From the Daily Office – March 11, 2012

The Psalmist wrote….

The Lord is King;
he has put on splendid apparel; *
the Lord has put on his apparel
and girded himself with strength.
He has made the whole world so sure *
that it cannot be moved;
Ever since the world began,
your throne has been established; *
you are from everlasting.
The waters have lifted up, O Lord,
the waters have lifted up their voice; *
the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the sound of many waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea, *
mightier is the Lord who dwells on high.
Your testimonies are very sure, *
and holiness adorns your house, O Lord,
for ever and for evermore.

(From the Daily Office Readings, Mar. 11, 2012, Psalm 93)

To our ancient ancestors, living water was the very essence of chaos. The oceans and seas, their waves, swift flowing rivers, waterfalls, cataracts, even peaceful ponds and lakes were considered chaotic and dangerous; they were very difficult even for the gods to control. The gods did battle with them; when the gods had won, creation followed. For example, in Egyptian mythology in the beginning there was only the swirling watery chaos, called Nu; out of the chaotic waters rose the sungod, Atum (later identified as Ra or Kephri), who subdued the waters and created the first dry land. We find echoes of this in Genesis 1 where “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” (v. 2) God subdues the waters by first separating them and then gathering those under the firmament into seas. The Lord makes reference to this creation myth when he answers Job: “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb? – when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?” (Job 38:8-11) Perhaps the disciples had this in mind when, boating on the Galilean lake with Jesus during a storm, they asked “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41) Here in Psalm 93, God wins definitively, establishing world order, which “shall never be moved” (v. 1); God’s order cannot be changed or defeated. God rules over all of creation, even the forces of chaos. Each of us is subject to the chaos of feelings and emotions, our subjective reactions to a particular event. These reactions are characterized by an absence of reasoning; they are rambunctious, even primal. It is not uncommon to hear someone say, “I can’t trust my feelings” or “My emotions got away from me.” Sometimes these intense feelings are accompanied by physical and mental activity. Emotions are impulses to act, the instant plans for handling life that evolution has instilled in us, and in any of us these primal, instinctive reactions can become chaotic and uncontrolled. Psalm 93 assures us that God is mightier than even these most powerful and unpredictably chaotic forces. God is the perfect outlet for our emotions. When you, or your family, or your friends can’t handle your emotions, God can. As The Book of Common Prayer‘s Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent assures us, God can “keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul,” especially our chaotic emotions.

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