Hiding God’s Word

I had an amazing conversation this week with a high school classmate who is a Benedictine monk. My Lent Bible study had a chapter on asceticism and it occurred to me that as a monk, my friend lived a life totally committed to the cause of Christ in ways that most of us could never understand. In explaining the vows that he took, he talked about poverty. He literally owns nothing. He talked about chastity. He will never know the comfort of a good marriage. He talked about vocation. His is a vocation that involves multiple sessions of prayer, scripture reading, and participating in mass every day. He told me that every day he prays for those who have no one to pray for them, and my heart was deeply touched.

He talked about obedience.

Obedience is the way of life in a monastery. It is the ultimate form of asceticism. Each monk relinquishes total control of body and self to the service of God as directed by the abbot. His entire life is “all in” and there is no room for selfhood.

This beautiful life of sacrifice is summed up in our Psalm today. While I would imagine very few of our readers today are being called to become a monk, I do believe that the “all in” nature of the psalmist’s commitment are worthy of our attention…and obedience.

Psalm 119 (New International Version)

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
    By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
    do not let me stray from your commands.

Today is a good day to pray “I seek you with all my heart.” This would require some heart surgery, though. What are you holding back? What needs to be cut out? What indulgences are you loathe to let go of in order to truly seek God?

Obviously in order to be obedient we need to become learners and disciples of God’s word. We need to hide it in our hearts. We need to be open to God’s teaching. We need to memorize his laws and understand his statutes.

11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.
12 Praise be to you, Lord;
    teach me your decrees.
13 With my lips I recount
    all the laws that come from your mouth.
14 I rejoice in following your statutes
    as one rejoices in great riches.
15 I meditate on your precepts
    and consider your ways.

God calls all of us to be obedient in reading and doing his word in our lives. Are you willing? I know you’re able. What would you have to rearrange in your daily routine to ensure that you are not neglecting God’s word?

16 I delight in your decrees;
    I will not neglect your word.

Every day that you dedicate these moments to At Water’s Edge in reading, thinking, and responding to scripture is a day spent moving closer to God. Let us continue the journey together so that when we meet God, he commends us as his good, faithful, and obedient servants.

Delight in God’s Decrees by Sharon Tinucci

Ashes, Ashes

Ring around the rosie! A pocket full of posey. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Who has played this as a child? I have fond memories of watching my mother with my girls and my niece in a Disney hotel pool, holding hands and circling around while singing this. The finale was to all fall backwards into the water, which is a clever way to help young children learn how to hold their breath and immerse their heads under water without fear. Sneaky Grandmere!

I was startled to learn that some people attribute this cute little ditty to the plagues. Yes, the plagues. It is thought that ring around the rosie refers to the fever-flush that would appear on the face with the onset of sickness. Pocket full of posey refers to the medicinal herbs that were used to treat the victim. And of course ashes refers to the necessary burning of the bodies in an attempt to stem the course of the virus that was taking out entire villages.

That is quite a morbid take on a nursery rhyme, but it does lead us into a contemplation of our own mortality as we approach the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

Lent is the 40 days (not counting Sundays) prior to Easter when we are invited to slow down our frazzled pace and contemplate the meaning of life, death, and life beyond death. It is a season of preparation for the marvelous celebration of the resurrection on Easter morning. We are wise to approach it with a serious, soul-searching attitude.

Psalm 51

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.

5 Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me.

6 You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.

Truth in the inward being is a noble pursuit. God knows the secrets of our heart, but do we? Is there stuff buried so deep that we have forgotten about it? The strength of our denial can enable us to live as though certain actions and behaviors never took place. We go along on our merry way, thinking we have gotten away with it.

Lent says otherwise. It is an opportunity to confront our deepest sin without fear, because Jesus has the power to cleanse us, FREE US, and make us whole again.

You know that the thing you have buried is still there, waiting like a ticking time bomb to resurface and explode you into pieces. God says that is not necessary. You can give it over to him and let him blot it completely out.

This Lent, let us ask God to teach us his wisdom in our secret hearts.

It’s time to come clean.

Photo courtesy of Covenant Presbyterian Church