Tag Archives: Psalm 78

Searching and fearless

Step Four
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

“We want to find exactly how, when, and where our natural desires have warped us. We wish to look squarely at the unhappiness this has caused others and ourselves. By discovering what our emotional deformities are, we can move toward their correction … Without a searching and fearless moral inventory, most of us have found that the faith which really works in daily living is still out of reach” (12 Steps and 12 Traditions).

Notes from the first session of John Dally's "This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible" at Seabury.

Notes from the first session of John Dally’s “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible” at Seabury.

Three weeks ago, I wrote about one of the central ideas from the class I am taking at Seabury this fall: that the Bible is organized around two 9/11’s.

The Hebrew Bible, in particular, came into its present shape after the destruction of the Temple and the exile into Babylon. John Dally suggests that Israel’s judgment upon themselves is that “it’s our fault.”

So mortals ate the bread of angels;
he provided for them food enough.

But they did not stop their craving,
though the food was still in their mouths.

Whenever he slew them, they would seek him,
and repent, and diligently search for God.

But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues.

Their heart was not steadfast toward him,
and they were not faithful to his covenant.

(Psalm 78:25-37 passim)

Perhaps the Hebrew Bible is also, to use the language of the 12 Steps, Israel’s “searching and fearless moral inventory.”

Step Four concludes with this reminder: “Therefore, thoroughness ought to be the watchword when taking inventory. In this connection, it is wise to write out our questions and answers. It will be an aid to clear thinking and honest appraisal. It will be the first tangible evidence of our complete willingness to move forward.”

What the priest Ezra and the people are doing in this morning’s reading from the Book of Nehemiah is repenting of their sins and laying before God and each other their written confession:

You have been just in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly; our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors have not kept your law or heeded the commandments and the warnings that you gave them …. Because of all this we make a firm agreement in writing, and on that sealed document are inscribed the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests. (Nehemiah 9:33-34, 38)

In a larger sense, the whole of the Hebrew Bible is the written confession of the people of God regarding their failure and their renewed desire to live as God intends, the “tangible evidence of their complete willingness to move forward.”

It is difficult to commit to a “searching and fearless moral inventory,” but I also draw comfort knowing that I am by no means alone in my struggles, that others have found a way forward into a “faith that really works in daily living.”

How do your prayers and your reading of Scripture both challenge and comfort you today?

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Teach your children well

I am at HIMSS, the annual meeting and trade show for healthcare IT, meeting clients and colleagues both in my company’s booth and after the day’s show is ended.

Yesterday I reconnected with a friend and former colleague, who shared with me a recent experience of “house church” when he and his wife told the parable of Jesus and the rich young man (Luke 18:18-30), and their children reenacted the story. The 18-month old played Peter, naturally, tugging on Jesus’ sleeve: “But what about us, Lord?”

The psalmist this morning underscores the importance of teaching the faith to our children:

That which we have heard and known,
and what our fathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord,
and the wonderful works he has done.
(Psalm 78:3-4)

At the Lenten Retreat I recently attended, Phyllis Tickle spoke of how the Biblical story is told in tent and synagogue and Temple. For Jews, the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD focused their faith and practice on the synagogue and home.

She suggested that as the institutional church (Christianity’s Temple) is becoming less prominent in people’s lives, it becomes even more important to share the stories of faith in small groups (synagogue) and at home (in the tent).

Even during difficult times — times of persecution or the loss of cherished traditions — the people of God recount the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord so that their children will learn about the faith.

It was entirely appropriate, then, that the Canticle following the Old Testament lesson this morning was drawn from the Song of the Three Young Men, who though they were thrown into Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace, sang songs of praise to God (Daniel 3).

Their song, recounted in the Apocryphal book known as the Prayer of Azariah, has formed part of the Church’s daily prayers for centuries now (Canticles 12 and 13 in our BCP).

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;
you are worthy of praise; glory to you.
Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;
we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.
(BCP 90)

Whatever your circumstances may be, share your praise of God with your children so they will learn about the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the Lord.