A Reflection for September 27th
By Dan Schwerin
Vindicate me, O Lord,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
test my heart and mind.
For your steadfast love is before my eyes,
and I walk in faithfulness to you.
I do not sit with the worthless,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;
I hate the company of evildoers,
and will not sit with the wicked.
I wash my hands in innocence,
and go around your altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
and telling all your wondrous deeds.
O Lord, I love the house in which you dwell,
and the place where your glory abides.
Do not sweep me away with sinners,
nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
those in whose hands are evil devices,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.
But as for me, I walk in my integrity;
redeem me, and be gracious to me.
My foot stands on level ground;
in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.
I wonder what words you use when you pray after having done everything right and life is still a mess. What tone would you use with God? What is your next prayer when you watch and pray in silence?
Psalm 26 is a prayer for vindication while it is not yet seen on the horizon. After the first line cries out, the one who prays takes a personal inventory saying, ‘I have walked’—'and I have trusted!’
It seems to me this writer has made an offering of integrity and is praying that this offering would be enough for God. One of the meanings of the word integrity is, ‘the state of being whole and undivided.’ When Jeremiah says, ‘no one is righteous,’ he reminds hearers that no one has an undivided moral quality. Ministry in a pandemic time, life in Covid times is certainly not undivided—we often feel as if we are not keeping up with family or work commitments—and complexity only increases across our days. Now the UMC has much to make whole: its history with First Nation Peoples, the abuse being alleged in a partnered relationship with the Boy Scouts, and the many miles before us as we walk into racial justice and radical inclusion.
But maybe the kernel of this prayer is that the faithful can offer God ‘integrity enough,’ then watch and pray.
My wife Julie and I walk at night and watch the moon in its phases. Last night it was full, but not every evening can the moon be perfectly full. Sometimes I think, waxing or waning, the moon is full enough to speak mystery and depth and for us to see beauty in its face. Some days what you give to home or work or to God’s reign of justice and mercy is less than what you had hoped, and yet it is offering enough for the altar today. Tomorrow we get to come back and make an offering again. Meantime the corn is ripe in the field. The milkweeds are giving birth, and we join together with the power of Christ’s presence where two or three are gathered.
Sunday is World Communion Sunday. The church is tired from a pandemic, but we live from a union that is both broken and blessed. So, with psalm 26 as a lectionary reading, let’s walk and trust together for the increase of integrity. I will be on my knees with you.