This week I have been thinking about a convergence – that is seeing two or more ideas or things coming together – as I prepared this week’s Thought and Prayer for the Day for Thursday, March 16th. One stream relates to a reading from the Old Testament and the other a passage from one of my favourite Canadian authors – Louise Penny. And I may need your help with one aspect of this possible union.The March 16th Old Testament reading for the Evening Prayer service is Psalm 86. As some of you know, I am still a neophyte in Old Testament scholarship. Being a neophyte in this instance can expose oneself to head scratching, but also to moments of wonder and joy. It is the latter case with this psalm entitled A Prayer of David. This Scripture passage is about a desire for God as one’s helper. Its opening verse states this quite plainly “Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me for I am poor and needy.” But it then boldly declares the psalmist’s full devotion and trust saying “You are my God, …. In my day of trouble, I call to you for you will answer me.” It is also about asking, particularly for guidance and strength of character, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth, give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” There is also an element of thanks and commitment as one moves through the verses, “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart and I will glorify your name forever.” It has been said that in the Book of Psalms, the term “heart” never refers to a physical organ, but rather to several other dimensions of our humanity – the self, or the spirit, or the mind, or the soul. These parts of who we are, while less tangible than a beating heart, are indeed at the locus or centre of our decision making and discernment capacities. In thinking about all of this during the week, I have found one point of the convergence I will now turn to.
Louise Penny is a wonderful storyteller, and I am a particular fan of her Chief Inspector Gamache detective series. Presently, I am re-reading this series and yesterday I came across a wonderful passage in her book, Bury your Dead. Gamache recalls, from early on in his police career, being told by his mentor four sentences that lead to wisdom.I am sorry. I was wrong. I need help. I don’t know. These twelve words in but four simple sentences have held my interest this week as I consider how one can guide one’s behaviour in daily encounters with those whom we love and others we encounter by chance. Gamache uses these four sentences in Penny’s novels, as he trains and develops new recruits to be part of his detective team, remembering that each sentence is part of one’s path to wisdom. Each elicits a sense of personal vulnerability, particularly in Western culture, in the journey towards wisdom. Yet, that should not discourage us from its pursuit. Here comes the second point of convergence. Is there also a connection – a point of convergence -between the content in Psalm 86 and the path to wisdom as set out by Penny’s character? I think there might be, but I am looking for your help. The Oxford Dictionary defines wisdom as the ability to make sensible decisions and give good advice because of the experience and knowledge that you have. Given this definition, might there be a fifth short sentence, starting with the pronoun “I” that encompasses one’s sense of faithfulness, our Christian beliefs or our relationship to our Creator that is also part of the path that leads to wisdom? I think there might indeed be an additional pearl of wisdom that we could add in relation to all the wonderful elements seen in Psalm 86. Play with this idea and let me know your thoughts. Prayer Gladden the soul of your servant, for you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you. Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer; listen for my plea for grace.
Psalm 86, v. 4-6, The Book of Psalms, (ESV)