Majesty and Mystery

Watching for the Morning of May 31, 2015

Year B

Holy Trinity

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Hildegard of Bingen, Miniature of the Holy Trinity

We come this Sunday to the day known as Holy Trinity, and every pastor thinks he or she must try to explain the doctrine of the trinity and will likely use some frail and heretical illustration like ice, steam and liquid water, or the person who is a Father, a son, and a husband. The trinity is a doctrine over which the church fought for hundreds of years and is fighting still, but Trinity Sunday is not about a doctrine – it is about the God who has revealed himself by the name, “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” declares the risen Lord, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Among all the gods of the ancient world – and all the gods of the modern world – only one is known as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” and that is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the Exodus and Sinai, the God of justice and mercy, the God of David and the prophets, the God of the exile and return, the God of creation and new creation, the God who came among us as Jesus of Nazareth, the God who suffered and died and rose, the God who is present in and among us by his Holy Spirit, the sign and seal of the age to come.

“Father, Son and Holy Spirit” identifies the God of whom we speak as this God – not a god of prosperity, not a God of power, not the rain god Ba’al, or any of the gods and goddesses of fertility, not the gods of power and conquest, but the one God, the true God, the God of the cross and resurrection, the God of reconciliation and New Life.

The doctrine of the Trinity is important. Very important. But it is important only because it protects the identity of the God of whom we speak and to whom we pray as this God no other.

So Sunday we come together in awe and wonder and fear and praise to sing of this God and to hear the word of this God, the one we acclaim and confess as earth’s true Lord.

The Prayer for May 31, 2015

One God, Holy and Eternal,
before whom all heaven sings,
and to whom belong the praises of all the earth;
you have made yourself known by the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Let your Word shake the wilderness,
bringing new birth to all creation
and gathering all things into your eternal song;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The Texts for May 31, 2015

First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-8
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.” – When an earthquake shakes the temple, Isaiah (a priest) has a vision of God on his throne and is called to his prophetic ministry.

Psalmody: Psalm 29
“The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.”
– The psalmist uses the imagery of a powerful thunderstorm arising off the Mediterranean Sea and crashing over the Lebanese mountains to describe the majestic power of God’s voice/word.

Reading: 1 Kings 19:4-13 (added by our parish to worship this Sunday)
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” – Following the stunning showdown with the prophets of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel, the queen is unimpressed and vows to slay Elijah. He flees to Sinai where God encounters him, not in the power of wind, earthquake or fire, but in a silent stillness.

Second Reading: Romans 8:12-17
“You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ”
– In this climactic chapter of Paul’s letter laying out his preaching and teaching we come to the central proclamation that we are no longer bound to our humanity in its fallenness, but bound to the Spirit of God, adopted as sons and daughters, heirs of all the gifts and bounty of God – heirs of the dawning reign of God.

Gospel: John 3:1-17
“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” – Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night trying to understand this strange yet wondrous prophet. Jesus speaks to him about being born ‘from above’, but Nicodemus misunderstands and cannot understand how it is possible to be born ‘again’.


Photocredit: By The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The dry bones shall live


Ezekiel 37:1-14

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Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, detail of the Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.

Jerusalem is in ruins. Looted. Charred. Desecrated. Abandoned. Some have been taken into bondage in Babylon. Some have fled, scattered to the winds. Some are bones drying in the sun. For some four hundred years the kingdom of David had survived. Now it is no more. The God who led them out of Egypt has either perished or abandoned them.

“Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’”

We have been there. At the place of despair. At the place where the future is lost. At the place where hopes and dreams fail. It may be the death of a child, a parent, a brother, a wife. It may be a fire, a storm, a flood. It may be the loss of a career or health. The collapse of a marriage, a family. We have all been there. Or will be there. And what shall sustain us in that day?

12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people… 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.

The prophet bears a promise that Israel shall return to the land, a promise fulfilled when Cyrus arose and overthrew Babylon and let all its captured peoples go. But the promise of new life, new breath, transcends that single moment in time. It connects with all those other promises of God that show God to be a God who makes a path through the sea, who provides bread in the wilderness, who rescues the oppressed and lifts up the broken. It connects to that great promise that a day shall come when the Spirit is poured out upon every heart and all creation set free from its bondage to death.

There will be days in the wilderness for all of us, but the promise abides: the dry bones shall live.

The worship of the community on Pentecost is festive, but the day bears a profound message. The promised Spirit has come. The life we await is begun.

Photo: By Deror avi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, GFDL ( or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Those lying, lazy…


Acts 2:1-21

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Detail from the Apadana Palace, Persepolis

9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs – in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.

I wonder if its possible to translate this list in a way that conveys what it might have meant to first century ears.

Whenever we think about other nations we have, if not a prejudice or stereotype, some impression of these people. France makes us think of the Eiffel tower, at least. Switzerland evokes mountains and beautiful lakes. Germany – well this is dangerous ground, because speaking of stereotypes invites outrage and criticism. But we have them. We think of Saudi’s in certain ways, of Americans in certain ways, of Brits in certain ways.

And the ancient world had very firm stereotypes. So the author of Titus writes: “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” And though he is quoting a Cretan, he is in full agreement. It was a world in which to know where someone was from told you everything you needed to know. You’re from Crete? Ok. I know who you are. You’re from Nazareth?  Enough said.  “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”  Of course not.

So what would this list of nations evoke in the hearers of this text? Would it sound like Japan, Korea, China and Tibet? France, Germany, England and Spain? Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan? Sudan? Liberia? South Africa? Yemen? Each of those nations conveys a picture to our minds, a set of associations both positive and not.

And what happens when we begin to put them all together? It’s not just geography. It is this vast, complicated, conflicted, combative world. A world in which even the imperial Romans are named. And those lying, lazy Cretans are there, too.

God bears witness even to the Cretans. The mighty deeds of God are told to all. The resurrection, the dawning of God’s age of the Spirit is proclaimed to all. All. So even me. And those unlike me. Gathering all creation into the reign of God.

And we, we who claim the name of Christ, who sit in the pews on Sundays, we are the ones empowered and sent to bear that message to all.


Image: By Aneta Ribarska (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.  Page:

The joy of tires


Psalm 104:24-33

File:Gombak Malaysia Tyre-repair-shop-01.jpg31May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works.

Some years ago in Michigan I came out of church on a cold and wet wintry evening and one of my tires was flat. One of the nice things about ministry among auto workers was that guys had it fixed before I got to the car. I needed new tires, they said. And one young woman said “I know a guy” and set me up to get tires cheaply.

I met the guy a few days later on a cold – and now snowing – wet winter evening at one of those storage facilities. As I drove up I began to wonder whether I was about to purchase hot tires, but he was a guy trying to start his own tire business, with a plan to get a place of his own. He had a large unit, the size of a garage with two bays, and the place was packed with tires. What I will always remember was his complete joy in automobile tires. The place was not only filled with tires to sell, but he had a private collection of tires – as one would collect shot glasses or hockey memorabilia. While his compatriot fixed my car, he gave me a quick course in tires, showing me the different types, explaining the numbers and ratings, talking about their history, it was amazing. He loved tires. He loved his work.

“May the LORD rejoice in his works.”

What an interesting prayer it is for us to ask that God would take joy in his work, for God to delight in the world he has made and his work of sustaining and renewing it.

We say people should follow their bliss, but what happens if you lose your passion? What happens if tire after tire should be defective? What happens if they lose any aesthetic quality? Consider what it would mean for the tires to pray that this guy never lose joy in his work?

God delights in the beauty and wonder of his creation. And it is easy for us to see when we are standing amidst majestic mountains or golden prairies. What happens when God stands on oil-stained beaches or blood-soaked sands?

This is an important prayer: “Do not lose your joy in us, O God.”

It should inspire us to be worthy of that joy.

Photo: © CEphoto, Uwe Aranas / , via Wikimedia Commons

New life is coming


Romans 8:22-27

File:Gravid - pregnant woman.jpg22“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23and not only the creation, but we ourselves…” I suppose the significance of these words depends on whether we place the accent on the word ‘groaning’ or the word ‘labor pains’. That the world is groaning is not hard to see. What human greed and callousness does to the sea, the air, the soil and one another is deeply disturbing. When the honey bee population falls by half, when frogs are going extinct, when rhinos are slaughtered for their horns, when oil covers the shoreline, when groundwater is poisoned, when we are in the midst of the sixth great extinction event due to the human impact on the environment, its easy and proper to say that the creation groans. But Paul is talking about the groans of birth pangs, not the endless aches of an abused world. The creation is in labor. The contractions have begun. The New Creation is in the process of coming forth. The dry bones are being summoned together. The banquet table is being prepared. Water is turned to wine. Unclean spirits are being cast out. The Holy Spirit is loose in the world. The Holy Spirit is loose in us, crying out to God in inexpressible words for the healing of the world. I remember the long hours of the night in which my first daughter was born, the feeling that we were getting nowhere, the weariness. I wanted to sleep. I felt helpless. I didn’t know what to do. Deb wanted to go home. But new life was coming. We had no choice but to receive the life to come. And the only wise path was to work with rather than against the contractions. New life is coming. The grave is empty. The Spirit is poured out. The Spirit is interceding. All we can do is receive the life that is coming. And the only wise path is to work with rather than against the contractions.

Photo by Øyvind Holmstad (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.  Page:

These bones will live

Watching for the Morning of May 24, 2015

Year B

The Festival of Pentecost

File:Freska u kaloti krstionice, manastir Žiča, Srbija.jpgWhat will the future bring? Ezekiel preaches to a broken community in the aftermath of the Babylonian assault on Jerusalem. Every symbol of God’s favor – city, temple, priesthood, king – has been broken, slaughtered or captured. The people are dry bones. Hope is cut off. But there is life to come.

The reading from Romans speaks of the earth groaning in travail, longing for the day of God’s redemption, the day the earth is set free from its brokenness and sorrow and radiant with the Spirit of God. The day is begun, Paul reminds them. The Spirit intercedes for us. The Spirit has been given.

The Psalm speaks of the joy and wonder of the creation, abundant with life – yet all life dependent on the breath of life/spirit of God. Without it we are but dust.

And then Jesus speaks of the gift of the Holy Spirit – in the shadow of the cross, in his followers grief at his departure, comes the promised Spirit who will keep them in Jesus’ word, in the life and love of the Father.

This is the Sunday in which we read the story of the first Pentecost when, with the sound of a mighty wind and images of fire, the wondrous work of God in Christ is heard in every language – the work of God to raise the dead, to raise Jesus, to raise the world into the life of that age when God is all in all.

The Prayer for May 24, 2015

O God of every nation,
who by the breath of your Spirit gave life to the world
and anointed Jesus to bring new birth to all:
breathe anew upon us and upon all who gather in your name,
that in every place and to all people
we may proclaim your wondrous work;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever.

The Texts for May 24, 2015

Pentecost Reading: Acts 2:1-21
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind.” – With the sound of wind and the image of fire, evoking God’s appearance at Sinai and fulfilling the promise of Joel, God pours out the Holy Spirit upon the first believers.

First Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14
“The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.” – Ezekiel speaks to a dispirited community in the wake of the Babylonian assault on Jerusalem. A field of bones, the remnant of devastating war, a people without hope of resurrection because their bones have been scattered, are dramatically restored and filled with God’s spirit/breath of life.

Psalmody: Psalm 104:24-33 (appointed 24-34, 35b)
“When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.”
– In a psalm celebrating the wonders of creation, the poet marvels at the manifold creatures of the world, and the breath/spirit of God that gives them life.

Second Reading: Romans 8:22-27
“The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
– Writing to the community of believers in Rome, a church he has not founded, Paul lays out his witness to God’s work in Jesus. Speaking of a world yearning to be freed from the burden of its alienation from God in the dawning of the age to come, Paul reminds the community of the work of God begun in them through the Spirit.

Gospel: John 16:12-15 (appointed John 15:26-27; 16:4b-15)
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” – Jesus promises his followers that he will sent the Spirit, who will call to mind all they have heard and learned in Jesus


Image: fresco in the conch of the baptistery, Zica Monastery, Serbia.  Photo by BrankaVV (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.  File:

The fullness of joy

Sunday Evening

John 17:6-19

File:Flickr - don macauley - Happy woman.jpg13I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.

This phrase about joy being fulfilled also occurs towards the beginning of John’s Gospel, when some of the disciples of John the Baptist come with a question about Jesus. “The one who was with you,” they said, was now baptizing and all are going to him.” John’s answer to this perceived rival is, He who has the bride is the bridegroom.” Jesus is the bridegroom who has come claim his bride.

Then John adds: “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled.”

I love this phrase, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom.” It captures the relationship between Jesus and the world as a bridegroom claiming his bride with all the transcendent joy such occasions elicit. The moment a bride comes down the aisle is magical. She is radiant with beauty. The whole community is captivated. All the stress of the wedding, all the anxieties, all the family drama is forgotten.   In that moment the world seems perfect. All our dreams for a world wrapped in love seem realized.

We all know better, of course. Life is hard. People are complicated. Relationships are complicated. The magic escapes us. But for a moment the ideal becomes real. The perfect is present. Perfect love. Perfect joy. It renews hope. It renews our vision of what could be, what should be. Such a moment must go from prayer to song to feasting to dancing.

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom.”

John is not bothered in any way that the crowds have turned toward Jesus. God has come to claim his world. Perfect love, true union, the eternal feast, the song without end, is present. John is the friend of the bridegroom whose joy is fulfilled.

And now, at the end of the Gospel, Jesus speaks about joy fulfilled – only now it is the bridegroom’s joy made perfect. The bridegroom’s joy is fulfilled in his followers. In us.

In chapter 15, when Jesus spoke about the vine abiding in the branches, he says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” John uses the same Greek word in all of these places. Joy is fulfilled, as scripture is fulfilled, as the house was filled with the scent of the perfume when Mary anointed Jesus. Though their hearts are filled with sadness at the prospect of Jesus’ departure, they will be filled with joy. You will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy… I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Joy is fulfilled, made complete, brought to its true end, filled to the brim like water jars at a wedding turned to the finest wine – Joy is brought to fullness in the resurrection of Jesus, in the eternal relationship of abiding in God and God abiding in us.

So when Jesus says in this prayer, “I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves,” he is setting loose in the world his words, his teaching, his command to love, his deeds, his Spirit, his abundant and eternal life, his healing, his opening of eyes and hearts, his birthing from above, his resurrection – he is setting it all lose in the world that his joy and ours will come to complete fulfillment. He has come to claim his bride, to claim his world, to claim our hearts and lives, to bring to fulfillment his joy in us.

We can never let go of this fundamental truth. We must hold on to it as tenaciously as a dog to his bone. It is the essential heart of Christianity: the word and work of Jesus – he who is the embodiment of all God’s word since God first spoke light into the darkness – is to bring us and all things into the fullness of perfect joy.


Photo: By Donald Macauley (Flickr: IMG_8119) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons



Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

File:Brooklyn Museum - Jesus Discourses with His Disciples (Jésus s'entretient avec ses disciples) - James Tissot.jpg

James Tissot, Jesus Discourses with His Disciples

15In those days Peter stood up among the believers (together the crowd numbered about one hundred twenty persons) and said “…21one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us–one of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”

We have an image in our minds of Jesus traveling the region teaching his twelve disciples. Da Vinci’s Last Supper shows Jesus and the twelve. Icons of Pentecost show Mary and the twelve. Books are written about what can be accomplished with a small group of twelve. But Luke tells us there were 120.

It’s still a number rooted in the idea of twelve, but that is the point – there is an idea about the number twelve that shapes the narrative and the minds and hearts of these first followers of Jesus. With Judas gone, they are now eleven and the number twelve must be restored. The idea of twelve must be restored.

When we read John’s Gospel, we don’t hear much about the twelve. And there are key people in the narrative – Nathanael, Nicodemus – who don’t show up in Matthew, Mark and Luke. Others, like Philip and Thomas, are active figures in John but only named in the other Gospels.

And then there are the women. In Luke 8 we are told:

Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources

The twelve function as authorized witnesses. This is the test that is put forward for Matthias: someone who “accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us” at the ascension. Had there been only twelve followers of Jesus, there would have been no one to step into Judas’ shoes.

The number twelve echoes the twelve sons of Jacob, the twelve tribes of Israel. It is a foundational number. It carries the idea that from twelve sons, in fulfillment of God’s promise, came a people as innumerable as the stars. So from twelve apostles – twelve ‘sent ones’ – will come the gathering of humanity into the reign of God.

The disciples are the students of Jesus, this is what the word means. We are all supposed to be such disciple/students. The apostles are the twelve ‘sent ones’ – although they are not the only sent ones. Luke calls Paul and Barnabas apostles. Paul calls himself an apostle, and in Romans 16:7 refers to Andronicus and Junias (a feminine name) as apostles. Though there is, in the tradition, a more technical sense that the word ‘apostles’ refers to a specific charism of those sent to plant churches in new areas, we are all ‘sent ones’.  We are all heralds of grace.

We confess the church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic – meaning it is a single, sacred, universal, missionary church. The words ‘one’, ‘holy’, ‘catholic’ and ‘apostolic’ come into English from Greek; ‘single’, ‘sacred’, ‘universal’, and ‘missionary’ are their Latin counterparts.

We are all students and sent ones, disciples and apostles, members of a discipled and apostolic community – a single, sacred, universal, missionary community.


Image: James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.’entretient_avec_ses_disciples)_-_James_Tissot.jpg

That we may be one


John 17:6-19

File:Brooklyn Museum - Jesus Goes Up Alone onto a Mountain to Pray (Jésus monte seul sur une montagne pour prier) - James Tissot - overall.jpg11 Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

The history of Christianity is not great in this regard. The great theological controversies of the third and fourth centuries were complicated by appeal to imperial edict – and imperial troops. In the second century, what we know now as orthodox Christian faith was struggling against gnostic teachings and teachers. In the first century the church was divided over the question whether gentiles and Hellenized Judeans could become Christians without first adopting the ritual laws of the Old Testament. It was the rumor that Paul brought an uncircumcised person into the temple that started the riot that led to his arrest and, ultimately, to his death.

And working the other direction from the fourth century is the great split between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The moving of the imperial capital meant that now the Patriarch was the emperor’s pastor and de facto head of the church – a position of influence the bishop of Rome seemed unwilling to yield.

There was the lengthy – maybe perennial – conflict with Pelagianism (and semi-Pelagianism) whether we are saved wholly by grace, and the Donatist conflict born of the late persecutions: could a pastor who surrendered the scriptures or denied the faith in the face of death continue to serve as a priest? Were his sacred acts valid?

And we haven’t yet come to the shattering of the Christian west that happened with the Reformation. A necessary reformation, to be sure, but Christendom devolved into Lutherans and Calvinists and Anglicans and Anabaptists, and each of these further split until the Pilgrims/Puritans fled England to land in what is now Massachusetts where we continued our fragmentations with all kinds of innovations like Shakers (no sex), and the Oneida community (plural sex), and Mormons (polygamous sex). (I know there is much more to these communities than sex, but our willingness to break free from even the most fundamental social conventions is a unique element of the American experience.)

Lutherans were skilled in dividing, too. By 1900 there were some 150 different Lutheran church bodies. Not to mention individual congregations that periodically split as if the Christian mission was simply a matter of mitosis.

It’s important to argue theology. We need to struggle with one another to be sure that we speak the authentic Christian message. But Jesus is praying that we may be one. He is not praying that we should each have our thriving little kingdoms, fueled by the self-righteous imagination that we alone have the truth. He is praying that we may be one, united in care for one another and for the world, abiding in the love that he has revealed from the heart of God.

In Matthew, Mark and Luke, after supper on the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus goes to Gethsemane where he is engaged in a great spiritual struggle, praying that he may escape the cross set before him, but praying more fervently that he will do the Father’s will. If we think that prayer was only about Jesus we are mistaken. The prayer of Jesus is a model for our prayer: “Not my will but yours be done.”

In John’s gospel, Jesus doesn’t pray for himself; he prays for us: That we may be one. That we may be a community living God’s love. That we may be a people who pray “Not my will but yours be done.”


Painting: James Tissot [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous


Psalm 1

File:RISD Rodin Hand of God.JPG

August Rodin, The Hand of God

6The LORD watches over the way of the righteous.

I believe this, though my daughter was righteous in the rich Biblical sense of that word – faithful to God and to others – just, honest, true, compassionate, generous, kind – yet when she was 19 her car was struck by a driver who had been drinking and she was killed. Two others in the car with her were also killed, and two terribly injured in body and spirit.

I think about this because today is her birthday.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous.

I do believe this. And it is not just the desperate clutching at faith in the presence of despair.  It is not born of denial but trust. God watches over the way of the righteous. I do not think this means that God guarantees anything. It is certainly not a guarantee of a happy and prosperous American-style life. It is a promise that God watches. God sees. God knows. God guides. God protects – not absolutely, but protects from those truly fearful things: a life made shallow by possessions, pride, privilege. A life made ugly by bitterness or hate. A life where hope, or compassion or joy has been crushed.

As a parent who wishes to hear his daughter’s laugh again, I certainly wish God protected from every stubbed toe. But I know that such a protection ultimately corrupts. As hard as it is, you have to let your children struggle and suffer sometimes, for spiritual poverty is a much more terrible disaster.

Could I have endured it if Anna became vain and selfish? Could I have born the burden if she had grown thoughtless or cruel? No, God watched over her.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous.

I still pray for protection when I drive. I ask to be guarded against all manner of ordinary ills. I want safety and surety for my surviving daughter, myself and all my extended family. But I understand that beneath my prayer for safety is a much more important petition: that God will guard our spirits. And in such protection I believe and trust.


Photo by Ad Meskens. [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons.