Sometimes it is hard to sing praises. Whether I am checking my Facebook feed or listening to the latest news, my automatic response these days is more likely to be sadness, dread, or anger. How can we sing praises when changes in weather patterns are creating famine and floods around the world? How can we sing praises when people experience suffering, distrust, and hatred? How can we sing praises when we feel disempowered and hopeless?
So let’s put some things into perspective. Remember that neither the trappings of this world nor the shallow promises from the powerful will stave off collective anxiety or create lasting change. That which lasts beyond our lifetimes, God has the sole power to transform. The balance of power tips in favor of God and the socially disadvantaged: the oppressed, the hungry, the prisoner, the blind, the orphan, and the widow. God executes justice.
So sing praises to God! Put your trust in God who created the heavens and the earth and is creating still. The next time despair and fear try to have their way, touch the earth, raise your face to the sky, and breathe in the freshness of the day. Begin by resting in the gratitude of these simple pleasures to remind you that the perfect love of God casts out fear even in the most hopeless situations.
When I despair for the world, I am looking at it from a human point of view. But when I turn to God, I see through the eyes of faith. Beyond my narrative of despair is a larger narrative of God. A God of love who is, was, and will always be in charge. Thanks be to God!
The next time you listen to or read the news, do so through the eyes of God. Practice being a compassionate witness to the suffering of the world. Inhale suffering; exhale peace.
Ruth and Psalm 146 share a thematic connection. Ruth is a foreigner who decides to follow the God of the Israelites, and the psalmist praises God for being the trustworthy God who cares about the poor, the oppressed, and the foreigner. In Ruth, Boaz will demonstrate this kind of care for her. The New Testament readings focus on sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that Christ was both the greatest high priest and the eternal sacrifice. A scribe in Mark receives praise from Jesus, for he understands that the sacrificial system was less weighty than the act of loving one’s neighbor. Ruth and this scribe are examples of those, named and anonymous, who have come before us in the faith. We celebrate them on All Saints Day.
• Read Ruth 1:1-18. When have you left the familiar behind to set out into the unknown? Where did you experience God’s presence and help?
• Read Psalm 146. When you have found yourself in despair about the world, where have you witnessed God’s work that brings you hope?
• Read Hebrews 9:11-14. How willing are you to release your bag of sins and shortcomings to Jesus?
• Read Mark 12:28-34. In what ways do you understand yourself as a spiritual being having a human experience? What does that mean to you?
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