Psalm #63

Thirsty for God

Mark Kleiner, a pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Saskatoon, spends his mornings sitting behind what at first glance looks like a lemonade stand.  But above the pitcher of pink juice, the sign clearly reads "Spiritual help five cents."  The booth on the front lawn of the Caswell Hill church is a playful way of connecting with the community.

Kleiner, a musician turned minister who started at the church last fall, said the booth isn't meant as a way to proselytize, but is rather about reaching out to people of all backgrounds, religious or otherwise.  "We're saying we're here, we'll offer spiritual counsel if people want it and a listening ear."

The stand is inspired by the Peanuts cartoon strip. Remember when Lucy sets up a booth offering psychiatric help for five cents? That's the look Kleiner and his congregation are going for.   [read the full article here: ]

In spite of the fact that church attendance across North America is shrinking with ‘Nones’ (those who choose not to be affiliated with any religion) making up an ever larger part of our communities, people are spiritually hungry.  The longing for meaning and living a significant life are always present.

O God, You are my God, I seek You early                                                

with a heart that thirsts for You                                                           

and a body wasted with longing for You,                                                   

like a dry and thirsty land that has no water.  [New English Bible]

Our psalmist is thirsty for God.  The opening verse reminds us that we are to be an active participant in our relationship with God. This is not simply an intellectual pursuit; it is a deep abiding spiritual need. Our need for communion with God is compared here with our absolute need for life-sustaining water. Our bodies are 60 percent water and so our chances of survival without it diminishes significantly after three days. This prayer notes that our spiritual survival will not be long without being fed by our relationship with God. God’s presence is as life-sustaining as water and food.

The prayer continues this theme praising God’s great love or hesed is said to be “better than life.”

My lips praise you
    because your faithful love
    is better than life itself!

One scholar suggests that verse 3 is one of the most eloquent statements of faith in the whole Bible.  This memorable phrase emphasizes the depth of the psalmist’s dependence upon God for life.  ‘Hesed is the definition of this decision of God’s to serve and love. It is the “heaviest” of God’s attributes because God’s unconditional love of us costs God a great deal. The prayer reminds us that it is better than life because it transcends life. It was there at the beginning when God’s love proved stronger than God’s anger in the Garden, and it continued to the Cross and beyond. It is what will welcome us home into the arms of God at our earthy death.’  [Beth Tanner]

The contrast between ‘mouths’ in vs. 5 and 11 is significant.  While the mouths of the enemy will be stopped, the psalmist’s mouth is open in joyful praise.  The ‘open mouth’ signifies praise, thirst, hunger, and prayer.  For the enemies’ mouths to be ‘closed’ to God is to be dead.  

What we pay attention to will shape our world—our thoughts, our emotions, our experience, our desires. If we pay attention only to financial matters, for example, we will think about money all the time, and our desire for financial success and stability will outweigh anything else.  If we pay attention to what’s wrong with our life, we will always be on the lookout for more bad news, sensitive to every insult, passionate about getting even or running away, living with anxiety and depression all the time. What we pay attention to shapes our desires.

That is surely true of our life with God. If we don’t pay attention to God, we won’t desire God, even if we believe in him and trust him and obey him. And if we don’t desire God, we won’t enjoy God.

So I come looking for you, Lord, in your holy places.                                 

In this dimmed light, in this hushed silence,                                               

I sense your presence.                                                                           

I wish I could feel you as near me                                                            

in the rabid frenzy of life in the city core.                                                      

I  want to reach out and touch you                                                                 

in the marketplace as well as in the sanctuary.                                           

Then I will not feel alone;                                                                       

you will be part of every thought and every breath.                                         

I will know you at my desk and in my den,                                                 

in my bed and in my bathtub.                                                     

Nothing will come between us.                                                            

And I will hold you close in the nighttime of my fears.

[James Taylor – Everyday Psalms]