A New Year Reflection on Selected Verses from Psalm 27
My farmer father had a saying: “No matter where you go, there you are.” That phrase has echoed in my head, and often in my heart, at critical turning points in my life. It sounds rather dull and simple on the surface, but more than 35 years after my dad’s death, I can still hear his voice like a prophet calling me back to reality and spiritual focus. (As an aside, my dad had a lot of sayings that may or may not be appropriate for publication!)
A “prophetic call back to reality and spiritual focus” is certainly what we need as we enter into a New Year.
I have always been “future oriented,” musing about whether or not I am where I am supposed to be at any given moment, or might the future be better served by my being somewhere else or doing something differently. Maybe you have too. To be sure, such a future orientation has been beneficial in ministry and in life, generally, as it creates a hope-filled anticipation and challenges the status quo, refusing to get stuck in the mud of the mundane. Such a pull forward also enables us to press through immediate anxiety as it spreads out the present pressure with the promise of relief at some future point. (Jesus will come again, and all will be made right!)
However, the downside of a “future orientation,” if left unchecked, is that a person is never settled … never still … never satisfied … never completely PRESENT and in the moment … and runs the risk of not learning important lessons from the PAST. It is in these moments that my paternal prophet speaks: “No matter where you go, there you are.”
It was his way of reminding me that I always have to take myself with me, no matter where I go, or when I get there. All my baggage, my bumbling and fumbling, my sins and my shortcomings, my weaknesses and waywardness, my strengths and stupidity … all of it comes along for the ride unless I intentionally learn from the PAST and embrace the PRESENT whole-heartedly.
Quite frankly, this is true for all of us: Whether we are stuck in the past or enamored by the future, our call is to serve Him who is the “I AM” … present tense! And our God is so gracious and generous with us! He knows our hearts. His Spirit points us again to Jesus and assures us of His rich forgiveness right here, right now. It is a forgiveness that was purchased in the past and will hold us secure into the future. The cross of Jesus looms large and spans all time and covers all my foolishness … and yours.
Therefore, as we migrate into 2021, let me draw your attention to Psalm 27. It is a rich Psalm of confident faith as the Holy Spirit through King David gives voice to our hearts’ present predicament.
Encouragement and Focus
The turning of the calendar will not remove the COVID-19 pandemic; and newly elected government leaders, from the president to local officials, will not eradicate social injustice and economic volatility. (It’s simply going to take God’s grace and provision at work through people.) And as we journey into 2021 we, each and all, will need to take ourselves with us because “no matter where you go, there you are.” It’s right here that the Psalmist speaks words of encouragement and hope to settle our souls, harness our anxious hearts, and focus our meandering minds:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation.
Whom (or what) shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life.
Of whom (or what) shall I be afraid?” (verse 1)
So our deliverance is from outside of ourselves and outside of human effort. Then David adds:
“One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life…
…he will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His Tabernacle
And set me high upon a rock” (verses 4,5).
I cannot help but to reflect on the fact that John 1:14 (John’s Christmas account) states, “The Word became flesh and ‘tabernacle(d)’ among us, full of grace and truth.” What’s more, St. Paul reminds us that through faith “(we) died and (our) life is now hidden with Christ in God!” We are safely hidden in the “tabernacle” that is Jesus, our Savior!
Therefore, we can confidently go into 2021, learning lessons from the PAST and holding hope in God’s faithfulness in the FUTURE, while seeking to be fully and wholeheartedly PRESENT to live faithfully and serve our neighbor in the name of Jesus. And we, with Spirit-worked faith, can sing with the Psalmist:
“I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and take heart,
And wait for the LORD” (verses 13,14).
So it’s true: “No matter where you go, there you are.” But more gloriously true is this: “No matter where you go, Jesus goes with you.” Isn’t that some Good News?!
Photo (c) Creation Swap