Pandemic Psalms for Second Sunday after Epiphany

I want the bright lights that send the wise people home by another way to carry beyond Epiphany Sunday. I want it to be something that we continue to find again and again in the weeks that follow as we try to understand more and more about who and what Christ is in our lives.

I began the New Year with that hope. Inspired by Martha Spong’s annual reflective practice, my family outlined some aspirational hopes for this year. High on my personal list is nurturing friendships and actually making it through to read the whole Bible. I’ve tried several times and given up every time — but this will be the year! I already completed week one. Watch out 2022!

I read somewhere else in these first few days of the new year an invitation to keep it simple. What we need in times of uncertainty and anxiety is a reminder to be present. That wise person said it better than I just did and I honestly can’t remember where I found this wonderful invitation, but it is what is inspiring this wandering through the psalms for the next seven weeks of this season where we look for light and wonder how Christ might be made known.

I don’t know what to think anymore as friends and family members are all testing positive with this variant. There is rumor that this is pandemics end but I am skeptical and finding it hard to find hope. What I need is to take it slow and practice gentleness with my self and the world. And for me, that means inviting the truth of what this moment is. It means feeling every bit of this moment which is why I’m turning my heart to the psalms in these seven weeks.

I’ll offer one riff on a the psalm from the Revised Common Lectionary knowing there are tons of wonderful resources out there that could add to this simple practice for your weekly worship including Martha’s The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle. I’m also interested in last year’s release of Open and Unafraid by W. David O. Taylor.

I’ll also share a hymn that may or may not work for your worship style right now with the reminder to seek out permissions particular to your context. I’m hoping this limited format will help me to crank out the thing I want to create for Lent but only had the idea for this morning after most of you have already made your plans. Ha. Oops.

Prayers of the People 
Inspired by Psalm 36:5-10

Isolated and still somehow together, 
we have plummeted into the great deep.
O God, we have felt like there is no way.
We have sunk to the bottom of our hope
and not been able to find the surface.

There has been so much death...
So much sickness... 
So much weighing on our mental health...
So much that still feels uncertain...

We are waiting out this next surge
and hoping that it won't be that bad
even it feels awful to be here again
so we reach. We stretch out our hands
to hold your precious hands. 

Take our hands, Precious One.
Pull us close so that we might 
find your protection and strength. 
Pull us up out of this great deep
and give us life again. 
Remind us of all that means 
to live in your love. Shine the light
of that deep love for your people
in the caverns of our uncertainty
and remind us again that your light
lets us enjoy this life. Your light reaches
across the heavens above peeking through clouds
and dancing through rain and snow. Your light
invites us to dance with all of creation. 
Take our hands, Precious One, 
and lead us in your dance. Amen.

It might already be in your head as it was in mine when I entered into this psalm. Take My Hand, Precious Lord could underscore this prayer with soft music playing that swells after the amen into a meditation in song.

It was sung by Mahalia Jackson at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral which you may well be remembering this week. There are videos of that on YouTube too but I wasn’t allowed to post those here. Aretha, however, comes through. I can’t imagine that you can use this in worship but it’s still a gift and worth a listen.

If you are looking for other prayers to uplift the psalm, I commend to you the amazing work that Maren Tirabassi has done in the Living Psalms project within the United Church of Christ. She shares this telling of Psalm 36 on her wonderful blog Gifts in Open Hands. The official psalm from the project can be found here. I also found this Litany of Confession that seems particularly relevant to this moment in the pandemic with a few minor tweaks. Thom Shurman, whom I adore, shares this Call to Worship inspired by the Psalm. I confess I went for this particular moment in worship after I saw how much goodness was out there. There is goodness. May you feel it, dear pastor.

That’s all I’ve got for now.

I am praying for you, dear pastor. I’m praying for you so much.