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    Thursday, February 22, 2024

    Psalm 50: 14-15

    2 Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.

    14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and make good your vows to the Most High.
    15 Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall honor me."

     

    What have I given You, O Lord?

    For most of my life, I suppose I gave one or two hours out of every 168. Later, after I made promises before others, I might have added an hour or so in service, and even later, after I began earning money, I added a small fraction of that and considered my duty done.

    Was this deserving of the name “sacrifice of thanksgiving?”

    Then, when crisis arrived, as it inevitably does, I cried out, and You showed me a dawning, a brightly colored sky framed in birdsong and beauty. Rest. Peace. A repeated pattern. A little attention to You. A crisis. Your gifts of forgiveness, kindness, enduring love, and peace.

    I imagine all this was so too with many others. After all, what is church but a gathering of others, giving their few hours and their pittance of gifts. I struggle, Lord, with the word Zion.

    After many crises and many lessons, I decided to devote my life to You and, as an offering of thanksgiving, to Zion. The mountain of God. The city of God. God’s people. For more than 20 years, I devoted many, many hours to its service, to Your service. But never all. I never gave everything.

    I experienced miraculous moments there in Zion. Great beauty and joy. A sense of togetherness and shared commitment. But never, not once, did I see perfection there.

    Zion, then, must be exactly like me. Broken. Sinful. Like me, it sometimes gives generously. Beautifully. But behind it all, a shadow of selfish self-concern.

    Then a strange thing happened. I had devoted my life to helping the church to succeed. I was sent to a congregation that was dying. A huge old relic of a building, beautiful in the extreme. Gorgeous windows. Great block foundations. A huge old organ. It was once the home of the wealthy, but wealth fled. Now, it found itself surrounded by huge old homes subdivided into cramped apartments, failing businesses, cracked streets, and the poor. It survived on the leavings of the rich, drawing down its wealth month after month. The use of its glorious rooms changed. Many held piles of old, used clothing, given free to those in need. Its kitchen and great hall became a place where free meals were handed out.

    I watched that church die, selflessly giving its life to the meanest of the city’s citizens. When a neighbor was raped, that church took the victim into its arms, even though she had never passed through its doors.

    There I was. Devoted to the church’s financial success, to somehow regrowing it into the great gathering it once represented. And I caught just the most momentary glimpse of perfection in its complete sacrifice of self for others.

    Was this the cross? Did I see the cross? Was it there, in broken Zion?

    Help me, O Lord, to make a sacrifice of thanksgiving this day. Help me give all. Help me to teach others to do the same.

     

    Hymn of the day: We’re Marching to Zion. Online at We're Marching To Zion - Hymn (Lyrics) (youtube.com).  

     

    Rev. Lawrence Keeler