THE CALL | Mark 4:30–32 [ESV]
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
PRAYER | Valley of Vision Journeying On
Lord of the cloud and fire,
I am a stranger, with a stranger’s indifference; My hands hold a pilgrim’s staff, My march is Zionward, My eyes are toward the coming of the Lord, My heart is in thy hands without reserve.
Thou hast created it, redeemed it, renewed it, captured it, conquered it.
Keep from it every opposing foe, crush in it every rebel lust, mortify every treacherous passion, annihilate every earthborn desire.
All faculties of my being vibrate to thy touch; I love thee with soul, mind, body, strength, might, spirit, affection, will, desire, intellect, understanding.
Thou art the very perfection of all perfections; All intellect is derived from thee; My scanty rivulets flow from thy unfathomable fountain.
Compared with thee the sun is darkness, all beauty deformity, all wisdom folly, the best goodness faulty.
Thou art worthy of an adoration greater than my dull heart can yield; Invigorate my love that it may rise worthily to thee, tightly entwine itself round thee, be allured by thee.
Then shall my walk be endless praise.
MEDITATION | Jeremiah 29:4–7 [ESV]
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
SING: Gloria Patri
Glory be to the Father
And to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
As it was in the beginning
Is now and ever shall be world without end
Read: Psalm 62
2nd Reading: Psalm 61
(Ps 61:1) “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.”
When my wife, Chrissie, was pregnant with our first child, we made plans to do a “natural childbirth” with a midwife in Boston. I’m sure that people warned us about what childbirth can be like when it is not dulled by an epidural, but we were not prepared. I remember the midwife, telling us that when the contractions were happening Chrissie should imagine the mental image of a flower opening. We also decided to memorize Psalm 61:1 and thought of it as a “child-birth verse.”
Well, I imagine that some women reading this are already smiling. Granted, the child-birth experience is not the same for everyone and can vary in degree of intensity. But, suffice it to say it was not like a flower opening. It was more like a fully loaded freight train smashing into a warehouse of TNT in the middle of a hurricane...during an earthquake. The contractions came so hard, that Chrissie had trouble breathing. And frankly, I couldn’t breathe either. It was pretty hard to watch the whole thing happen. And well, let’s be honest I was not the one doing all of the work.
The image of sitting quietly in meditative silence while we rehearsed Psalm 61:1 evaporated. After hours of labor, Chrissie moved into transition where the final pushes were in order. As the hurricane reached its final frenzied pitch, the midwife turned to me and said, “You are a pastor, you should pray for her.” That would seem like a reasonable suggestion, except I found that I was unable to think. I just couldn’t put two words together to form a coherent prayer. Not exactly the picture of quiet resting in God’s presence that either of us had imagined. It was not what I had imagined when I pictured "waiting in silence."
Well, the birth was successful, and we both collapsed into a pool of tears and sweat. (Again, I need to acknowledge, that although this was emotionally demanding, I was not the active participant in this ordeal.) Isaac did have some post-birth complications but that would not become evident until after a few days. In the moments after the hurricane had passed, we welcomed a new person into our family. But all I could think was, “What just happened? Can I really say, God is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken (v.6)?” I felt shaken. But the truth became apparent as time passed. God was our rock. Our minds were flooded, and our experience was glazed by emotional frenzy, but God was steadfast. Our chaotic inner experience did not negate the steadfast presence of God.
As I remember this experience, I recall a quote I heard from pastor Richard Wurmbrand, founder of “Voice of Martyrs.” I don’t mean to equate his experience of torture under the Soviets to childbirth. But when he was asked what Bible verse sustained him during the hellish years in prison, he replied that it was not the Bible verse that saved, but the God of the Bible. What I understood that to mean is that our salvation does not come from our ability to quote verses and keep our head in all situations. This doesn’t diminish God working through his word. Rather, it elevates God to his rightful place as savior. He is the source of power and steadfast love (v.11.) Even when our minds are mushy and we can’t remember the words… HE is a rock and a fortress. His hold on us is never shaken. (Matt Koerber)
The Sacred Harp singing tradition is a form of Christian worship that uses a particular kind of music theory. It emerged as the New World blended poor immigrant and slave cultures together. Originally created to teach illiterate people to read music in New England, it quickly spread across the country and took deep roots in the South. Musically, it breaks a lot of "rules" in traditional Western theory, but it follows the "rule" of the ear. Instead of typical music notation, Sacred Hard uses shape-notes that are easily recognizable and reflect the melodic intuitions of folk music. Over time, worshipers would gather in a square and sing toward one another with the goal to sing as loudly as possible. As one worshiper explained in this documentary, "If you can hear your neighbor singing, you're not singing loud enough!" Sacred Harp is a rich tradition of worship and has greatly influenced modern hymnody with writers like Isaac Watts and Joseph Hart. Our first setting of Psalm 126 uses the tune of Wayfaring Stranger, which captures the sojourning spirit of not just Psalm 126, but all the Psalms of Ascents as well. Here is a performance of the traditional setting of Wayfaring Stranger. At a traditional singing event, singers use a version of solfege to frame the song before singing the lyrics.
SINGWEDNESDAY-CONTEXTUALIZE | Psalm 126
Consider ways that you can let the Psalm form your imagination, that you might share it with others. Perhaps you can journal about it, write poetry or prose, learn a song, create visual art, or reexpress it in ways that speak to your context. If you are planning to fellowship with other people this weekend, consider how you might share these imaginations with your community.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your Name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever,
Matthew 9:37–38 [ESV]
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
City Reformed Presbyterian Church
The 90 Days project is a collaborative effort of many church leaders. Matt Koerber and Daniel Snoke have taken lead roles, with others helping to write daily devotionals.