We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul.

Hebrews 6:19

As I reflect on this Sunday’s readings in our Revised Common Lectionary, one of the themes that I see is hope, something so important in our world right now. The psalm that I have selected speaks to me of our current context, as we all remember longingly when we went “in procession to the house of God.” This pandemic has caused many a soul to be cast down – including mine at times – but the invitation in this psalm is to recognize that, and to name it, and then to remind our souls to hope in God – for we shall again praise God, together.

What does hope look like? What better place to turn than Emily Dickinson’s beloved poem on hope? A thing with feathers that perches in the soul, that sings without words, and keeps so many of us warm. Here is this week’s devotion:

Opening Prayer

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. In you, O God, I place my trust. Help me now to quiet myself and listen, that the thoughts and prayers of my heart might be pleasing to you. Amen

Psalm 42:4-8, 11

These things I remember,
   as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,
   and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
   a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my help and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
   therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
   from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
   at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
   have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
   and at night his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my help and my God.

Scripture Reading: 1 Peter 3:15-16

Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.

Silence for reflection and prayer

Devotional Poem: “Hope” is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Closing Prayer

O Lord, my God, my source of hope. How thankful I am that you offer this gift, this promise, this assurance to me. Where would I be without hope? And so, I thank you for the hope that is in me –  a gift from you that has helped see me through life’s many storms. When I am cast down, Lord, remind me of this gift, and help me to wait and to trust and to hope. And when those around me are cast down, Lord, help me to share the hope that is in me, with gentleness, and with reverence, and always in love. May the hope that you offer our world in Jesus be a balm for our weary souls. Amen

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