Third Wednesday of Lent – Wednesday, March 27, 2019

March 27, 2019  

Psalm 63:1-8

The psalmist who wrote Psalm 63 was longing to see God.
I don’t think the psalmist is alone in that. I’m guessing many of us have shared the same longing. To see God. To hear God. To be in the company of God.

Some scholars assume (The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume 4, pp. 926-928) that the writer of Psalm 63 spent the night in the Temple in Jerusalem waiting for an answer to his or her prayer.

The psalmist prayed to God: I seek you (verse 1).
The psalmist prayed to God: My soul thirsts for you (verse 1).
The psalmist prayed to God: My flesh faints for you (verse 1).

The psalmist describes his or her longing to that of a person in a “dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Was the psalmist kneeling in prayer all night, longing for an answer? Was the psalmist sitting on a stool or on the floor, head down, silently longing for God? Was the psalmist pacing the floor, muttering words, pleading for a response?

Sometimes I come and sit in this sanctuary and pray.
I’ve spent time alone, sitting in the sanctuary of every ministry I have served. I don’t believe I’ve ever longed to see God in those times, but I have often longed for enlightenment. Or for comfort. Or for peace of mind. Or for a little bit of calm when everything seems stressed and busy.

Richard Foster wrote in his book Celebration of Discipline, in his chapter on prayer that Martin Luther declared “I have so much business I cannot go on without spending three hours daily in prayer” (p. 34). Apparently the busier Luther was the more he prayed.
This prayer that is our psalm feels different.
There is longing; there is also satisfaction.

I have gazed on you in your holy place… (verse 2).
My spirit is content (verse 5).

Not only has the psalmist longed for God, but there is also a sense that the psalmist has had his or her longings satisfied.
You have been my helper (verse 7) the palmist wrote.
Your right hand holds me fast (verse 8).

Scholar Mark Smith thinks the psalmist had a “solar theophany” (TNIB, vol. 4, p. 926). Smith thinks the psalmist saw the sun rise over the Mount of Olives and illuminate the Temple (TNIB, vol. 4, p. 926). Smith believes this was a visible manifestation of God… that God was there in the sun (TNIB, vol. 4, p. 926).

I chose the photograph we have on the cover of our bulletin because it is a solar event. Not a theophany, but a regular event. When the sun shines in the morning, it shines through our stained glass windows and creates art on the floor, on the pews, on the pillars, on the piano. It happens again in the afternoon, coming in the windows on the other side. I have begun taking photos of the light because, each times it happens, it is beautiful. The colors feel warm. I don’t see God in them but I feel God’s presence.

Like the psalmist, my spirit is content (verse 5).

Finding both longing and contentment in the same psalm is unusual. Reading it, I’m left wondering: is it still possible? Can we, after a night of prayer and longing and supplication, discover that God is right here? Can we find that God is right beside us? Can we know with confidence that God is walking with us and living through the moment with us?

I think we can. I believe we can.

I believe that, like the psalmist we can pray to God, saying

O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you (verse 1)

even as we say

I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory… (verse 2)
My soul clings to you;
Your right hand holds me fast” (verse 8).

May it be so.
Amen.