By Barbara Falconer Newhall
By the looks of next Sunday's scripture readings, God has high hopes and standards for the human race.
There are the Ten Commandments, of course. Our lives – spiritual and earthbound – will go a lot better if we love God heartily, banish our idols, keep the Sabbath, honor our elders, and eschew murder, theft, adultery, lies and covetous scheming.
And there is Jesus – applying an angry whip of cords to all that distracting worldly commerce going on in in the temple at Jerusalem, which is supposed to be a sanctified, set-apart place where, like the Sabbath, God and humanity can take time out to encounter each other.
But there is yet another, subtler commandment tucked away in today’s scripture. I spotted it the closing verse of Psalm 19:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.”
Let the meditation of my heart – my thoughts and opinions! – be acceptable to the Lord?
Does this mean it matters what we think?
Aren’t our thoughts our own and perfectly harmless as long as they don’t involve plotting to steal somebody else’s sheep or oxen or place in line at the coffee shop?
Maybe we could think of our meditations this way: They are what we say to ourselves when we are alone. They reflect our deepest beliefs about the human condition in general and ourselves in particular. They are how we diminish or grow ourselves and others in our most private moments.
It’s Lent, and I wonder, what kind of thoughts might God wish for us during this season?
© Photo and text 2012 Barbara Falconer Newhall
LECTIONARY, Third Sunday in Lent, RCL-B:
Psalm 19 1
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14
“The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father's house a marketplace!’” -- John 2:13-16