Thursday, August 12, 2021 (Day 68)

Katie Snipes Lancaster

Psalm 68 (from Robert Altar’s 2007 translation)
Let God arise, let God’s enemies scatter,
and let God’s foes flee before God.
As smoke disperses may they disperse,
as wax melts before fire,
may the wicked perish before God.
And may the righteous rejoice and exult before God,
and be gladdened in joy.
Sing to God, hymn God’s name.
Pave the way for the Riders of Clouds,
for Yah is God’s name, and exult before God.
Father of orphans and widows’ judge,
God in holy abode.
God brings the lonely back to their homes,
sets free captives in jubilation.
But the wayward abide in parched land.

An Opening Word
Psalm 68 gives us another entryway into the classic hope that the Psalmist might be saved from those who seek harm. I love the vivid image: let them perish “as wax melts before fire.” I’ve come to enjoy these ramblings against one’s enemies. They are evocative, and after a while, each have a unique poetic quality. It’s still not my favorite—the “vanquish my enemies” prayers to God. But still I’m at least less dismissive now that I’ve read so many of the Psalms. Plus this Psalm is accompanied by a litany of ways that God is at work with those in need: bringing back the lonely to their homes, setting free captives, being father to orphans, welcoming justice for the widows (if you remember, becoming a widow in the ancient near east had the capacity to be a harrowing experience if you didn’t have a kind judge on your side to mediate over property disputes, since women had very little power outside their relationships to men in those days).

Today’s mystic is Elisabeth of Schönau who was born in Germany in 1129 and joined a Benedictine monastery by the time she was 12. I am amazed by the way mystics had such an early start at their religious lives, or at least their religious commitments. Scholars think that Elisabeth of Schönau’s mystic visions began in 1152 after she read the newly published “Book of the Ways of God” by Hildegard of Bingen. The two of them exchanged letters, visited one another, and seemed to influence and inspire one another. Below is one of Elisabeth of Schönau’s prayers that gives over all that she is to the presence of God. It is the kind of prayer that we might pray when we’re worried about what comes next, or when we need to re-enter the presence of God in a fresh way.

Prayer from the Mystics: Elisabeth of Schönau (1129–1164)
Prayer from the Mystics: Elisabeth of Schönau (1129–1164)
To your mercy, I commend my spirit,
my sense, my judgement, my thoughts,
and all my body, my life, my end, and all my acts.
May your blessing always be upon me.
Amen.