A Gentle Whisper - Psalm 81
A Lent Reflection for Tuesday, March 14th
By Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Lobello Edwards
Lectionary reading: Psalm 81; Genesis 29:1-14; 1 Corinthians 10:1-4
Selected passage: Psalm 81
Psalm 81: 1-7 The Message
1-5 A song to our strong God!
a shout to the God of Jacob!
Anthems from the choir, music from the band,
sweet sounds from lute and harp,
Trumpets and trombones and horns:
it’s festival day, a feast to God!
A day decreed by God,
solemnly ordered by the God of Jacob.
He commanded Joseph to keep this day
so we’d never forget what he did in Egypt.
I hear this most gentle whisper from One
I never guessed would speak to me:
6-7 “I took the world off your shoulders,
freed you from a life of hard labor.
You called to me in your pain;
I got you out of a bad place.
I answered you from where the thunder hides,
I proved you at Meribah Fountain.
“I hear this most gentle whisper from One I never guessed would speak to me…”
Have you ever learned something that allowed you to listen in a new way?
My daughter is in speech therapy, and through her evaluations and speaking with the therapists working with her I have learned so much about the physical movements you must make with your mouth in order to make specific sounds. For example, in order to help my daughter learn to make “blended” sounds - “st” (stop), “sl” (slow), etc. - we’ve had to take each word and break it down letter by letter to listen carefully to where the “s'' sound stops and the rest of the word blends and continues. Once we identify where the word blends together, we work on making our mouths make the correct sounds. We’ve played many games sticking out our tongues and touching our tongues to the tops of our mouths and back of our teeth to make certain sounds - and while the end goal is speaking clearly, we can’t get there without careful listening first. Careful listening that leads to action.
Today our scripture calls the worshiping community to celebration and then offers a pause as a reminder from God (a voice not expected and in other Biblical translations, not known) pulls the community to remember the mighty acts of God’s salvation: answering their cries, rescuing them from bondage, leading them safely through the wilderness. Listening to this voice redirects their worship from a regular liturgical celebration to a response to God’s gracious acts toward Israel in the past. The scripture continues to share that the worshiping community forgets these acts of God and does not listen - but still God calls. God’s voice continues to ring out in the wilderness. And listening to God’s voice leads to action.
I wonder how you best listen to God speak in your life? Watching my daughter patiently work on parsing together words and sounds I am reminded that active listening can lead to major transformation, but that transformation takes time and needs work and perseverance.
Where is God speaking in your life?
How can you actively listen in a way that leads to transformation in your life and in your community?
Today you are invited to give space to actively listen for God’s transforming word through prayer. Pick a short verse of scripture that is familiar or challenging and offer it as a prayer by repeating the verse and leaving off the final word until you are left with only one word. After each time you repeat this scripture leave space and silence to listen.
Here is an example of this practice using Psalm 46:10. Feel free to use this as your prayer today.
Psalm 46:10a: “Be still and know that I am God.”
Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know that I
Be still and know that
Be still and know
Be still and
Holy and Merciful God,
In your grace you call to us each day. Forgive us when we do not take the time to slow down and listen. Open our ears and our hearts that we may hear your voice and allow our lives to be transformed as we remember your mighty deeds and live our days in the promise of your love. Amen.
About the Author
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Lobello Edwards is an elder in the United Methodist Church currently on family leave. Ellizabeth received her MDiv and DMin from Candler School of Theology and resides in Atlanta with her children (Willow and Thomas), Great Dane (Pepper), and husband (Adam). She enjoys hosting nerdy board game nights and exploring new restaurants around the city.