A plaintive cry for forgiveness and restoration of God’s presence seeps like tears through Psalm 85. The psalmist begins by remembering and acknowledging God’s material and spiritual goodness in the past, especially the forgiveness and pardoning of the sins of the people. (It seems they need both again. How many similar pleas have been made since the Covenant began?) Then, in a burst of hopefulness and confidence in God’s mercy, the psalmist offers a vision of salvation—what life can be like when the relationship with God is healed and restored. The congruence of love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace will prevail.
Though composed long ago, Psalm 85 could easily be written today as the cry of the whole modern world, of a nation, a specific community, or an individual. Examining our personal and public lives we can all ask: How have we turned away from God and deliberately acted against God’s ways? How have I experienced misery because of decisions I’ve made that were not life-giving for me or proved destructive for others? How have we resisted asking for forgiveness from God or those we’ve hurt? How have we been complicit in excluding or marginalizing God’s children? How often have I turned back, repentant, to receive God’s grace-filled pardon?
Each time we return to God, we receive the gift of emotional and spiritual healing. Our relationship with God is restored, and we enable God’s glory to “dwell in our land.”
God, we are citizens of a nation, but more importantly we’re siblings of 7.7 billion humans created in your image. Help us look beyond our personal needs and biases. Empower us as individuals and with others to promote the flourishing of love and faithfulness, righteousness and peace so that your glory will “dwell in our land”—planet Earth. Amen.
Prepare the way of the Lord! This is the theme for the second week of Advent. Isaiah cries out from the wilderness that the people should prepare for the arrival of the Lord. This will be met with shouts of praise and rejoicing. The psalmist tells his audience to prepare the way of the Lord by living rightly, namely by showing love and faithfulness to each other. Second Peter restates that we do not know the day of the Lord’s ultimate return, but we know that the delay is a result of God’s patience and desire for all to come to repentance. Matthew opens his Gospel with a quotation from this week’s Isaiah passage. Here John the Baptist is presented as the one preparing the way of the Lord.
Read Isaiah 40:1-11. When have you profoundly experienced God’s guidance or protection? How did this experience change you?
Read Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13. Consider the author’s questions. How can you and your faith community return to God to “dwell in God’s land”?
Read 2 Peter 3:8-15a. How might considering God’s time alter your perspective on your daily rush and prompt you toward a greater experience of peace?
Read Mark 1:1-8. When have you reached a spiritual dead end? How did the working of the Holy Spirit help you turn around or move forward in a new way?
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