Family Liturgies

Psalm 107: Landscapes of Faith

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by Erika Marksbury

Scripture Reading: Psalm 107:1-9 (NRSV)
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, those he redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to an inhabited town;
hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress;
he led them by a straight way, until they reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to humankind.
For he satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things.

Memory Verse
“God’s steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 107:1

Thoughts on Scripture
Sometimes the Psalms do this incredible thing, that at first glance looks like a mistake: they use a singular noun where we’d expect a plural. It happens in Psalm 126, when the people are ecstatic, because they’re returning home, and the Psalmist says, “then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with songs of joy.” In today’s scripture, we see the same strange combination: “their soul fainted within them.”

It’s not a mistake of translation. It’s a word about what it means to be part of a community, or a family; to be part of God’s people. Different as we may be from one another, and separate as we may feel, at times, our ancestors remind us that we share a common joy, and a common struggle. “Our mouth” offers praise when our lives are restored. “Our soul” falters and faints when we feel ourselves crawling through a lonely desert. What else might “we” do together?

Well…we might move, seems to be one answer this text offers. Our two feet, following God, might lead us to a town where friends wait. Our imagination might dream a better world, and our hand might help shape it.

Questions to Discuss
-Imagine you were having a hard time, feeling like you were alone in a desert, and you finally made it to “an inhabited town.” Who would you want to find there?

-Describe a time when what was happening to someone else (or a lot of someone elses) also felt like it was happening to you – when you felt a joy or pain so deeply you would’ve said you felt it in “our soul” or sang your thanksgiving from “our mouth.”

-When have you felt “steadfast love”? What does it feel like? When have you been able to offer that kind of love to someone else?

Spiritual Practice
What landscape could you use to describe your family’s journey, or your own faith? Does the desert described in the Psalm resonate with your experience? Or a choppy ocean? A field of wildflowers? A jagged-toothed city skyline? A vast expanse of rolling hills? Why?

Create a collage – using magazine pictures, or various textures, or elements from your backyard – that represents the place you inhabit.

The Psalm tells us that people who live in certain places have certain needs – when the people are in the desert, they are hungry, and thirsty. Think about people with whom you share your landscape. What needs might they have? How could you and your family help to meet one of those needs this week?

Prayer
Holy One, we give thanks that you are God of our whole lives –
When we are young and when we are old,
When we are hungry and thirsty, and when we are full,
When we are sad or scared or angry, and when we are loving and free.
We give thanks for your steadfast love,
that surrounds us in every setting.
Teach us to love in enduring ways.
Amen.

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