Thursday, November 26
At our house, we have been without a sink and faucet in our kitchen for three weeks now, and it’s been a challenge. I am not suggesting that not having a functioning kitchen sink is in any way comparable to the struggles of people in communities with no access to clean water, or at least not without routine boiling of every single drop or a daily trek to a common well. We are blessed and privileged with clean, potable water flowing from every tap in the house and all just a few steps away. So, we managed just fine, but still the one thing that the absence of a sink and faucet has illustrated to me is how much I am a creature of habit. I cannot tell you how often I reached over expecting to be able to rinse off my fingers or fill a pot of water or dump out the remnants of a cold cup of coffee. Countless times a day, I turned to the sink out of habit.
Today’s lectionary reading includes Psalm 80, the prayer for Israel’s restoration. Three times the Psalmist says, “Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”
This is the King James Version, and I like it for the call to be turned. Other versions read “restore us,” “bring us back,” or “make us new” but the “turn us” has the element of shared agency on both our own part and on God’s. It reminds me of how, when Erin was very small and directionally challenged, I would put my hand on the top of her little head and gently rotate her to face in the direction she needed to look or to go. I was directing her, but she would willingly and happily participate in the re-direction, grateful to be pointed the right way. So similarly, when we ask God to turn us again, we must also engage our free will to be turned. We must want to be turned and willingly do so. I like also the import of the word “again” in this refrain. In this, the psalmist acknowledges that it is the habit of the heart that has been turned to God to sometimes stray and need to be turned again.
You, who are our Guide and our Light!
You, who dwell amidst the angels, shine forth into the heart of all nations!
Enliven your people with compassion that peace and Justice might flourish.
Restore us, O Holy One;
Let your face shine upon us,
Teach us to love.
Gentle Teacher, help us to turn to You in prayer,
Fasting from our negative thoughts.
In your steadfast love, You weep with our tears,
That rise from fear, doubt, and illusion.
You uphold us when we feel the sting of pride,
When our anxiety threatens to paralyze us.
Restore us, O Holy one;
Let your face shine upon us, teach us to love!