My soul longs,
indeed it faints
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh sing for joy
to the Living God.
Luke presents us with an account of people carrying out Biblical injunctions. That is, since they are lepers, they are keeping themselves separate from everyone else and also calling out a warning so no one will inadvertently come near them. Further, when they are cured, Jesus tells them to head for the temple so a priest can certify that they are no longer lepers. (That's also in the Bible. You can look it up in Leviticus 13:35-45; 14:2-32).
Nine of the ten who have been healed follow these instructions. However, one does something else. He returns to Jesus, thanks him, and gives praise to God for his healing.
Jesus asks why the nine others did not return to give thanks to God and points out that this one who did is a foreigner.
They all had been suffering. They all had turned to Jesus for help. They all had faith that Jesus could heal them--even the foreigner. And all were healed. Jesus then tells them all what to do next. Nine do it.
Yet, Jesus holds out for praise the one who returned to him for thanks. Sometimes, we have something to learn from outsiders.
A worshipper of God is on a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem. My husband and I are within easy driving distance of the church we attend. I read in the psalm, "My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God." I'm pausing to consider whether my soul longs and faints for that building I am headed toward. I do want to be there, I feel deeply (some weeks, anyway) the need to be there, but I'm not sure about the fainting part. Further disturbing to me is that while I am really, really glad to have that church and to be going there, I have never sung out loud about it while on the way.
So, what does this psalm say to me?
I'm not willing to leave it totally for the original psalmist.
Part of the difference is that the building I am talking about is one that I go to on the average about three times a week. The psalmist, I repeat, is making a pilgrimage. Yet, why would familiarity and ease about the access cause me to be less joyful?
Perhaps I am being too narrow in the application of the psalm to my religious life. Try this: my whole life is a journey toward the presence of God. As I go through my ordinary life--grocery shopping, TV watching, grandchildren enjoying, I am in the presence of God. God's dwelling place, God's courts, God's house--none of those are completely defined by any one building constructed by human beings.
So, Sunday mornings and the rest of the week, let me sing with the psalmist, "A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. O Lord of hosts, happy is everyone who trusts in you."
Prayer for Today: Choose a prayer from Joan Stott's website The timeless psalms.