“In the shadow of your wings”

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Psalm 36:5-10

7How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

I don’t know why our translator chooses the subjunctive to describe what might be. I don’t see it in the Hebrew, and other translations do not do so. It is a simple statement: “All people take refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

Perhaps our translator wanted to convey that the arms of God are big enough to embrace us all. And yes, the psalmist is not suggesting as a fact that all people do take refuge in God. He has begun this psalm with an excoriating review of the wicked who “flatter themselves in their own eyes” and think “their iniquity cannot be found out.” But once the author has begun to sing of God’s faithfulness, he can use only superlatives:

5 Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.

The wicked become little more than a foil against which to compare the majesty of God’s faithfulness.

So, yes, all people may take refuge in God – but, in fact, we all do. Whether we recognize it or not, whether we trust it or not, we live and move and have our being in the steadfast love of God who sends rain on the just and the unjust. But those with eyes to see recognize a world radiant with love, rather than a world contesting for table scraps. And we find both comfort and joy in the shelter of such wings.


Photo: Christopher Michel [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons


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Paolo Veronese, The Wedding at Cana

Watching for the Morning of January 17, 2016

Year C

The Second Sunday after Epiphany

Isaiah 62:1-5

4You shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married.”

The King James transliterated the Hebrew words that mean ‘My Delight Is in Her’ and ‘Married’ and gave us the names Hephzibah and Beulah. They are not used much anymore as personal names, but they contain a wonderful message. A nation that had been desolated by war, and seemed to have been forsaken by God, hears the voice of the prophet declare that God cannot keep silence at the sorrows of his people and will not rest until they become “a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord,” and he rejoices over them “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride.”

The joy of the wedding feast governs our readings this Sunday. The prophet speaks the promise of God. Jesus embodies that promise at the wedding in Cana. And the psalmist sings of God’s faithfulness declaring:

7How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

The wedding feast in Cana is a weeklong affair, a festivity that involves the whole village and the two clans being joined. But the honor of the families and the joy of the community is threatened by a shortage of wine. In the moment when shame and disaster looms, Jesus graces the wedding with an abundance of fine wine. Tears are turned to joy, and the first glimpse of the kingdom, the first sign of the dawning reign of God, is seen. The joy of the eternal wedding feast is come. The new wine of the Spirit of God is poured out. The first taste of the great banquet of all nations on Mt. Zion is granted. And it is the finest of wines.

The Prayer for January 17, 2016

Gracious God, source of all life and joy,
as you graced the wedding at Cana with an abundance of the finest wine,
grace us with your Spirit,
turning the water of our tears into the joys that are eternal.

The Texts for January 17, 2016

First Reading: Isaiah 62:1-5
“You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate.” – To a people in the dismal aftermath of war and reconstruction, the prophetic promise comes that God shall restore the nation.

Psalmody: Psalm 36:5-10
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.” – In a psalm that exposes the deceits and delusions of the grasping “wicked”, the poet sings of the wondrous faithfulness and righteousness of God.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” – Paul teaches his conflicted congregation in Corinth about the true nature of the gifts of God’s Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit all witness to Christ as Lord and are given to each for the sake of the community.

Gospel: John 2:1-11
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.”
– Jesus turns water into wine, the first of the ‘signs’ that points to the truth of God’s work in Christ Jesus.


Image: Paolo Veronese, The Wedding at Cana, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons