"You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy." - Psalm 65: 11 - 13
People sometimes ask how I go about writing one of these devotions. I usually begin by reading the several Scripture readings for my assigned date. I mull them over. I listen for which text or verses intrigue or provoke, disturb or delight.
One of the passages for today is Psalm 65, a psalm of such praise and joy it fairly shimmers. Its final verses, three of which are above, celebrate the abundance of the harvest. "These are so beautiful," I think. Reading them I see the light-charged wheat and oat fields, the herds of black and red cattle, the racing streams and waterways, and tall skies of my eastern Oregon homeland.
Then a voice in my head says, "When people read this we will be three weeks from this election. There's so much that's awful in the world and this election is so worrisome, how can you quote a psalm of such joy and beauty at a time like this?" To which another voices answers, "How can you not?"
I think of the words of the essayist E. B. White, "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."
Even in anxious times, perhaps especially in anxious times, joy in beauty, joy in life, joy in God, is true and good. "It is right," as a line from the liturgy puts it, "to give God thanks and praise."
In his poem "A Brief for the Defense," Jack Gilbert writes, "To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the devil." Joy remains possible. Do not let it be taken from you.
"Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, God of love; hearts unfold like flowers before you opening to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness, drive the dark of doubt away, giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day." Amen.