Help, Thanks, Wow: The 3 Essential Prayers.3

by admin on April 21, 2013

Psalm 8
Reflections for 21 April 2013

Help, Thanks, and now Wow. When do you use that word? What have been the occasions and experiences that call forth WOW? One of the undertones that Anne Lamott suggests is that even in the deepest valleys of our sadness and helplessness there can arise from the ashes, like the Phoenix bird, the brightness of the sun and the door to a new sense of hope. Wow is just that.

Frederick Buechner once wrote: “What is lost is nothing to what is found, and all the death that ever was when set next to life would scarcely fill a cup.” St. Paul writes in Romans 8: Nothing will ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Wow.

Wow comes in all shapes and sizes. Wow is the ability to make the light turning red….wow at the tight squeeze of a tied baseball games going extra innings to victory….wow at the sunset peeking through the dark clouds of an all-day storm… at fireworks, awesome displays of nature’s fiery temper, at the ability of law enforcement through diligence and hard work to capture the man who made havoc at the Boston Marathon. Wow comes in all shapes and sizes.

Breathtaking, Astonishment, Awesome—these are the words of WOW. Anne Lamott says that poetry is the official court and palace language of WOW. Indeed. Some scholars think that WOW is a Scottish word used in Robert Burns’s epic poem “Tam O’Shanter” a long story about heavy drinking, hallucinations and going over the edge into immortality. Beware of John Barleycorn because the WOW you want may have grave—literally—results.

WOW. Have you ever watched Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance? Or Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain. Poetry in action.

Perhaps Anne is right—poetry is the language of WOW. Let’s look at the major poetry book of the Bible—Psalms.

Here is a hymn. The first hymn in the Psalter following five individual prayers for Gods help. Some title this song “divine splendor and human design.” Notice that 1a and 9 are the same refrain—a sort of picture frame encompassing the rest of the poem and giving it a border: how majestic and glorious is your name. So majestic and custom prohibits even saying the word out loud for fear of wrong intentions or unworthy utterance.

So we have a meditation on the glory of creation and in its descending spatial hierarchy. The heavens—moon and stars—human beings—earth creatures. The Psalter is keen on making sure that the whole creation is in praise of God. Hence such creatures as Leviathan the sea monster is made just for the fun of it.

In a strong way this psalm reiterates the message of the Genesis creation—have dominion over the earth. But before we get too carried away with the mandate to overhaul real estate and build Trump Towers, consider that such human dominion is always contextualized by the praise of Yahweh.

V2⇒ human speech. Out of the mouth of babes….. Real truth is pronounced by the least likely of places. Interesting that Jesus would quote this very verse in Matthew 21:16 right as he is cleansing the temple in Holy Week. He upsets the applecart in more ways than one and caps of the endeavor with the Bible verse. You guys have it all wrong. It’s not about the empty phrases of your liturgical prayers but about the helpless finding their help in God.

V3⇒ Who hasn’t experienced this? One of the marvels I relish in is the set of bronze statues in Assisi, on Mt. Sebasio of St. Francis and his buds gazing in awe and wonder at the sky. Who of us has not been taken in by a starry, starry night?

V4⇒ And what are we in the grand scheme of things? “Mortals” could mean literal “son of man” That’s the designation of the human figure in Daniel, it’s the favorite designation of Ezekiel and it’s Jesus most favored self-title in the Gospels. Son of Man. More than one level of meaning here.

Vv5-6⇒ Humanity is placed at an extraordinary place in creation to tend not over rule. Ever since the Puritan days in America this verse had been argued over: we’re here to take over; we’re here to take care of.

Vv7-8⇒ The animal kingdom. Less about subjugating and more about partners in praise. Here is the doctrine of creation’s holiness. How do you handle holy things?

The Hebrew Bible is frequently compelled to fight against the idea of reducing the idea of God to national levels with Yahweh’s spheres of influence ending the borders of Israelite land. Isaiah certainly takes this on—Yahweh is the god of gods. Psalm 8 is a confession of this movement in theological reflection.

1. Babes and infants. I can think of nothing more endearing, more helpless, and more astonishing than that crying baby. What is more WOW than being present for the birth of your children? There is here the stirring of naïve and unreflecting piety. And there is nothing wrong with that! Paul Riceur speaks of a “second naiveté” which is necessary to actually grasp the profound truths of Scripture. Suspend your so called adult knowledge and be open to the wonders of God working in ways you might not understand.

2. This carries over into a second so what. It is in the small and insignificant ways that the greatness of God is revealed. As St Paul says: God chose what is weak in the work to shame the strong (1Cor 1:27)

3. A true understand of humanity can’t be achieved if God is disqualified and disregarded. Here the finite is confronted with the infinite. Use this awe as a starting point of thought. We come to learn that we have a limited dating—an expiration date—and this truth becomes the surrender point to the unlimited grace of God.

Wow is reverberation. Wow moves us past that’s what I thought it would be to unimaginable.

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