"How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." - Psalm 36:7-9
My father liked to quote Goethe: "One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words." With a bit of imagination, the psalms do all of that, and more.
Thus, the deep wisdom of the daily cycle of prayers, in many faith traditions. We in the Christian church learned the practice from the Jews, and inherited the hymnal known as Psalms. What I find, when soaking up the rhythms and imagery of those songs, is how they reach and readjust me, wherever I am.
Today, the psalm is aspirational: I sing of God's steadfast love not because it is so palpably true, but because I long for it so much. Tomorrow, perhaps, the same psalm will simply describe what I have experienced.
One neighbor is much in need of refuge, as under the wings of a God who instinctively shelters. Another returns daily to a home that has not known abundance for a long time. Another has lost most of her sight. All three can sing this song together.
Yet another neighbor has provided shelter for foster children. Another is steadfast in her ministry of food: collecting, cooking, serving. Another dances, because that's how he expresses the holy delight inside. They join the others in singing this song together.
There is so much room here: a revival of songs; a slam of poetry; a museum of pictures. In us, too, there is more room after the psalm than before.
O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, Holy One. We praise you for the song, the poem, the picture of you that shapes our days and our ways. Amen.
John A. Nelson is the Pastor of the Niantic Community Church (UCC/UMC) in Niantic, Connecticut.