Opening: 100 Days of Psalms and Prayers

Sunday, August 29, 2021 (Day 85)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 85 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
You favored, O Lord, Your land,
You restored the condition of Jacob.
You forgave Your people’s crime,
You covered all their offense.
You laid aside all Your wrath,
You turned back from Your blazing fury.
Turn back, pray, God of our rescue
and undo Your anger against us…
Kindness and truth have met,
justice and peace have kissed.
Truth from the earth will spring up,
as justice from the heavens looks down.

An Opening Word
Psalm 85 is an example of the “temporal ambiguity” and “fluidity” of Biblical Hebrew which helps us remember that every time we approach the biblical text, we are approaching across not just the chasm of time, but of language as well. Robert Alter says that the verbs in the first five verses could be faithfully translated in either past or present tense, and “either the Psalmist is remembering a time in the past when God forgave the people and favored the land as a precedent for the present plight, or the Psalmist is imagining what he is about to pray for as though it were already an accomplished fact.” This is the beauty of poetry on the one hand, that it can hold a multiplicity of meaning all at once, and on the other hand magnifies the precarious work of translating that Robert Alter is navigating. Oh and translation aside, don’t miss the evocative, poetic phrases near the end, especially envisioning a world of divine-ordained harmony in which “justice and peace have kissed.”

Thomas R. Kelly, a Quaker mystic, is one who can hold to the multiplicity of things. His words of hope below give testimony to an openness to the divine that gives me light and strength in equal measure. I resonate with that sense of hope that “deep within” each of us has a place where God might be made known (however we might envision or name God… I love how he gives multiple ways of envisioning that space that is divine). Thomas R. Kelly grew up in Ohio, born to Quaker parents. His father died when he was four years old. He studied philosophy at Haverford College and Hartford Seminary and ended up as a professor at Earlham College in Indiana until his untimely death in 1941. His spiritual life was formed by what he described as a “melting down by the Love of God” which occurred in a season of struggle and hardship.

Prayer from the Mystics: Thomas R. Kelly (1893–1941)
Deep within us all
there is an amazing
inner sanctuary
of the soul,
a holy place,
a Divine Center,
a speaking Voice,
to which we may continuously return.

Eternity is at our hearts,
pressing upon our time-worn lives,
warming us with intimations
of an astounding destiny,
calling us home to Itself.

August 29, 2021

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