It is not often that the Psalter really catches my attention. Not to say that there aren’t many psalm that resonate, there are, mostly in during the Daily Office. But that is not the same thing as catching my attention. And to be honest, psalm 71 did not, at least until I read Doug Bratt’s commentary. (1) Bratt points out the psalm is a plea for God’s help, born of a life long relationship with God, that has seen times of deep belief, and time of great doubt. He notes how the psalmist vacillates between awareness of God’s presence and feeling the Divine’s absence. Bratt observes how the psalm captures the development of a Godly relationship over time.
I am taking away the renewed awareness that the vacillation from faith/trust and doubt over time helps us to develop a deep strong relationship with God, which we can, in time, call on in the worst of times. Secondly, that in failing to reach out to those who are seeking God, for what ever human defined rational. We are not helping. As Jeremiah reminds us, it is not about us, it is all about God.
And oh, Bratt also notes the same cycle is a part of the life of churches. So, if yours is in “dire straights” forget, for the moment, all those development and redevelopment materials, and seek refuge in God’s presence, discern the confidence and hope God is offering even if it is “the old ways” and then go forth into the world in peace and strength. May be then all the development material will makes some sense.
(1) Center for Excellence in Preaching Proper 16 Psalm 71:1-6, Doug Bratt