A meditation on Psalm 123
The Rev. Dr. Stuart Higginbotham
November 15, 2020
For this morning’s reflection, I offer this meditation on the 123rd Psalm. Of course, we keep in mind that the rotation or assignment of our Sunday readings have long been set in place. This is one of the brilliant things about our tradition, I think: that the preacher doesn’t just get to choose whatever texts he or she wants. We are called to listen to the texts that are assigned as we listen to our lives, and throughout all this, to listen to what the Spirit may be saying to us about how we are called to grow in the practice of our faith.
So, here is a reflection on how this particular psalm challenged me:
- To you I lift up my eyes, to you enthroned in the heavens.
Where are we looking? On what do our eyes rest? Where do we fix our vision? These are essential questions for us to consider.
We live in a world that is full of distraction, and this is by design. So many make an enormous profit off of convincing us to look their way, to pay attention to the sparkle and the bright lights, so that we become convinced that we need whatever they are selling.
We become trapped in a consumerist cycle that leads us to feel less worthy if we do not have…whatever it is we have been convinced we need. Of course there are basic needs, and even things that we enjoy, but can we tell when we have crossed that line into a self-indulgence that corrupts our souls?
The burden builds, the pressure, to keep up with the frantic, distracted, race that is going on around us.
We think less of ourselves, and we stray far away from any sense of being content, of recognizing the blessings of our lives. Gratitude gets squeezed out by the greed that takes hold.
But, we remember, sometimes, to lift up our eyes, to look up, to raise our faces toward God, the source of our lives.
Sometimes we remember this because of an experience of great love that breaks through our patterns of distraction. More often, it seems, we remember this because of an experience of suffering that reminds us of what is most important. Something shatters the illusion we have been living in and we are realigned with God’s purposes for our lives.
- As the eyes of the servants look to the hands of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hands of her mistress,
I remember being a teenager in my driver’s education classes and hearing our instructor remind us that the car will follow our eyes, that where we look determines where the vehicle will go.
It was vital that we keep our eyes on the road, otherwise our inattention would lead us into great danger.
We can also ask ourselves how we look for guidance. Who do we look to that shows us ways to live that are full of grace, hope, justice, and compassion? Who are the people of substance who make our hearts open so that we can live more fully?
And who are the shallow people who only want us to focus on them, to reinforce their own egos and ambition?
These are crucial questions for us to ask in these days.
- So our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he shows us his mercy.
We look to God to help us see the way we should live, and often this means that we need a course correction, a movement or shift from one way of acting to another way of acting. Can we be honest with ourselves and see how our behaviors need to change?
For we need God’s mercy in our lives, so that we can break out of these patterns of destruction and death, of distraction and pain. We realize that we cannot achieve this on our own, but we are called to participate in the Spirit’s work–which is always a work of justice, freedom, compassion, and peace.
- Have mercy upon us Lord, have mercy, for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Have mercy, O Lord, because, yes, we are full to the brim with contempt and arrogance. We have had enough of this way of living. If we are honest, we look around at the things and people we have placed far too much attention on, and we are convicted that we yielded our own self-worth and responsibility to their willful ignorance and arrogance.
We need God’s mercy to fill our hearts, giving us courage to take a step in a direction away from such pride and toward compassion and appreciation of one another as fellow beloved children of God.
In whom do we place our hope? In whom do we trust? We place phrases on our currency such as “In God we trust” and then, if we’re honest, we keep worshipping the currency. And how long have we done this as human beings? We stay in these cycles, don’t we, until something breaks us out of them.
Yet the Spirit keeps inviting us into this space of deeper wholeness, into a conversion of life. God’s mercy is always present.
- Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, and the derision of the proud.
Yes, sometimes we are angry at our leaders, and sometimes this is understandable and even very much called for. Things need to be named, and we need to be honest about our tendency to grasp onto our tribe’s interpretation of the world.
But we must always remember that we are called not to place all the work outside of ourselves, but rather to realize the call to do our own inner work, so that our lives are transformed.
We use words like “indolent” which means laziness, and we are convicted to examine our own lives for those times we have been far too lazy, yielding our own action to those who are more than willing to take charge to gain more for themselves.
How are we like the man with only one talent who buried it in the field out of fear and a sense of scarcity?
What spiritual risk are we called to take on this day?
How is the Spirit giving us courage to take a step in another direction, toward decency, compassion, justice, truth?
How are we called to let go of our grasping onto loyalty to parties and tribes, in order that we can more fully hold onto, claim our loyalty to the Gospel’s call on our life?
May our eyes always look toward God, so that we may go in the direction our eyes rest, so that we can embody Christ’s call for compassion and peace in the world. May it be so.