We hear and read that these are unprecedented times – times like no one has ever seen before. Human beings do so like being unique – the first to experience the hardships of life as we know it. While the times we live in are in some ways unique, they are also times not so different from other times in history
How many people in history do you think have described their lived experience as an “unprecedented time?” Do you think Noah said that on the ark? Or Daniel in the lion’s den? What about the disciples in the days between Easter and Pentecost? Or the days after Pentecost? How about those who lived during the Black Death or the Spanish Influenza?
We worship a God of unprecedented times: a God who rebuilds, who gathers the scattered, who knows us better than we know ourselves or our situation. There are times in our lives, moments in history when things get unimaginable hard, and we don’t know what to do. And still, “divine beauty shimmers and shimmies through the universe.” Out of great struggles also come stories and images of remarkable resiliency and hope.
Haunting and much loved African American spirituals soaring on the voices of slaves. Stunning quilts made from feed sacks emerging from the Great Depression. A cracked coffee cup filled with wildflowers rests on the windowsill of a single mom struggling to make this month’s rent.
Please don’t misunderstand, slavery, concentration camps, poverty, and oppression of any kind are not to in any way good because beauty arises in their midst.
The goodness is the beauty of the human spirit rising even in deep suffering to meet the beauty of the Beloved. In those moments of remembering and connecting, the pain is made bearable by the presence of the Divine.
The Psalm for today calls us to find the Beloved in the beauty of the world around us – to fall in love with the world that God loves.
Imagine that this Psalmist, like us, is living in unprecedented times. He looks around, there is nothing but violence and despair. Like us, the question becomes how to quiet the fear, calm the anxiety, and shut off that hamster wheel in our heads filled with all the things that might happen.
And so the Psalmist wanders away from the “news” and into the deep and abiding beauty of creation.
To wander means to move without a clear direction; to be beguiled by the beauty of our surroundings. It is in that beauty that the Psalmist connects to the always present Divine Creator.
We don’t know if the Psalmist walked in a garden, or if a prison cell was his home. Was the Psalmist listening to a beautiful piece of music played on a harp, or did he allow his mind to remember a scene from happier times?
We do know that in that intentional wandering, praise for the Beloved flows like living water for the soul. We feel the intimate connection to the Beloved who knows and calls each star by name, abounds in wisdom and power, and yet stoops to bind up the wounds of the oppressed.
James Taylor sings the song this way: How can you see all this and doubt the power of God? If God can make the rain fall, the grass grow, the rivers run, and the sun shine, if God can balance the needs of nature so that both lion and lamb can live, then surely God can also affect human affairs. (Everyday Psalms)
Intentional wandering at its best.
The opposites of wandering are to remain motionless; to be still and unmoving. That is not who Jesus us to do. Jesus calls us to be the motion in the world.
In our own unprecedented time, I call each of us to intentional wandering – that wandering that leads us intentionally to fall into the divine beauty that shimmers and shimmies throughout all of creation, including ourselves.
Whether you walk at Nathaniel Greene or gaze out your window or listen to a piece of music that transports you to a memory of beauty or look through photos - be an intentional wanderer into the deep-rooted beauty of God’s presence through the rich beauty of the world God loves.