For 25 March 2020: Fifth Wednesday of Lent
Read: 1 Chronicles 16:7-36
Songs of joy and celebration! That is my expectation when our shelter-in-place orders end. I expect we will hear joyful music all around us when these dark days end. The passage we read today is a song composed when the Ark of the Covenant was completed and given its’ place in a tent set aside for that purpose. David, God’s chosen leader of Israel, makes this day a day of celebration and joy for all the people.
In writing this beautiful song of praise, David pens these words, “Turn to YHWH, to God’s strength, and seek God’s presence constantly” (1 Chronicles 16:11, TIB). In the middle of singing praise to God and remembering why we sing praise to God comes this admonition for the day-to-day: seek God’s presence constantly. Paul echoes this in 1 Thessalonians 5: Rejoice always, pray constantly, and give thanks for everything – for this is Gods will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16, TIB). We are called to be a people whose lives are prayer.
I struggled with this idea for a very long time. I didn’t understand how one could be constantly seeking God’s presence or praying constantly. I realized, eventually, that whether it was working in the field with my dad, studying the wonder of creation, or intentionally setting time aside for God I could make whatever it was prayer, and something offered to God. Baling hay, in the end, was a way to offer gratitude to God for providing for our herd. Understanding the biochemical processes which make cells grow and change was a moment of wonder at God’s creative power. Spending hours reading the Scriptures and praying became a prayer for guidance and direction. Helping the folks who came to my door hungry, became a prayer for the well-being of that family. Everything which is just, honest, and useful can be handed over to God as a prayer. Those things which are not just, honest, and useful can be handed over to God as well – as cries for Gods forgiving and redeeming power.
I recently had occasion to visit an acquaintance whom I have known for a long time. He has struggled with mental illness and addiction most of his adult life, if not fuller back in his history. In my last visit he was clearly under the influence of something. When he took his shirt off, so he was wearing only a t-shirt, I had my answer. I could see the track marks from where he had been injecting some drug into himself. I sat there quietly listening to him speak. I just sat there and listened. I kept wanting to be upset seeing him return to a life I know he struggled to put behind him. The Spirit has another intention completely.
As I listened to a somewhat mental illness driven and addiction rant, I began to realize he had no one else in his life who would actually listen to him. Most all of his friends and family have turned their back on him. I can understand why. Yet, my being there, listening became something I offered to God. I quietly offered to God my presence there for however God needed to use it in that moment. I listened, just listened, for several hours. Time eventually arrived for me to wish him farewell and to be on my way home. He looked at me as I was preparing to leave and said, “Thank you for listening to me and not judging me. I know you’re disappointed in me for using again. I’m sorry.” I assured him I wasn’t upset with him but concerned. His response was how I knew God was somehow active in the evening. He said, “You don’t judge me life everyone else. Thank you for still being my friend.” Sometimes, the power and presence of God is made known simply by going and listen when we would rather not. On that day, my song of praise to God was to simply listen to my brother struggling with addiction. All aspects of our lives can be lived as a prayer to God.