THIS WEEK’S THEME: Is God among us?
Welcome to this alternative Chapel meeting of the Andrew Murray Centre for Spirituality in Wellington. And to the post-Pentecost season in which we focus on the coming of God’s kingdom in our world.
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Is God among us? | Meditation #1 | 28 September 2020
Dear friend, I greet you in the name of the God who introduced God self to Israel as ‘I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the house of slavery’ (Exod 20:1). May this God surprise and inspire you this week! Welcome to the virtual chapel of the Andrew Murray Centre for Spirituality. And welcome to the 17th week of “Ordinary Time” – the season in the church calendar in which we focus on the living Source who sustains our lives amidst loss and grief. In the light of Exodus 17:7, our theme for the week is the question, ‘Is God among us?’ Be in your favourite place, even if you have to imagine it. Acknowledge external sounds before you focus on your inward journey, and breathe deeply a few times until you are at peace.
The suggested lectionary reading from the Book of Psalms for this week is Psalm 78 – a psalm of Asaph, probably meant for teaching. It forms part of the 3rd book of psalms and is a serious reminder to the people of Israel not to forget God’s covenant with them, God’s wonders of bringing them out of Egypt and providing for them in the wilderness. A recurring theme in this psalm is Israel’s lack of faith, stubbornness and rebellion against God when God – in their view – was slow in responding to their pleas. Do yourself a favour and read Psalm 78 as a whole. I read from the NRSV. “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ear to the words of my mouth (v1). / God established a decree in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God (vv5-8). / In the sight of their ancestors God worked marvels in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan. He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all night long with a fiery light. He split rocks open in the wilderness; and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. He made streams come out of the rock, and caused waters to flow down like rivers. Yet they sinned still more, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’” (vv12-19).
Let’s be silent and visualise a God who takes initiative in covenanting with people, desiring to be their God, and who experiences how they respond in rebellion and lack of trust (vv8, 17, 22, 32, 37, 56, etc). Let’s visualise God being tested again and again, disappointed and provoked to anger, filled with wrath, rejecting God’s people and abandoning God’s dwelling place among them, as the psalm testifies (vv40-41, 58-60, 62).
Shall we pray? Holy God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we are stunned by Psalm 78 and in denial of Israel’s ungrateful and rebellious response to your steadfast love and care. And yet, their lack of trust mirrors our own often faithless response to your kindness. We mourn our inability to respect your presence and to be patient to how you work among us, particularly when you disapprove of our cravings and greed. Gracious God, grant us your mercy.
May God be compassionate to you and me today. May God restrain God’s anger and not destroy us. May God forgive our iniquity and rebellion (Ps 78:38) and give us peace. AMEN