Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Lenten Homily by Chaplain Mary Sue Barnett, ARCWP

Mary Sue Barnett ARCWP

Midday Prayer 3/7/2018
Hospital Chapel
Lenten Homily

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O God of hosts!
My soul longs, indeed it faints
    for the courts of God;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O God of hosts,
    my Holy One and my God.
Happy are those who live in your house,
    ever singing your praise.
Happy are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
    the God of gods will be seen in Zion.
O God of hosts, hear my prayer;
    give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
Behold our shield, O God;
    look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than live in the tents of wickedness.

For God is a sun and shield;
    bestowing favor and honor.
No good thing does God withhold
    from those who walk uprightly.

O God of hosts,
    happy is everyone who trusts in you.


As you see, I printed the words of verse 6 in bold font. 
And we just read this verse aloud together.
I highlight verse 6 because I see meaning
in these particular words for us here today
in this hospital,
together in this chapel,
during this season of Lent. 

In these words, God speaks life to us today. 

Again, verse 6 says;
"As they go through the valley of Baca, 
they make it a place of springs; 
the early rain also covers it with pools."

“The valley of Baca,” says the Psalmist who knows God’s dwelling place to be lovely.
“The valley of Baca,” says the Psalmist whose heart sings for the living God.

What is “Baca?”

The English letters B—a—c—a —create the English pronunciation
of the Biblical Hebrew word  בכה
which means to weep, cry, mourn, bewail. 

The valley of Baca in the Psalm
does not necessarily refer to a physical place, 
or a literal valley in the Ancient Near East.
It can refer to the human experience of suffering
that causes one to weep bitterly. 

It can refer to the human experience of walking
a long road of painful struggle. 

The word Baca is found in other places in scripture
where we see stories of human beings,
specific individuals,
walking through a valley of tears. 

In the Book of Ruth (1:14) the story tells
of three vulnerable women,
Ruth, Naomi, and Orpah, 
who must search for a way to survive. 
As widows in poverty
they are devastated and fearful. 
The three women cry aloud together.

In the Book of Job (2:12) the story tells
of Job’s three friends
who don’t even recognize him
for the suffering is so severe.
Witnessing his incomprehensible losses
of home, children, livelihood,
and the onset of serious illness,
the three friends weep aloud together.

We see the word Baca also in the biblical  prophets: 

In Isaiah (22:4) the prophet weeps bitter tears
for the suffering people. 

In Jeremiah (9:10) the prophet instructs the people
to weep for the beloved ones who are desolate.
As we follow this brief scriptural trail
of the valley of weeping,
we discover that human beings
who are suffering
are not alone.
We see in Ruth that the three women
have each other's love and support
to walk into the unknown future,
seeking communal safety and stability. 

We see in Job that the three friends
who grieve with him
also embark on a journey of
seeking understanding with Job
which leads him into
the presence of Holy Wisdom,
into the great wonders of Holy Mystery.
We see in the prophets that our God is One Who
calls people to feel the pain of others, 
and to intervene in the sorrow. 

This is Who our God is----
God is One Who brings waters of new life
to our valleys of weeping. 
God intends for us to be showered with love
in our desert places. 
God gives us people so that no
valley of suffering is endured alone. 
We are created to live in God’s presence.

God's presence is your gentle home
through any valley of weeping,
whatever the suffering is
and however long it lasts. 
Psalm 84 says that even the swallow,
one very little song bird,
finds a home in God's lovely dwelling place. 

When you yearn for comfort, for relief,
and for rest in the weariness, 
be reminded and be confident that God
Who knows and cares for
and a tiny song bird that flies to and fro,
and across the world,
knows and cares for you.
Uniquely, for you.

Chaplain Mary Sue Barnett, ARCWP

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