Today's Northumbria Community Bible readings...
Psalm 91:1 - 16
1 Samuel 5: 1 - 4
Luke 4: 1-13 (again!)
Unusually we seem to have some fairly substantial chunks of Bible today, even if one is a repeat of yesterday (I suspect there is a transcription error online but as I don''t have my real live book version of Celtic Daily Prayer here I cannot check).
Reading them, just as they are, letting my mind go whither it wanders, I fond a sense of underlying mischief, if not in the readings themselves, then in their conjunction.
First Psalm 91. Many readers know I spent a year of my training working alongside a Roman Catholic priest in Manchester. For some reason, Mgr Paul decided I had a good enough voice to be used to cantor the psalm on their cantor's rota. This meant standing up at the front of the church, in front of two to three hundred people before worship began to teach them the response, and then during worship singing the verses solo! The first time my turn arose, the psalm for the day was Psalm 91, and the response was 'be with me , Lord, in my distress'... don't think I've ever found a more apt set of words!
S/He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you make the Most High your dwelling-- even the LORD, who is my refuge-- then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him/her; I will protect him/her, for s/he acknowledges my name. S/He will call upon me, and I will answer him/her; I will be with him/her in trouble, I will deliver him/her and honour him/her. With long life will I satisfy him/her and show him/her my salvation."
(Source: Northumbria Commuinity website, pseudo-inclusivised by me)
The second reading is just plain funny, in my opinion. The Philisitines capture the ark of covenant and carry it onto the Temple of Dagon where there is a giant status of said deity. Next morning the statue is lying face down before the ark, so the Philistines stand it up again. The next day it is face down and broken. The idea that either Dagon bows before God's presence, or God causes the statue to fall over, I am not going to explore; simply to notice the comedic value of this little incident.
And lastly the repeat performance of the Luke passage. Well, there's something endearingly human about that isn't there? Is it that God thinks we need to hear it again (a spiritual explanation) or is it that the person who did the cut-and-paste job made a mistake?
I find myself wondering if a key element of joy is a sense of humour, a lightness of spirit that chuckles at the ridiculous, that smiles to itself at the memories, that refuses to get wound up by fallibility.
She who dwells in the shelter of the Most High...
... though her knees knock and her alto trembles...
Says to the Lord, "you are my rock and my salvation:
Be with me Lord, in my distress"
(Smiles at the memory)
The Philistines thought they had carried away God
And placed the 'holy thing' beneath the gaze of a statue
Which fell, prostrate, not once but twice
With shattering obeisance
(groans at the pun)
The scribe makes as error...
... Or the Spirit says 'repeat'
We read again of the allure of un-joy
And acknowleged our own potential to criticise
(wry smile of recognition)
Joyful, humorous God
Stir up our memories of your goodness again
Make us smile as we recall your enjoyment
Joyful, humorous God
Help us to spot the ludicrous, the ridiculous
And laugh as we recognise our own folly
Joyful, humorous God
Speak to us through the seeming glitches
And teach us to rejoice once more