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Psalm 84, as paraphrased by Nan C. Merrill
John 6:56-60, 66-69
Sometimes thoughtful theological reflection is not what we most need. Sometimes knowing the historical and cultural context of a scripture passage doesn’t make it feel more relevant. Sometimes Jesus’ words, especially as rendered in the Gospel of John, seem so circular and confusing as to make our heads hurt.
Sometimes what he’s saying is important enough, and life-giving enough, to make all the uncomfortable wrestling worth it. Sometimes we’re willing to do the work it takes to understand. Sometimes we’re willing to make the sacrifices it takes to follow. Sometimes we’re willing to make the leap that faith requires.
And sometimes we just want to go home.
Because sometimes we are just plain tired. Because sometimes we think we will scream if we hear one more word from a certain politician’s mouth. Because sometimes all the name-calling and truth-twisting and hate-spewing that passes for public discourse drives us to despair. Because sometimes all the unnecessary suffering, gross injustice, and destructive policies leave us in tears. Because sometimes our good friends get sick and our beloveds die. Because sometimes our children struggle and we don’t know how to help them. Because sometimes this being human is just plain hard.
And so our hearts ache—for what we’re not quite sure.
And so we may feel lost—and unsure of which way to turn.
Sometimes we might even think that there is no rest for the weary, only more work to be done. Sometimes we might conclude that there is no peace to be had, only struggle. Sometimes we might decide that there is no truth, no hope, no way through to the other side of whatever darkness we’re in.
Sometimes, when things are at their worst, we might even feel that, as much as we want to go home, we’re not sure where that is any more. We’re not sure home exists any more.
Sometimes it seems as if seeking refuge in God has gone out of fashion for a certain kind of Christian. Sometimes it’s as if we’re so caught up in our image of what a progressive, justice-seeking, theologically sophisticated Christian believes and does that we forget what it is to rest in the heart of God, to let God’s love comfort us, to acknowledge our need for something beyond ourselves, to rejoice in the mystery of the Holy. It can feel so old-fashioned, so quaint, so evangelical, so—I don’t know—religious or something.
Fortunately for us, the ancient Hebrews were not big on sophistication. Fortunately for us, they understood that their lives were not theirs alone. Fortunately for us, after years of wilderness wandering, they had come to understand the bond that can develop between person and place.
Fortunately for us, they had experienced the Great Mystery as the ground and source of all that is, as rock, as sustenance, as home.
Fortunately for us, they were not too proud to acknowledge their longings. Fortunately for us, they were not so world-weary as to stop hoping in God’s faithfulness or so reserved as to withhold their delight in God’s goodness, their joy in simply being in God’s presence. Fortunately for us, they were not so focused on all that was wrong with the world that they failed to recognize all that was good. Fortunately for us, they had experienced God’s extravagant welcome, and they proclaimed it with joyful hearts.
How glorious is your dwelling place, O Loving Creator, they sang. My soul longs, yes, it aches for the abode of the Beloved; all that is within me sings for joy to the heart of Love!
You invite us to dwell within your Heart, and blessed are they whose hearts are filled with love, who sing praises to You with grateful hearts.
Fortunately for us, they knew that intimacy with God was not a separation for the suffering of the world or the challenges of life, but an opening to all in all.
Blessed are they who put their strength in You, they sang, who choose to share the joy and sorrows of the world.
Blessed are they. Happy are they. Whole are they. Blessed are we.
Those who put their strength in you, O God, those who make their home in your heart, those who walk through this beautiful and broken world with hearts both open and grounded—they do not give in to fear, they do not put their trust in the things of this world, they do not succumb to cynicism or despair. No, those who dwell in your peace are revived by the power of your Spirit. They go from strength to strength and live with integrity.
They go from strength to strength.
In the light of God’s love, in the freedom of God’s mercy, in the security of God’s grace, they examine themselves and their ways of living. They consider their tendency to put their hope in things. They acknowledge their eagerness to support the next great candidate. They recognize that some of their good, hard work comes from the anxiety of thinking that the welfare of the world is all up to them. They reflect on their exhaustion in light of God’s promise of rest.
In humility, they ask God’s forgiveness. In returning to God, they find home. And in coming home, they find peace and joy.
O! they sing. O, now we understand—that a day in the Heart of Love is better than a thousand elsewhere, that we would be better off as lowly servant’s in God’s realm than to live in wealth and power in an unjust world.
For the Beloved is radiant as the sun, as strong as a steel shield, and invites each one—every one—to come, to partake of the Holy Banquet.
For the Beloved becomes our food, our sustenance. For the Beloved lives and dies to dwell within us, to live in and through us. For the Beloved calls us to take into ourselves his death, his body and blood, and to abide in him as he abides in God.
Blessed are they who know this is a hard teaching, and who nevertheless gather around Jesus’ table with hungry hearts and willing spirits. Blessed are they who realize, like Peter, that there is no truer source, that there is no better way. Blessed are they who eat the bread of life and drink the cup of blessing. Blessed are they who seek healing and hope, reconciliation and restoration. Blessed are they who find true life in the way of the cross. Blessed are they who make their home with the God who chooses to make their home with us.
They go from strength to strength, together, singing for joy all the way.