Scripture: Psalm 119:129-136 (NRSV)
129 Your decrees are wonderful;
therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it imparts understanding to the simple.
131With open mouth I pant,
because I long for your commandments.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
as is your custom toward those who love your name.
133Keep my steps steady according to your promise,
and never let iniquity have dominion over me.
134Redeem me from human oppression,
that I may keep your precepts.
135Make your face shine upon your servant,
and teach me your statutes.
136My eyes shed streams of tears
because your law is not kept.
With bombs dropping over the Middle East and airplanes being shot down over Ukraine it is quite easy to be overwhelmed, even depressed, by the brutality of this world. Surely if you care about peace and justice for all, your soul will be stuck in an anxious agony. Innocent people are dying in the name of political power and posturing and blatant stupidity. A text like the classic Psalm 119 may seem like a bit of a side step away from the pursuit of peace and justice in a world which cries desperately for reconciliation. In actuality, Psalm 119:129-136 takes us right into the heart of a justice-pursuing, peaceful God.
Psalm 119 offers us a reminder that God’s way is grounded in the sacred text. With the emergence of communications technology, the potential to be overwhelmed with information is quite high. Social media, reddit, and other communication tools offer opportunity to intake a stunning amount of information from all over the world. The result is we see unedited information from the ground of war zones, murder trials, and other horrific human oppression moments. While information in this way is not inherently wrong, it can be exhausting. For many, the result is anxiety or hopelessness. Terrifyingly, anxiety easily becomes our centre. Psalm 119 reminds us that we need to center ourselves in a God who demands that we take a breath, and be present in the sacred text. The simple act of taking the time to ground ourselves in the Bible is an act of liberation against a world that oppresses.
Liberating God. Ground us in the sacred text. Lead us into the depth of your presence. Lead us into the depths of your refuge from a world which demands us to be participants in oppression. Ground us in the alternative found in the footsteps of Jesus, which lead us to soulful liberation and empower us to seek justice.
Light one candle and place it in the centre of the table where your family normally gathers for a meal. Gather your family together at the table and read the text above, Psalm 119:129-136. Read it through two or three times. Then ask the following questions:
1. What was neat about this text?
2. What was weird about it?
3. What does this tell us about God?
4. What do we take away from these words?
The point isn’t for your family to be perfectly quiet or still during the reading. Your family will not be graded on the Practicing Families “super spiritual family” scale. Heck, if your family is anything like the one I grew up in, your kids may very well try to blow the candle out or light little brush fires at various points of the practice… which is cool too. The point is the candle (blown out or not, other fires or not).
The point is the gathering together. The point is reading the text together, quiet as a family unit or in a zoo-like atmosphere. The point is being grounded in something other than that which the world dictates to us. This is a practice of intentionally creating a sacred space, with the sacred text, with the people dearest to you, in the presence of God, which ultimately brings our souls into a deep-seeded peace.