The daily lectionary I follow is anchored in the Catholic monastic tradition. I don’t need to be a card-carrying Catholic to appreciate the work some have done to produce the daily dose of biblical readings to guide me through the day. I appreciate the fact that what I am giving focus is the same thing countless thousands are also reading, hearing and praying throughout their day. I feel connected both historically and communally.
Most Christian monks gather for worship four or five times a day. The more traditional, rigorist monks---like the Trappists at Thomas Merton’s monastery, Gethsemani, in Kentucky---do worship seven times daily. It is a demanding schedule, but it does give the day focus. And I like the fact that every time they gather for worship, there will be some reading from the Psalms.
The Psalms are actually the songbook of the Jews. The Psalms all predate the Christian movement. The Psalms grew out of the lives of the Jewish people, as they engaged their God, as they ran away from their God, and were drawn back into relationship with that same God. The Psalms represent real life---the nitty gritty of life. To commit to the Psalms as a guide to life is hardly a decision to “do your own thing.” The Psalms put you in touch with and right in the middle of a people of God.
The Morning Prayer, which I turned to early today, had a great opening. One of the Psalms I read and on which I meditated was Psalm 98 (Ps. 97 if you are Roman Catholic). I stopped after the first verse. That was enough to ponder. The first verse of that Psalm tells us, “O sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things.” Another translation I like says the Lord has “worked wonders.” Marvelous things---wonder working---it is all good stuff!
I began my meditation. Is my God a doer of marvelous things or a worker of wonders? It is easy to say “yes,” but that might only be lip service. It is easy to say “yes,” but do I really believe in that kind of God? Do I have any experience to back it up? Is my God much more pedestrian---a less snazzy kind of Divinity? Does my God have any pizzazz?
If I were honest, I probably would have to confess my God is not very snazzy. My God is more routine---more pedestrian. I could joke and say my God is more of a “blue-collar” kind of God. Having said this, I realize maybe it is a commentary on me more than on my God. Maybe God really is much more than I allow or can imagine.
Of course, I do not think God is some kind of magician. The Holy One I confess is not a hocus-pocus, trick-playing Divinity. But maybe God really is a worker of wonders---an amazing God in the most real sense. What would it take for me to recognize and embrace this kind of God?
To answer this, I turn again to the Psalm from the Morning Prayer. God does marvelous things. Let me consider this to be a reality---a reality I can figure out and embrace. If I don’t see the marvelous things, maybe the problem rests with me and not God! I never considered this----another example of egotism? Perhaps the real issue is God the wonder worker performs marvelous things and most of us are too dopey to see those things and appreciate them.
I can begin with my life. I can go to a smaller scale and consider all those marvelous ways I have been loved and cared for. I have been graced in ways I certainly never deserved. I live in a world that sometimes is too beautiful for words. I have worked hard for some things, but I am not dumb enough to think I am a self-made man. Nobody becomes self-made.
Perhaps in conclusion I can say that I am my best example of a marvelous thing. And you are a wonder, too. That recognition is when it hit me. God is not the pedestrian, less-than-snazzy actor in this play. I am. God has worked the wonders: it is you and it is I. We are the marvelous things.
When we realize and accept this, then we really are ready to sing to the Lord a new song. I think I am finally ready to sing!