By Emily Hylden
A Reading from Psalm 78:1-39
1 Hear my teaching, O my people;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3 That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children.
4 We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,
and the wonderful works he has done.
5 He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel,
which he commanded them to teach their children;
6 That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn;
that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
7 So that they might put their trust in God,
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 And not be like their forefathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
and whose spirit was not faithful to God.
9 The people of Ephraim, armed with the bow,
turned back in the day of battle;
10 They did not keep the covenant of God,
and refused to walk in his law;
11 They forgot what he had done,
and the wonders he had shown them.
12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,
in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He split open the sea and let them pass through;
he made the waters stand up like walls.
14 He led them with a cloud by day,
and all the night through with a glow of fire.
15 He split the hard rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink as from the great deep.
16 He brought streams out of the cliff,
and the waters gushed out like rivers.
17 But they went on sinning against him,
rebelling in the desert against the Most High.
18 They tested God in their hearts,
demanding food for their craving.
19 They railed against God and said,
“Can God set a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the
but is he able to give bread
or to provide meat for his people?”
21 When the LORD heard this, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob,
and his anger mounted against Israel;
22 For they had no faith in God,
nor did they put their trust in his saving power.
23 So he commanded the clouds above
and opened the doors of heaven.
24 He rained down manna upon them to eat
and gave them grain from heaven.
25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;
he provided for them food enough.
26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens
and led out the south wind by his might.
27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust
and wingèd birds like the sand of the sea.
28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp
and round about their dwellings.
29 So they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
30 But they did not stop their craving,
though the food was still in their mouths.
31 So God’s anger mounted against them;
he slew their strongest men
and laid low the youth of Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they went on sinning
and had no faith in his wonderful works.
33 So he brought their days to an end like a breath
and their years in sudden terror.
34 Whenever he slew them, they would seek him,
and repent, and diligently search for God.
35 They would remember that God was their rock,
and the Most High God their redeemer.
36 But they flattered him with their mouths
and lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him,
and they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 But he was so merciful that he forgave their sins
and did not destroy them;
many times he held back his anger
and did not permit his wrath to be roused.
39 For he remembered that they were but flesh,
a breath that goes forth and does not return.
In January, I started a very specific journal. I entitled it “The Good Stuff 2022.” I have three little boys, aged 5, 3, and three months. The days are long! I also know that I tend to focus on the negative, difficult things — it’s just science. Our minds underline the negative as an ancient protective instinct; it takes 10 positive experiences to bring ourselves to equilibrium from one negative experience (or so I read). So as a way to combat my cynicism, I write down the dear moments and precious (sometimes, strange!) sentences my boys utter, that they not be lost to time or obscured by more challenging times.
Humans are forgetful. Some of this is the way our brains have developed, and some of this is our sinful tendency to distrust the goodness of God. Today’s psalm tells the story of God’s faithfulness to Israel yet again. It also outlines the struggle the people of Israel encounter in trusting God, despite the faithfulness they themselves have experienced at God’s hands. Our forgetfulness is why we are called to pray the Daily Office, to “pray without ceasing,” to gather with other disciples each week in church, to lay our burdens down again and again at God’s feet. Our instinct is often to keep picking our burdens back up, to wear our old lives and thought patterns and cynicism rather than the armor of God.
God gives us our own “Good Stuff Journal” through thousands of years of testimony in Scripture, the stories of saints, our own lives, and the lives of our communities. May we turn to it often to align our lives and minds with the truth of God rather than the curvature of our fallen humanity.
The Rev. Emily R. Hylden resides with her priest husband and three sons in Lafayette, Louisiana. Find her podcasting at Emily Rose Meditations.
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The Diocese of Mauritius – The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean
Society of Mary, American Region