Despite the fact that you will rarely hear a sermon on them, the Psalms are by far the most read book of the Bible within my denomination. With a few exceptions, in the Daily Office, we read the Psalter through every seven weeks. In the Book of Common Prayer, the Psalter is still marked for reading them in a thirty day cycle. Almost every Sunday, a portion of the Psalter is appointed in the Lectionary. It is a gift that we are able to borrow from our Jewish sisters and brothers their ancient songs of praise, lament, thanksgiving, and wisdom sharing.
As with any set of texts, some speak more to me than others. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Psalm 121 is a go-to for me in challenging times. Psalms 1, 122, 133, and even the weighty Psalm 22 have all been important to me at times in my life. Of course, there is Psalm 23, which has almost universally been used at the funerals over which I have presided in my decade plus of ordained ministry. Psalm 23 has a tendency to show up just when I need it to. It was there on the week of the Boston Marathon bombing. There have been several experiencing where I was ministering to someone who was deep in the symptoms of Alzheimers and watched as they mouthed the words of the King James Version of the 23rd Psalm along with me.
This week, as we had to make the Closing the Porch to close our porches to overnight sleeping. Through tears and hugs, last night we announced to the Cloister Community that it would be the final night they could find shelter in our shelter. Our ministry with this community isn’t ending, but it is drastically changing, and as I grieve all that is lost in this transition – seeing folks daily, praying for them, sharing coffee and a breakfast – I’m holding on to these words of lament that are also words of hope. In minutes that seem to last for days where I feel acutely the shadow of death, stuck as I am on Holy Saturday, but I know that in due time, blessings and mercy will find me, and that grace abounds.
Of course, the reality of grief is that if anyone says that to me right now, I will be hard-pressed not to throat-punch them theologically, but just as those souls wracked with dementia had the 23rd Psalm hard-wired into their bones, it is there, deep within me, sustaining me through what are some pretty painful days.