“Providence”—the word has always drawn me in. It has a big inclusive embrace, a protective sweep. I also sense the word is out of favor these days.
Maybe belief in luck rivals it now or trust in fate or fate’s cousin, fatalism. Maybe people prefer to believe strictly in their own power of choice, with the motto “I make my own reality.”
Psalm 36 is here to reset the coordinates, supply oxygen, a lifeline to Providential confidence—the confidence to believe that God is upholding the world despite the mess we make of it.
God upholds it with patience. Every sunrise is a signature underwriting the renewal of creation once again, as if we’re getting yet another chance to make peace, give praise, and get some things right. Nothing is out of reach of God’s care or consciousness, the psalm says. God’s love is refuge. God’s righteousness and generosity are boundless. “They feast on the abundance of your house; and you give them drink from the river of your delights.”
How do we harmonize such words with the world’s daily cruelties and twisted delusions? This is a tough question. But a deeper question persists: What gets the last word—our violent injustices and politics, or the light of the Creator? A lot rides on the answer we choose. If God is upholding our lives, then I need to hold up my end of things and keep the fires of hope burning.
“In your light we see light,” the psalm says. I take that to mean God’s truth is always there, accessible, whether we’re paying attention or not. We have the freedom to turn in its direction. The capacity to choose it—that too is providential. “O continue your steadfast love to those who know you.”
Holy God, you’ve been constant from the beginning, a presence our whole lives, the Creator who holds us. Make me an instrument of your will in the present moment. Amen.
Popular conceptions of God sometimes mislead us. Messages coming even from within Christianity sometimes make us think that God is constantly angry, just waiting for us to slip up. This week’s readings remind us of the truth. Isaiah teaches us that God delights in God’s people just as a groom delights in his bride. This love, the psalmist proclaims, is steadfast and never-ending. The life of Jesus shows us that God even wants us to have a good time in this life. Jesus chooses a wedding as the place to perform his first sign. He multiplies the wine in order to multiply the enjoyment of the guests. Paul in First Corinthians speaks of spiritual gifts. These gifts are all given by God for the good of the entire community.
Read Isaiah 62:1-5. Recall a time when you have flourished and a time when your life was far from peace and order. How did you feel God’s delight in each situation?
Read Psalm 36:5-10. When have you felt God’s light or taken refuge in the shadow of God’s wings?
Read 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. How can you use your God-given gifts to complement others’ and to support the common good?
Read John 2:1-11. How do Jesus’ miracles help you to understand his identity as the Son of God?
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