Jesus taught His followers using familiar objects, some right before their eyes: a fishing net, mustard seeds, sheep…
Is it possible He could even use a popular table game to teach us how to find peace?
In this long period of isolation, my Mom and I have played hours of Rummikub. With our table scattered with numbered tiles overturned, we each choose fourteen and place them on our trays. Then we begin the challenge of being the first to empty our trays by placing each tile in a numerical grouping of three or more. Though we aren’t competitive by nature, we love giving our all to this entertaining game.
Yesterday I was thinking about how fulfilling it is to find a grouping for my last tile. Ah, now they all fit!
In this painful and confusing season in our nation, is there a place we can find that sense of fitting together? Is there any relief from the random pain and confusion of an endless and deadly virus and racial injustice that seems to have no peaceful solution after centuries of agony?
I turned to a man whose wise words has impacted me through recent years: Eugene Peterson, the author of 30 books, plus The Message Bible translation.
Before Eugene started and then pastored a small church for 30 years, he was first a Hebrew and Greek scholar and professor. When he began pastoring, he realized most of his congregation was intimidated by even the reading of these holy words.
So he set out to make them accessible by putting them into their everyday language, the way the original words were for their hearers. He taught that before there is study, there is simply reading.
In the introduction of The Message, Eugene writes:
We need to get a feel for the way these stories and songs, these prayers and conversations, these sermons and visions, invite us into this large, large world in which the invisible God is involved in everything visible and illuminates what it means to live here – really live, not just get across the street.
As we read, and the longer we read, we begin to “get it” – we are in conversation with God. We find ourselves listening and answering in matters that most concern us: who we are, where we came from, where we are going, what makes us tick, the texture of the world and the communities we live in, and – most of all – the incredible love of God among us, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Through reading the Bible, we see that there is far more to the world, more to us, more to what we see and more to what we don’t see – more to everything! – than we had ever dreamed, and that this “more” has to do with God.
Reading Psalms in The Message gives me language to lay out my emotions in a scattered-tile kind way, and watch how, in the honest revealing and then organizing of them, they begin to find their place.
Vulnerability lines up with truth when I release my thoughts and hard-to-deal-with emotions through God’s Words.
For example, when I read the familiar Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13, I see it in fresh light:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right,
Do what’s best –
As above so below.
And PSALM 5:2-3
Every morning you’ll hear me at it again.
Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on your altar.
I call to you, God, because I’m sure of an answer.
So – answer! bend your ear! listen sharp!
Paint grace-graffiti on the fences;
take your frightened children who
Are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you.
PSALM 18:20 and 24
God made my life complete
when I placed all the broken pieces before him…
God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.
The poetry of the Psalms, written in our everyday vernacular, gives words to our broken, angry, painful, confusing, hopeless feelings. Do you need another pathway to peace?
Pull up a chair and sit still
Are you craving a resting place for the hurting pieces in your heart – the broken pieces in our nation and world? Would you like, even for a few moments, to see the numbered tiles all lined up in a row?
I encourage you to open the book of Psalms from The Message and embrace the words that give voice to your feelings.