Psalm 143 (NRS) The Kingdom of God is at Hand
Here my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. Do not enter into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you. For the enemy has pursued me, crushing my life to the ground, making me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Answer me quickly, O Lord; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me, or I shall be like those that go down to the Pit. Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Save me, O Lord, from my enemies; I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit lead me on a level path. For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life. In you righteousness bring me out of trouble. In your steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am your servant.
Since moving from Vienna to Charlottesville and New Haven last summer, I’ve been visiting many churches (Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal) in both towns, for Sunday morning worship. I’ve experienced some surprises in church liturgy and culture, including praise bands, standing for Confession, different versions of the Lord’s Prayer, hymns routinely sung in French, German, Arabic, and Latin, and written music that’s projected on the wall behind the pulpit.
Despite church closures and declining attendance in both New Haven and Charlottesville, I’ve witnessed many positive trends during my church visits. Interfaith activities are strong and getting stronger; Yale Divinity School and Music School students routinely intern at many New Haven churches, offering great talent and mentoring services to youth and young adults; church affiliated Day Schools are alive and well; one church offers free outdoor meals to homeless men and women every Sunday, no matter the weather. A church in Charlottesville has a large house devoted solely to youth and young adults, and everywhere I go, hymns are sung with grace and enthusiasm! Last, but not least, all the churches I’ve visited are friendly and inviting, particularly to people of color, immigrants, people with differing sexual orientations, and folks with no Christian background at all.
In Psalm 143, the writer talks about being a servant to God. In the churches I’ve been visiting, I’ve seen many active congregations filled with people who are providing service to others, and by extension, to God. In many ways, providing meals to homeless people on the New Haven Green; offering a safe place for young people to talk about tough issues in Charlottesville; or simply offering a friendly place for worship to people from all backgrounds, means that the Kingdom of God is with us in the 21st century.
Lord, grant us your peace and know that as the Psalmist writes in verse eight above, we always try to put our trust in you. By doing so, we know that we will come to experience your Kingdom here on earth. Amen.