Summertime And The Living Is Easy…
Summer time and the living is easy…
Nothing original comes out of my pen. Even when I think I own an idea, inevitably I discover it was pre-owned. Someone said it better or plumbed its beauty more deeply than I could. It is so with the idea I present this month: learning to pray our faith when the “living is easy.”
Song writers are in tune with their inner beings and their songs burst with the state of their souls. Ira Gershwin wrote this lullaby in 1935 for his musical Porgy and Bess. It’s a song that says life is good:
Summertime, and the living is easy
Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high
Your daddy’s rich, and your ma is good looking
So hush little baby, don’t you cry.
One of these mornings, you’re gonna rise up singing
You’re gonna spread your wings and take the sky
But till that morning, there is nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mommy standing by.
Walter Brueggemann has thought deeply about the songs of the people of faith and written about it in The Message of Psalms (1984). He has discerned that the singers of Israel at times express confidence in the faithfulness of God which they know firsthand in the ordinariness of life. In such prayers our ancestors in the faith teach us to speak the language of being at peace with God, ourselves, and the world. They know God as creator and sustainer. Psalm 145 is representative. Spend a little time with it then read on.
In Hebrew, Psalm 145 is an acrostic meaning that each line begins with a letter of the alphabet: line one with A, line two with B, and so on to Z. This means that the community of faith learned this prayer by heart to speak their faith in the creator God. The form of this prayer also hints at the completeness of God’s care (from A to Z) and invites our full trust in Him Who is reliable, fair, and generous. Here the mind is lifted up toward God with deep appreciation and we experience the well-arranged world as a gift from its Maker. We sense that all is well and that we are doing life with God. No shadow of doubt exists, no hint of dissatisfaction, no trace of disillusion! Daily bread is given, forgiveness is common, and temptation is in retreat.
In verses 8-9, and the rest of the psalm, the singer is enthralled with Creator God’s character: gracious, merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, good, and compassionate over all his creation. Much assurance comes to us when we consider the world is owned by God and our place in it. We are secure when “the fish voluntarily jump into our nets and the cotton yield is high.” This is not theoretical jargon for the song writer. It is reliability buttressed by reality. Daily manna is enough, lack is gone into hiding, rain falls, crops grow, bread tastes good, health flourishes, and child-like trust grows. Throughout the psalm there is no hint that anything is wrong with the world. Injustice is set to rights. This is the soul seeing deep into the reality of God’s love with utmost satisfaction.
There is mostly in this prayer the sense that God holds his creation in balance, keeps it together, and is utterly reliable in providing for those who fear him (i.e. those who do life with God). All who fear the Lord get to benefit from his daily provisions in creation: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand, satisfying the desire of every living thing” (15-16).
Psalms 8, 33, and 104 are variations on this theme of enjoying life with God and being grateful for his creation. They all say “we know our place in this world, and it is under the great Provider who loves his own and would allow no lack in their lives even at the cost of dying for them. Psalms of orientation should become a steady diet in the worship of the church since the dark side barrages us with creation denying messages by a lovable creator God.
Given the resistance (by all systems in society) to accept a created world designed by God, it is imperative today for the church to magnify the God of creation in its worship. The Church can no longer take for granted that its members buy into a created universe, and humanity. With intention and regularity we must once more help disciples know that God is our maker, and sustainer. He is God most high (Gen. 14.18-19). We can no more take for granted that church-going people believe that creation belongs to God and that God sustains it by his caring actions. This life-orientation is precious and must be treasured in our midst.
So our task as church leaders who walk with the Master, as Dallas Willard encourages, is to constantly bring God the “father almighty, maker of heaven and earth” before disciples, so they see his beauty and strength, and deepen in love to him. Do all our people know that God is a “happy, radiant, friendly, accessible and totally competent being?” We preach and worship a lovable God.
For large swaths of our lives we are at peace, satisfied with creation, on top of the world, in God. We know him as benevolent creator and we join the psalmists in saying so.
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