Living Psalm 121 – Pentecost 19C (Children’s and Laity Sunday)
Living Psalms Book
Psalms in the form of words and art, reborn in the specific contexts of our world, privileging the voices of historically marginalized communities and those acting in solidarity with them.
I sit in the center of the labyrinth
next to a church that has been closed for a year.
I arrived with my children and their friends,
but they have headed off to the cliff, to the trail
that leads down to the beach.
I don’t blame them – it’s the perfect day for it.
The sky is wide and blue, the air is cool but the sand
still holds warmth from summer’s tenure. Tomorrow is fall,
and I’m afraid. That’s why I’m sitting here, you know.
I let them go ahead. I didn’t ask anyone to wait, because
how could I explain this away, make the broken parts
of me seem casual, or at least cared for?
What if I had said to them, to the children with the laughing eyes,
to the generation who has never known anything but this,
that there once was a time when I used the hose without thought?
That there were whole seasons when a light jacket was all
I needed every day. They would shake their heads at me,
call me old and out of touch. The world has always been burning,
they would say, so today, we must find someone or something
to love. Or else. Or else what, I would ask. (I am desperate to know.)
Or else what is the point, they would chide me. (Of course.)
Sitting here without my phone, without a care in the world,
or at least one that requires my attention or expertise,
I hear their voices drifting up. They sound gloriously happy,
and I want to stand and run to them. I try. I really do,
but I am rooted here in the center, with the hurt that drew me in.
I’ll just close my eyes and breathe, and that will be it. I will be
free of the chains that bind me. I will get up and walk out of here
wiser, and there will be space behind my ribs that I will fill
with delirious joy, because the children are right. The stories
tell us the world has always burned – and although my feet
have not always been this close to the fire, someone’s have.
Yes, I think confidently, suffering is eternal
and everlasting, Amen. Then I remember, abruptly,
the first time I heard the phrase never put a period
where God has placed a comma. This was years ago,
when the living was easy, or at least easier for me.
The minister was kind, and funny, and she had a small church
with thoughtful people who made me feel welcome.
When we sang together, it was slightly out of tune,
and beautiful. The sanctuary was filled with light too,
I remember that. It had been designed to let in the light.
Against all odds, I manage to stand. I was designed,
or so God has seen fit to remind me, to let the light in.
God must know how I snuff the light at every opportunity,
how I hate the cracks where the light shines through,
not because I hate the light, but because the cracks
are a reminder of all I have failed to do.
I’m still in one piece though, so I suppose there’s that.
And not far away, there are people who love me,
who reach for this soft body and see the protection
it has provided them, the warrior woman who has fought
for them and lost. (But also won. At least occasionally,
I have won.)
Living Psalm for Pentecost 19C (Children’s and Laity Sunday) – Psalm 121 was written by Maria Mankin.
Living Psalms Book is created by UCC Witness & Worship Artists’ Group, a Network of UCC connected artists, activists and ministers bridging the worship and liturgy of the local church with witness and action in the community. Maren Tirabassi, editor
Logo is detail from Living Psalm 80 by Sophia Beardemphl, Redwoods, CA. Recovering from significant bullying, Sophia, age nine, read Psalm 80 and thought of brokenness that needs mending. She drew this broken and mended bowl.
© Copyright 2022 Maria Mankin. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights reserved.