1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When the wicked advance against me to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.
4 One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble God will keep me safe in his dwelling;
God will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.
7 Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger;
you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me,
spouting malicious accusations.
13 I pray that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
Today's lectionary (shared readings given for Protestant and Catholic churches each Sunday of the church year) contains this reading of Psalm 27. This was Mom's favorite psalm. We read it many times in the last months of her life. Mom had a beautiful soprano voice, and she would tell of the beautiful pieces she had sung on Sunday mornings using words from this psalm. When asked which verses she especially liked, she talked about the first and fourth verses. As we read it over and over, I grew to love the 13th verse, "I pray that I see the goodness of the Lord..."
As I've carried this verse with me over the years, I've grown to appreciate the Yin and Yang to this goodness talked about in this psalm. This goodness walks the halls of hospitals and nursing homes, of courthouses and prisons, of classrooms and playgrounds, of border crossings and refugee camps every hour of every day. This goodness of the Lord. Words that whisper and proclaim, that remind and remember, that breathe in and through - the goodness of the Lord, that embodies God Incarnate, God-with -us.
We're told in Acts 20:35 that "it is better to give than to receive," and that is a mantra we used in our house growing up. Along the way I've been reminded time and again that there are two sides to every coin. I've found that this "it's better to give..." is not always true. Or, maybe better said, it is true but not the whole of the truth. What is true (the other side of the coin) is that sometimes it is also good to receive.
This has been brought front and center for me this past weekend. My sister, Betsey slipped while hiking this past Friday and broke her wrist. Her right wrist. Did I mention that she is a Massage Therapist and her hands are her livelihood? Needless to say, it was a blow to her and to all who love her. You see, my sister, Betsey is a giver. She is mindful and intentional and generous as she makes her way in the world. She gives of her time and energy and resources -- day in and day out, hour in and hour out. And suddenly her world (and her wife, Mary Ellen's) made a 180 degree turn this past Friday. Upside-down and inside-out. Betsey, the one who is so generous in her giving is now (whether she likes it or not) into the position of receiving. It will be a new muscle for her, a new rhythm, a new way of being in the world.
And if Mom were still living, I can almost hear what she would be saying to youngest, "There is goodness in this, Betsey Ann." My hunch is that if Bets and Mom could share a conversation it would be about the give and the take, the Yin and Yang of loving others. In these days that are ahead, Bets is now in a place where she will be receiving much more than giving. I can hear Mom's voice telling her that the message handed down through the ages is that there is goodness in receiving as well as goodness in giving. Love is right there in both.
At work when I talk with parents whose children are in the hospital, I am mindful almost daily of this verse. I pray that goodness will find them, maybe in the hallways or the garden or in the cafeteria or at the bedside. I pray that they will be comforted and strengthened and empowered by the love that is ever-moving. This love, like our breath, moves in and out. Circular. Fluid. Living grace. Giving and receiving. They've been side-by-side all along.