Sunday, March 9th – Psalms 66, 67, 19, 46; Gen. 48:8–22; Rom. 8:11–25; John 6:27–40
(BCP Readings for today)
In keeping with the Lenten focus on the psalms the meditation for this fourth Sunday in Lent is taken from the two psalms assigned to this Sunday (66 and 67). Sundays during Lent are not part of the forty days of fasting; rather, they are days to live in the joy and power of the Risen Lord; they are Easter Sundays so to speak, to balance the time of inward reflection on our frailty and mortality.
The name for this Sunday is Laetare Sunday, which means the Sunday of Joy, and appropriately, Psalm 66 begins with an invitation to the entire earth to “shout joyfully to God, to give glory to His Name in song,” to praise Him exuberantly. The cause for this joy is God’s triumph over His enemies, the powers of evil. He did so in creating the earth out of darkness and deep water, by delivering His people from the shackles of Egypt, and by sending His Son to bear our sins on the cross to bring the deepest joy to the human heart, and by building His Church gathering saints from east and west, north and south.
God’s works are great and redemptive, gracious and merciful. Indeed, if we are tried and tested and fall into weakness even when we seek to build His Church, this Psalm speaks of God’s nearness to those who pray for healing so that they are renewed because, as the psalm declares, “He does not withhold His great mercy and love from those who seek Him.”
Nevertheless, often joy in this world is difficult to experience in the light of wars and famines and injustices, hatred and misunderstanding. It is hard to imagine the whole earth joyfully shouting praises to God when we hear about terror and utter devastation. God indeed seems far away, almost absent as unprecedented violence and fears cause millions to flee for safety. Psalm 67 provides the believer with one answer. This brief psalm begins and closes with a reference to the blessing Aaron pronounced over Israel. But Israel is not so much in view in this psalm, rather the entire earth and all her peoples are mentioned in each line except the first.
The blessing first pronounced over God’s Old Testament people during times in the wilderness now is meant for all the nations living in the wilderness. In this brief psalm one day all will know the saving power of God. As in Psalm 66 the invitation is that all peoples praise the Lord, praise the Lord, praise the Lord, and again, praise the Lord, a fourfold call at the center of this psalm. Why all of this praise? Surprisingly it is not for the love and mercy of God, rather that God will judge the nations with equity, with justice. How our world and the upright living on it long for that day when Christ will come to establish His righteous kingdom.
“Let the nations sing for joy” on this Laetera Sunday, the Sunday of joy as we anticipate, by faith, the return of Christ the Judge and Ruler. So we pray, may your kingdom come soon, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Image by Shilpi Boylla (used by permission via Creative Commons).