The Shape for Grace

By Elizabeth Baumann

A Reading from Psalm 107

1    Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, *
and his mercy endures for ever.

2    Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim *
that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3    He gathered them out of the lands; *
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

4    Some wandered in desert wastes; *
they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5    They were hungry and thirsty; *
their spirits languished within them.

6    Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

7    He put their feet on a straight path *
to go to a city where they might dwell.

8    Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.

9    For he satisfies the thirsty *
and fills the hungry with good things.

10    Some sat in darkness and deep gloom, *
bound fast in misery and iron;

11    Because they rebelled against the words of God *
and despised the counsel of the Most High.

12    So he humbled their spirits with hard labor; *
they stumbled, and there was none to help.

13    Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

14    He led them out of darkness and deep gloom *
and broke their bonds asunder.

15    Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.

16    For he shatters the doors of bronze *
and breaks in two the iron bars.

17    Some were fools and took to rebellious ways; *
they were afflicted because of their sins.

18    They abhorred all manner of food *
and drew near to death’s door.

19    Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

20    He sent forth his word and healed them *
and saved them from the grave.

21    Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.

22    Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

23    Some went down to the sea in ships *
and plied their trade in deep waters;

24    They beheld the works of the LORD *
and his wonders in the deep.

25    Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose, *
which tossed high the waves of the sea.

26    They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths; *
their hearts melted because of their peril.

27    They reeled and staggered like drunkards *
and were at their wits’ end.

28    Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, *
and he delivered them from their distress.

29    He stilled the storm to a whisper *
and quieted the waves of the sea.

30    Then were they glad because of the calm, *
and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

31    Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy *
and the wonders he does for his children.

32    Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people *
and praise him in the council of the elders.

33    The LORD changed rivers into deserts, *
and water-springs into thirsty ground,

34    A fruitful land into salt flats, *
because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.

35    He changed deserts into pools of water *
and dry land into water-springs.

36    He settled the hungry there, *
and they founded a city to dwell in.

37    They sowed fields, and planted vineyards, *
and brought in a fruitful harvest.

38    He blessed them, so that they increased greatly; *
he did not let their herds decrease.

39    Yet when they were diminished and brought low, *
through stress of adversity and sorrow,

40    (He pours contempt on princes *
and makes them wander in trackless wastes)

41    He lifted up the poor out of misery *
and multiplied their families like flocks of sheep.

42    The upright will see this and rejoice, *
but all wickedness will shut its mouth.

43    Whoever is wise will ponder these things, *
and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

Meditation

“Go to Tara,” Scarlett O’Hara tells herself after her life comes apart at the seams at the end of her saga, Gone with the Wind. She’s just one of an archetype character we see throughout literature, and lurking in our own imaginations: the character singularly defined by their land. Most of us don’t have actual acreage, but we all have an internal landscape, the function of which is to tell us who we are; it’s the garden of “inward and spiritual grace,” where we meet with God.

Remember Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. We are all land, rocky or fertile, tilled or choked with weeds, receiving the seeds of truth and grace. Probably we’re all a landscape with a bit of everything: a gorse bush here and a pond over there.

So take it as a figure of the inward and spiritual, and read these verses again:

The Lord changed rivers into deserts, and water-springs into thirsty ground,
A fruitful land into salt flats, because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.
He changed deserts into pools of water and dry land into water-springs.  

The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our internal landscape — and he comes with a shovel. If we let him, he’ll start doing these things in us: digging wells in our deserts and draining our swamps.  It sounds dreadfully unpleasant, honestly. But it’s the only way we’re going to become the right shape to receive the divine graces we need to be the saints he made us to become. If we let him do his work, then we too will come to say, “Let [us] give thanks to the Lord for his mercy and the wonders he does for his children.”

Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

The Diocese on the Niger – The Church of Nigeria
Church of the Good Shepherd, Augusta, Georgia

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