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Today is 172 days since we started sheltering in place for the COVID-19 pandemic. We began that time – at least I did – unaware, not able to fathom what it would all mean. Who among us thought at first that we’d still be in the same situation come August? I thought maybe we’ll be like this for two months. We’ll flatten the curve, wait for a virus, wait for safety and then go back to normal. We haven’t gone back to normal yet. And I’ve lost track of how many “new” normals we’ve had.
Today’s Psalm wrestles with the waiting for deliverance and light in times of darkness and no way out. Psalm 27 is a cry for and ultimately a declaration of belief in the greatness of God and trust in the protection only God can provide. Some think it may be a sequel of the preceding psalm. When you look closer at it you can observe that verses 1-6 are an expression of confidence in God, whereas verse 7-14 seem to be one of complaint or lament. And yet they are connected.
The poet is able to believe (13) – or have utter confidence in the goodness of God because of his/her confidence in what the LORD has done in the past. The poet has experienced God intimately, seeing the LORD face to face. This is even more profound when we recall that the name for God used in Hebrew, which we always represent with the word LORD in capital letters (as we do here) is the name Yahweh. It’s a word that transcends translation. It’s the consonants for the Hebrew word “I am” but there are no vowels precising if it’s in the past tense, the present or the future. It is first used of God in the story of the Burning Bush when Moses asks God’s name to justify his return to Egypt.
13 But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am [Yahweh] has sent me to you.’” Exodus 3:13-14
It’s this God who is which is the one upon which the poet says to wait for strength and courage. The word wait in Hebrew is an active verb, not passive as in waiting for your number to be called or for a better day. It’s a waiting with excitement, earnest involvement, personal investment, and active yearning.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation