Psalms 87, 90; Jer. 13: 1-11; Rom. 6: 12 – 23; John 8: 47-59
“Lord, you have been our refuge *
from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or the land and the earth were born, *
from age to age you are God.”
The majestic opening lines of the 90th Psalm establish the eternity of God in contrast with our own finite and fragile condition. The psalm goes on to rather bluntly point out that
“The span of our life is seventy years,
perhaps in strength even eighty; *
yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,
for they pass away quickly and we are gone.”
We are often tempted to become rather full of ourselves and our accomplishments, and while there is nothing wrong with a healthy respect for ourselves, Lent is a time to put ourselves into a larger context. No matter how accomplished or important we may think we are, we are mere specks in the larger context of the world and certainly in the context of God’s eternity. How should we use this insight? The psalm has very specific advice:
“So teach us to number our days *
that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
Knowing that our time is finite, how will choose to use it? How will we apply our hearts to wisdom? Will we strive to hear and understand the perspective of others? Will we use this new understanding to work for a more just society?
This psalm is both familiar and cozy—I can read these words without hearing Vaughn Williams’ setting ringing in my ears. It is easy for the words to just wash over us without taking them in. This psalm has a great deal to say to the Lenten pilgrim. Take some time praying its words until they sink in and when you have numbered your days, rededicate yourself to your small part building the Reign of God and pray the final verse:
“May the graciousness of the Lord our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork.”
Eric Peterson has been a member of St. Margaret’s since 2008. He is a member of the Chamber Singers and the Adult Choir, and serves on the Vestry.