On sunny days when the air is crisp and the colors spectacular, gratitude flows so easily. Awe, wonder, and thanksgiving easily slip out of our mouths. Even our posture signals our sense of well-being and praise as we experience God’s blessings and grace full strength. The psalmist seems to be enjoying this full-strength kind of day. Superlatives describing the character of God jump off the page to remind us, fill us, and encourage us in our own experience of the Almighty One. Our God answers prayer, forgives our brokenness, and even satisfies our longing for intimacy. And there is yet even more: The God we worship provides deliverance and salvation, hope and strength. When we allow this psalm to wash over us, we feel humbled before the expansive nature of our God.
Recently I drove through the “big sky” region of the western United States. The ever-changing vista of thousands of acres of lush, green, ripening grain, from horizon to horizon, set against a backdrop of majestic mountain peaks capped with snow amazed me. What an egregious sin it would be were I to express no gratitude to God in response, to turn away from verse 8 of this psalm as it calls me to stand in awe as I witness God’s signs. Or, perhaps, to feel some sense of awe but not remember the One who gives this wonder.
Not all our days lend themselves easily to gratitude. But today may this psalm serve as a call to worship for a week of spiritual work: remembering awe for our God, establishing anew the gratitude that forms the foundation of our faith in Jesus.
Read aloud these verses, holding them in prayer, in silence, in awe.
The Hebrew scripture readings declare the salvation of humankind and insist that the initiative for that sal- vation comes from God alone. The prophet Joel looks forward to the day when all Israel’s sons and daughters will become as prophets in the land. Psalm 65 is a psalm of thanksgiving for the “God of our salvation.” The writer of Second Timothy elevates his own achievements by means of athletic imagery, but the reading concludes with an acknowledgment that strength and deliverance have come and will come from God. The story of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke suggests the perils of ignoring the fundamental truth of Joel 2 and Psalm 65. The Pharisee presumes that his achievements are his alone; the tax collector knows that prayer begins and ends with a cry to God for mercy.
• Read Joel 2:23-32. In the face of tragedy, how can we encourage one another to see with Joel’s eyes?
• Read Psalm 65. What in the created world brings words of praise of the Creator to your lips? What ridges and furrows in your life need God’s softening?
• Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18. What would it look like in your life to run the race God has set before you without striving to outrun others?
• Read Luke 18:9-14. Where might God be inviting your grati- tude? How can your gratitude to God lead to tangible love of a neighbor you might have otherwise disregarded?
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