Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
I wonder how Paul received his calling – not his second calling when the risen Christ spoke to him on the Damascus road, but his first calling, a Pharisee son of a Pharisee. Did he ruminate day and night in some ivory tower of Jewish academia where his parents taught, or did he simply have a family that lived and breathed their faith daily, and with such authenticity that he couldn’t help but be raised up into it.
Or was he raised in a kind of “life as usual” in whatever town he lived in doing whatever his family engaged in for income and trying to get to Sabbath on Saturdays to hear Daddy preach now and again? I wonder if God ever spoke to him through the scriptures, calling out to him, beckoning him to read more, reach deeper in and find God as a treasure seeker finally finds a pearl of great worth. I wonder if Paul sat in his window one day as the sun’s light poured in and birds sang their morning songs and found himself longing so deeply that simply reading a morning Psalm became his own deeply seated prayer:
Ps. 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. 35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it., and not to selfish gain. 37living, breathing Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways. 38 Confirm to your servant your promise, which is for those who fear you. 39 Turn away the disgrace that I dread, for your ordinances are good. 40 See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.”
This complimentary text for today’s lectionary readings speaks to me of a holy longing. Consequently, the name of the first book I had to read and write a reflection to this past week for class was titled “The Holy Longing.” I suspect as I read, reflect, and learn, some of my gleanings may find their way into my sermons for you…I hope that all of us will be enriched for it.
Devotional authors have tried to describe that holy longing in different ways. One author whose name I can’t recall stated that there is a God-shaped crack in every human being that can only be filled by God. I love that this allows each person’s God-shaped crack to be unique while at the same time our unlimited God can still fill it.
Another way of describing a holy longing is to offer ourselves up to the flame of desire to do and be God’s instrument of love in the world. Described this way, we may find ourselves as Christians standing at a precipice of critical transformation. Enacting God’s love in the world is arguably the best summary for Christian spirituality. How is this done? The Lord’s way; the law, or Torah, as the Psalmist called it.
For contemporary readers, this begs a few questions.
“How then can twenty-first–century pilgrims move beyond anxiety and fear over “law” as a concept and God’s law as a reality? How can law evolve in the mind of the hearer from ink on a page or ancient carvings in stone to a useful, necessary, and enriching internal compass?
Psalm 119:33–40 in particular offers two gifts to modern–day seekers…Thee first of these is to lift up the quality of wholeheartedness. Verse 34 asks, “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.” Verses 36 and 37 invite God to “turn my heart … [and] turn my eyes,” in order to give them their proper focus. Studying and living in God’s way engages the whole person, and when a person can give his or her whole heart to such a path, the rewards include a greater depth for life, a peace that cannot be destroyed by any of life’s circumstances.”
The second gift is a fundamental shift in priorities:
“In a most countercultural fashion, the psalmist speaks of finding happiness, not as life’s highest priority, but rather as a byproduct of pursuing understanding of God’s law. The freeing discipline of such study and the subsequent ordering of life afford new depths of joy, for these bring one closer to God. Do you want to find greater happiness? Refrain from focusing solely on the self; seek God and God’s reign. You will find greater happiness than you thought possible.”
If that is the case, then by all means, let this Psalm become my prayer, too:
Ps. 119:33 “Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart….40 See, I have longed for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life.”
May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
 Julie Peeples, “Theological Perspective, Psalm 119:33-40, Proper 18” in Feasting on the Word – Year A, ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 2010). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0