Family Liturgies

To Love a Law: Psalm 119

113841605Scripture Reading:  Psalm 119:97-104 (NRSV)

Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all day long.
Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is always with me.
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your decrees are my meditation.
I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
I do not turn away from your ordinances, for you have taught me.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Memory Verse: How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! –Psalm 119:103

Thoughts on Scripture

My oldest son started kindergarten two months ago. And at the beginning, I kept pestering him: “How was it? Did you have a good time? Are you enjoying school? What did you learn today?” And every day, for the first week (or two?), he told me, “Mom. We didn’t learn anything. We just did rules ALL MORNING.” I pushed him, sure that that was impossible. “No, really, Mom,” he said one day. “Today for our rules we made bubbles with our cheeks and hugged our backs.” When I expressed some curiosity about this, he explained, “We have to be quiet in the hallway. And not touch anything. That’s what we practiced all day.”

I grew so weary of only hearing about the rules, I can’t imagine how weary he was of having his entire experience of school consist of them. I worried he would hate school before he ever had a chance to love it. I feared this restrictive system would crush his creativity and stifle his wondering, wandering, curious nature. So when I read this scripture, I wondered… What does it mean to love a law? How is it that thinking about the rules all day long could make the Psalmist appreciate those guidelines, and feel himself wise, and not confined, not restricted?

And then I realized that probably, these ancient rules – the ones the Psalmist loves, even the ones Jesus spoke much later – they’re given for many of the same reasons my son’s kindergarten class has theirs: because it’s those rules that will hold the people together, teach them how to live with one another, remind them that they belong to one another. It’s the rules that call them to think outside of themselves, and in that way they offer a kind of freedom, a kind of openness. Oscar’s class had to spend so much time on them so that, going forward, they can be a class. Maybe part of the reason the Psalmist loves the law is that he loves the community it makes possible for him.

Questions to Discuss

-Which of God’s laws do you love? Think of the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Exodus 20:1-17) and of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  What do you find life-giving in those rules and instructions?

-Why do you think the Psalmist says he understands more than his teachers, and more than his elders? Have you ever felt that way?

-Does your family have rules? What are the most important ones? How do you learn them? How do you remember them?

-Do you believe that all the laws can be summarized as, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and strength, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself”? How would it change your life if this was the only rule, anywhere?


Spiritual Practice

Sensory Poem

Think about what God’s laws call us to: love, faithfulness, truth, grace, community, peace… more…. Choose one of these, or your own idea, and complete the following prompts to create a sensory poem.

(Love) tastes like…

(Love) smells like…

(Love) sounds like…

(Love) looks like…

(Love) feels like…

(Our Scripture even models this for us, when the Psalmist says that God’s law is like honey to his mouth!)

Ask your family members to do the same, and share your poems with one another. As each person reads his/her poem aloud, let the words and images become a sort of meditation.

Erika Marksbury


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