The Spiritual Search
One of the things I have come to value is the daily lectionary. A lectionary is a schedule of readings used by many Christian traditions. It is a useful tool for anyone looking to engage in some kind of daily or regular worship and reflection. As a young Quaker, I had never heard the word, lectionary. We never used that, although I was aware of a few people using the Upper Room devotional booklet, which was a similar idea.
I first encountered the lectionary with my Catholic and Episcopal friends I made when I went to college. The lectionary always had some readings from the Bible, including readings from the Psalms. Sometimes, these Biblical readings were augmented by a reading from a figure from Christian history or some more contemporary author. The lectionary moved one through the liturgical year. I realized the lectionary helped me avoid simply picking out my favorite passages. It moved me through much of the Old and New Testaments.
The lectionary I choose to follow is provided by the Benedictine monks. For years I have been a Benedictine oblate, which means I am a layperson associated with a local Benedictine monastery. The monks welcome me into their spiritual community. Although I am not going to become a Benedictine monk, I can choose to imbibe some of the monastic spirituality and life. Using their lectionary aids this process.
One of the things I have come to appreciate is the daily encounter with the Psalms. The Psalms played a key role in the long history of Jewish worship and the early Christian Church brought this focus into their worship tradition. I did not grow up with the Psalms, so I was pretty ignorant when I began this monastic flirtation. Every day now I have a steady suggestive stream of Psalms’ passages to read and upon which to meditate.
For example, the Psalm for the Morning Prayer in today’s lectionary reading comes from Psalm 63. While I know I have read this Psalm more than once, it is not riveted in my mind. Every time I encounter it, I am drawn into the imagery, the petition, and the power of the words. I try to engage the Psalm’s sentiments and to make them my own. I do this through some meditation and, sometimes, prayer. It helps me with the way I want to live the day.
Psalm 63 begins with these words from the mouth of the Psalmist. “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you…” (63:1) When I read these words, it seems to me the Psalmist feels like he knows God in personal ways. “You are my God.” I don’t read these words as an expression of possessiveness, but rather as an expression of faith and appreciation. As I meditate on these words and try to make them my own, I hope to come to understand God as “my God.”
With the claim that God is his God, the Psalmist next says that he seeks God. I very much connect with this quest. I, too, am a seeker of God. I see this in a positive light. Even though I have had a number of experiences of God, nevertheless I will always remain a seeker. While theologically I believe God is ever-present to me and to you, I also think it takes intentionality and some effort to come to awareness of the ever-present God. God may be present, but it is too easy for me to live as if God is absent!
When I seek God, I am not suggesting God is absent. I could even say that daily I seek to know that present God and to live my day in that Presence. If I can do that, my day, my comings and goings, and everything I will do will be bathed in the Spirit. My own life will come to have its own kind of presence for those who surround me this day.
I like the image the Psalmist uses to picture the seeking soul. The Psalmist says that his soul thirsts for God. Of course, I do not read this literally; it is metaphor. As a Christian, it is easy for me to connect with this image, since I recall that Jesus talked about being the “Living Water.” We know that water is necessary for life. Water can be used as an image of the Spirit.
When water is absent or scarce, life is a struggle. Life becomes a desert. Life in the desert is a threat. In this case life becomes a search---a search for water. This is the imagery behind the Psalmist’s petition. If I can find water, I live. Analogously, if I can find God---the Living Water---my soul will thrive. I will not only live; I will thrive and flourish.
That is my daily quest. My thirsty soul seeks water---the Source of life. Even if I find it today and quench my soul’s thirst, I will need to seek again tomorrow. That’s how it is with the spiritual search. The good news is we can always find that for which we seek. God is always present. When seek spiritually seek, we will discover that we already are in that Presence!