Church of Our Saviour

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Tales of Hofmann

Hofmann_Skyline“This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118: 24)

Although I have heard these words of the psalmist many times before (and even sung them in the popular hymn, “This is the Day”), I don’t think that I ever paid much attention to them. The words express a nice sentiment, of course, but that seemed to be all there was. Then, in April, I met an elderly woman whom I shall call Gladys. She taught me the power of this portion of Psalm 118 and every day since I have chosen to awaken each morning saying these words as my morning prayer.

Knowing how speeded up our lives often seem in September after the hot and lazy days of summer and how hard it can be to find extended time to pray, I thought that you might find it helpful to have this quick way to “ground” each day in God.

When I first met Gladys she did not even know that I was there. She was in the intensive care unit of the hospital where I have been volunteering as a chaplain. Hooked up to lots of tubes and beeping monitors, she seemed very small and fragile lying in the bed. I said a brief prayer and left.

The next time I visited ICU, Gladys was still there but this time she was awake. Because she was still hooked up to lots of tubes, I was a bit hesitant in entering her room because I did not know how conscious she was. But as I stepped closer, before even introducing myself, Gladys smiled at me. Now, more at ease, I told her who I was and asked her if she had any religious affiliation. She nodded and whispered, “Episcopalian” and I replied, “me, too.” She then added that she had not been able to attend church services for quite some time due to her infirm condition. This clearly made her sad but her pastor and others in the church visited and she remained connected to her spiritual community. We talked a bit about her current medical condition which was quite serious.

Towards the end of our conversation, seeing that she was getting tired and in quite a bit of pain, I asked Gladys if she wanted me to pray with her before I left. She nodded and, before I could say anything else, she proclaimed quite loudly, “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” It was certainly a bit surprising to hear these words from a patient in intensive care and it caused a few nurses to stop and look into the room, puzzled. I motioned them away and turned back to Gladys. I think that she knew that I was curious and she told me that she recited this portion of Psalm 118 every morning in order to dedicate the actions of her day to God. It was her “habit,” she said. She told me that it was important to have such “habits,” because it was all too easy to get caught up in busyness and, yes, sadness, too, at all the troubles in our lives and, as a result, neglect to celebrate each new day of the Lord’s creation. We talked a bit longer and finally concluded our visit with the Lord’s Prayer (which Gladys also prays every day). As I left the ICU that day, I reflected on my experience with Gladys and gave thanks for the gift of our encounter.

The next morning, as I stretched myself awake and looked out at the morning sunrise, I found myself spontaneously praying, “This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I started to laugh at how right it seemed and said it again, this time with a bit more gusto. And every day since that is how I have begun my day. Some mornings I may hesitate a bit, especially when I am feeling worried or concerned about something or someone, but, as Gladys predicted, psalm 118:24 has become a “habit” and, so, I pray the words of rejoicing and gladness. My spirit lightens and I move into the day, a blessed day. Sometimes I even find myself repeating the psalm phrase silently while driving in my car or waiting in line or just walking down the street. It has made a real difference in the way that I pay attention each day.

OK, this sounds simple and easy, right? Perhaps you might consider giving it a try yourself this September. There may be other verses from the psalms besides 118:24 or other biblical passages that are especially meaningful to you. Choose something that is easy to remember and that makes your heart sing. Make it your spiritual “habit” and a tangible reminder of God’s daily loving presence in your life. Let me know what happens.

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