Last night, I attended the weekly prayer session at St. George’s; the meditative practice is called Lectio Divina. If I parse this expression: lectio means to read, to reflect, to respond; divina means divine. Together, we understand that the session is to read passages from the Bible, reflect and discuss how a certain word or phrase alters or enlivens your understanding of life, yours and those around you.
Last evening, we studied part of Psalm 119 (vs 105-112). In this passage, there is one line that really upsets my apple cart. Verse 111 reads: “I have inherited Your testimonies forever, For they are the joy of my heart.”
I meditated on one word in that verse, the word testimonies, or better yet, prayers, guidelines, or any number of other words one may use as the sermons and parables of Jesus that remain with us. This is not a message for just Christians, as it appears in our bibles; it is a message for the world to study. Jesus did not just preach to the Jews in ancient Israel, he upset the Pharisees by going outside the Jewish to include all, such as the Samaritans.
Jesus struggled for 40 days I the deserts of what we refer to as the Levant. He fought with a least three opposing forces: God, himself, and the devils within him. I present the question as to which force is the most compelling. For Jesus, or for us. His internal devils were reflections of himself maturing in his old-time society, which he rejected as a human concerned with those at the bottom. These we call temptations.
Jesus called his disciples to follow him. How can we follow him? Is it truly, or realistically, possible? I try; I meditate daily to accept Jesus’s testimonies. But I am tempted by society’s norms. My wilderness in the very society we live in today. I am physically and psychologically unable to lay down my fishing nets and give up all I have attained to live the life that Jesus did.
I play the lottery. As many know, my wife, Linda, is one of the leaders of the feeding ministry (The Table) at St. George’s. I play the lottery with the main purpose of donating enough money to allow The Table to operate with having to apply for grants. It takes many tens of thousands of dollars to continue assisting those in need. So, I play the lottery in the hopes of winning millions to assist my brothers and sisters in Fredericksburg. You would think that I could win with such a lofty objective in doing God’s work, following Jesus as best as I can. But, I have an ulterior motive also, which is to allow Linda and I to live with a mortgage and other necessary expenses. So, there we have it: I am also looking for personal gain. Obviously, I have not won the lottery. God has not reached down to award this man-made honor to me and my church. This is not what Jesus preached. He condemned the money handlers in the synagogue. There are many better ways to serve those at the bottom of society; winning the lottery is not one of his high points.
I continue struggling; we continue struggling.
I meditate on Jesus’s testimonies, daily, and they are the joy of my heart. The last line of that passage (verse 112) reads: “I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, even to the end.”
I try, which is what I think Jesus would want me to do.