid. The fill us with the warmth of the love of a God who is gracious, whose loving-kindness never fades.

Some days it feels like we have the world on a string. Other days are filled with struggle and loss. Psalms 91 and 92 resonate on both kinds of days.  Their promises of God’s love and protection ring true, and hold up to us our reliance on God and God’s companionship with us in all seasons.  There are some beautiful images used for God in these two psalms. In Psalm 91, God is described as our shelter, our habitation—our safe home, a place of rest. Four times we are reminded that God is our refuge—and even more than a refuge, a stronghold. God is a mighty mother bird, with strong pinions and sheltering wings to draw her children close to Her and envelop us in safety. In Psalm 92, the beloved of God are referred to as being rooted in God as either a palm tree or a cedar of Lebanon, mighty trees whose roots run deep even during tempests and storms.

The first verse we will read tonight reminds us of the  encompassing love of God:

Those who dwell in the shelter of the Most High
abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

These two psalms call us to draw in a breath, and let it out. Feel that? The more mindful we are of our breathing, the more we are aware of the blessings God has given us, starting with our very breaths, given to us in creation, give to us from our births.  As we breathe, we feel the sheltering wings of the Almighty, which provide us refuge and respite as we catch those breaths, as we gather strength and are clasped within the  embrace of the One who is beside us always, who never sleeps.

That shadow we rest under is the cool shade of the garden, the underside of every green leaf warmed by the sun. It is the promise of being bound to God in love-- Love which is also the Name of God that echoes in our hearts. As Psalm 92 reminds us, this story of love and faithfulness fills all our days, and elicits from us a song to God of wonder:

To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning
and of your faithfulness in the night season;

bearing us up through joy and through storm, ever steadfast, ever faithful, never failing. God’s grace is abundant and steadfast; it calls to us to sink our roots deep and flourish, to spread like a palm tree or a cedar and claim our piece of sky, but also to share in the work of God to provide shelter and shade throughout creation.  

O Almighty One, we thank You for granting us shelter and shadow. Help us to know your grace, to rest and root ourselves in You. Amen.

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