One time a tearful reader called with a question: “Do you think my Rudy is in heaven?” Rudy had died unexpectedly during routine surgery. Rudy was only eight years old. Rudy was a cocker spaniel.
The reader told me about his church, which was silent about whether pets go to heaven—most churches are. He sounded reassured and relieved when I mentioned that Psalm 36 says, “Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens. . . . You save humans and animals alike.”
This psalm dares to claim a God big enough to include all creatures great and small in the divine mercy—a Creator powerful enough to carry everything from past to present to future. “All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” These are words to fall back on and stake a future on. This psalm’s embrace is there when I need it.
Like right now. This era has been a severe test of our health, our politics, our griefs, our planet, our nerves, and our hopes. Yet the world has been in tatters before—think of the economically desperate 1930s, the brutal wartime 40s, the eruptive 60s. Hope is always tested. There’s always the risk of seeking the divine truth in the wrong places—in naïve optimism, political utopias, or frightful conspiracies. The Lord’s horizon is larger than these, and also closer at hand: in prayer and music, in the faces of others, in actions that heal people and societies, and in the sheer fact that we have been given life. It didn’t have to happen. But God has given us time here to share in the all-encompassing divine dream of life abundant—to experience it uniquely, yet as one big family, extending to the heavens.
Eternal Spirit, you are the steady force no matter how uncertain the hour. Help us draw on your indestructible light and cheer one another on. 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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