Friday, March 20, 2015

LENT - Psalm 4

In Psalm 4 the psalmist tells us not to sin, but to ponder.

Okay, let's say we agree. What should we spend this time thinking about?

In one sense, there are no limits on that answer, but as a starting place, perhaps we could spend some time "pondering"

- the Creed,
- the Sermon on the Mount,
- the Lord's Prayer,
- a particular Bible selection.

Boring. We get it. Like, how many of us have sat still long enough to meditate on any of these topics?

Let's put this in perspective. We're talking about thinking, the pondering that the psalmist calls for. Certainly the Bible reminds us that true religion is a religion that moves us to moral action.

Okay, with that caveat, we go on. If such thinking is as vital to our spiritual life as it is to other parts of our life, most of use prefer activity to just thinking, perhaps it's worth considering how the two -- activity and pondering -- might come together effectively.

Truth is, we can be active and engaged in deep thinking at the same time. Deep thinking does not need to be done in a chair alone in some room.

Brother Lawrence, the 17th-century lay monk, who wrote the devotional classic The Practice of the Presence of God, was assigned to work in the monastery's kitchen, and while there, he decided to try to pay attention to God's presence even while going about his duties. He reported that working in the kitchen like a common scullery maid was not much different than when he was alone in his cell meditating. "That time of business in the kitchen does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I enjoy God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament."

Not everybody can do that, of course; some, and perhaps most, people would find the hustle of the kitchen too distracting to promote good thinking.

The point is this: It's good for us to find whatever means works best for us to ponder not only the issues of life but also the things of God, whether it be on our beds like the psalmist, in the kitchen like Brother Lawrence, or in a lonely place like Jesus.

Good thinking is not enough by itself to do the work of God. But neither is mindless activity unguided by spiritual reflection enough by itself either.

But steered by clear thinking and powered by rich faith, we can be very much the people who do God's will.