From the Psalter:
Restore us then, O God our Savior;
let your anger depart from us.
Will you be displeased with us for ever?
will you prolong your anger from age to age?
Will you not give us life again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Psalm 85:3-6 (BCP Version) – January 4, 2014.)
Late yesterday I created and posted a “meme” on Facebook and then put it on this blog as well . . . a picture of a sack lunch with words from the early 1970s humor piece entitled The Deterioriata: “
Gracefully surrender the things of youth:
The birds, clean air, tuna, Taiwan . . .
And let not the sands of time
Get in your lunch.
I edited the posting this morning to include the whole text of The Deteriorata. It’s a parody. It’s humor. It’s not the way I actually see the universe functioning. Let’s make that clear. But another part of the piece strikes awfully close to home:
Therefore, make peace with your god
Whatever you conceive him to be —
Hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin.
With all its hopes, dreams, promises, and urban renewal
The world continues to deteriorate.
There is ample evidence that the world does continue to deteriorate, even more so than when that piece was written in 1972 as a part of a National Lampoon comedy record! Economic injustice and wealth inequality, increased pollution and anthropogenic climate change, wars and civil wars . . . you can complete the list. So perhaps making peace with one’s god is a good idea.
And that’s the line that gets to me this morning, the bit about “whatever you conceive him to be.”
And the line (or, actually, the word) that got my attention in the morning psalm is “Restore…”
For several hours yesterday and this morning, when I would try to access this site (a family domain I set up several years ago and host with a company whose servers and technical support staff are in . . . God knows where), I could not do so. I would get strange error messages. It would tell me that the “resource limit” had been exceeded; it would claim there was a “database error;” it would give me an HTTP 500 error saying that it had “encountered an unexpected condition that prevents fulfilling the request by the client;” it would give me an HTTP 404 error – “Page not found!”
My only recourse when these things happen is to go to my hosting company’s website and complete a “support ticket” detailing the error received and saying something very much like “Restore us then, O hosting company.”
Before reading the Daily Office this morning, I checked the weather. In our area we are experiencing very cold winter temperatures and in this morning’s prediction there was a “Winter Wind Chill Watch” for the next few days. Beginning early Monday morning and continuing through mid-day on Tuesday, there are predicted temperatures at Zero Degrees Fahrenheit or below, blowing snow showers (winds of 20-25 mph), and wind chills of -25 to -40 . . . . Not being a fan of cold, snowy winters in the first place, the Psalm’s plea, “Restore us then, O God our Savior; let your anger depart from us” seemed to me particularly appropriate; bad winter weather will screw up a whole lot of plans that I have made!
But then I had to pull myself up short and ask myself, “How are you conceiving God to be? Hairy thunderer, cosmic muffin, universal weatherman, celestial technical support department?” All might be good metaphors to help us understand the divine in bible study, but as with any metaphor they are of limited use in most circumstances, and especially in these.
Faced with glitches and bugs in the programs we’ve tried to write for our own lives, what do we do? Call on God as some sort of master IT technician to come fix them? Or do we knuckle down and do the hard work of reading through the code line-by-line and fixing things ourselves, relying on the tools and skills that God has already given us.
In my own life, I’m trying to do the latter, but I must confess that every once in a while I really do just want to throw up my hands and submit a “support ticket” to the heavenly technician, and then gripe about how slowly he gets around to fixing things: “Will you be displeased with us for ever?”
No, better not to call on technical support; best to work things out for ourselves and with the help and support of our communities to the extent we can. And we will find out that that extends really pretty far!
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.