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Night God

As part of my daily discipline, I try to follow the lectionary reading.  A lectionary is a pre-selected series of readings.  The one I follow from the Benedictine monastery has morning prayers, evening prayers, night prayers, etc.  If one knows anything about the monastic life, one knows that monks follow a daily regimen that alternates worship and work.  In fact, for the serious, classical monks there are seven different periods of worship throughout the day.  And this pattern is repeated day after day.

To live your life with this kind of schedule is bound to shape you in ways that most of us are not.  For example, contrast your daily schedule with that more worshipful structure of the monks.  Even though my daily schedule can be fairly busy and, in some ways, pretty structured, it does not approximate the monastic life.  Of course, my goal is not to be a monk.

But a monk’s goal is not to be a monk either!  The monk’s goal is to live life in such a way that the monk is living in and from the Presence of the Divine One.  I once read Thomas Merton saying that the goal of the monk is to be a saint.  I would amend that to suggest the goal of any of us is to become a saint.

Now of course, when one thinks about becoming a saint, it cannot mean that we come to live perfectly sinless and mistake-free lives.  That is likely not humanly possible as long as we are in this body in this world.  So to be a saint cannot mean being perfect.  Being a saint means one is living in and from the Presence of the Divine One.  As such, Love becomes the goal of life.  And Love is the motivation of life.  And Love is the resource of life.

If this is my aspiration, then how will I best tap into that Love---that goal, that motivation and that resource?  The simple answer is through worship.  And that worship surely has to be scheduled and perhaps structured.  In many ways this is funny coming from the pen of a Quaker.  Quakers tend to be wary of schedules and structures.  We want to say that we can worship any time we want to worship.  And we can do it any way we want to do it.  

That is true, but it also means I have to do it.  I truly may not need a schedule or a structure.  But I need the discipline to do it.  And that is where the lectionary comes in very handy---even for this Quaker.  I may not need schedule and structure, but they surely can help on a daily basis.

So I use the lectionary.  For example, the evening reading for last night came from Psalm 16.  The evening reading prepares one for the night---that time of darkness and transition to a new day.  I like the words found in the middle of that Psalm.  The Psalmist says, “I will bless the Lord who gave me understanding; even in the night my heart will teach me wisdom.”  I resonate with that.  Thanks be to the God who gives me understanding.  And glory be that during the night I can still be taught wisdom.  I can joke by saying, “Good night; I am going to wisdom school!”

The Psalmist continues: “I will hold the Lord for ever in my sight: with him at my side I can never be shaken.”  There is a peace and calmness that comes to the one who can read these words of the Psalmist and take them to heart---let them become part of that night-time wisdom.  The Psalmist says it effectively.  “Thus it is that my heart rejoices, heart and soul together; while my body rests in calm hope.”  That is the nighttime gift.

With this kind of assurance, we can go to bed and go to sleep.  I am comforted by the fact that with God at my side, I can never be shaken.  It does not matter that I go into the darkness of the night.  I can never be shaken.  I am in the hands of the Night God.  My body can rest in calm hope.

I will be carried in that calm hope throughout the night.  In fact, in the night my heart will be teaching me wisdom.  There is no fear.  In this calm hope I do not fear for I know that I have a future.

I am grateful for the lectionary leading me into these kinds of places where I encounter the Night God.  On my own I do not do as well.  I realize I am aided by a schedule and a structure.  I am helped to know it is time for the evening reading.  It is time for the structure of the Psalmist’s words.  Theologically I can affirm that God is always ready to reach out to us.  But too often, I need a prompt.

I need the lectionary to tell me it is time.  I need to be led into the Psalmist’s words and reassurance that the God who is ready to meet me is the Night God who not only will meet me, but also take me calmly through the night! 

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