Have you ever tried looking out through a keyhole? I left my seat for a moment, just to try out the effect first hand.
There’s a down-spout and a flourishing quince close by, and, in the distance, a luminous shrub (being pedantic cotinus coggygria, golden spirit or smoke bush). This is no rounded view of our late summer garden, much loved despite too many weeds.
John Wesley, and Paul Gerhard before him, penned life-giving messages. ‘Give to the wind thy fears’ and ‘Befiel Du Deine Wege’ are inspirational, assuring us that God’s deep, dependable care encompasses all that threatens to overwhelm.
While the hymn writers are broadly true to Psalm 109 a certain selectivity means that we never see the wild parts of the garden, nor the lavender, nor fruit tree, not even the patch of catnip or nepeta cataria where our little monster likes her regular fix.
We hardly need Walter Bruggemann to highlight that Psalm 109 is, in part, ‘a song of hate’. Nasty accusations have seeped into the narrator’s bones like oil. People have even prayed that his descendants may be ‘blotted out’. He cries out to God:
“I fade away like an evening shadow, I am brushed off like a locust”, v.23. The injured one wants God’s help to even the score.
We shun difficult verses at our peril. Disowning the brutish sides of our natures, the unwelcome thoughts, the barely conscious passive aggression, yes, even the sharp claws, is nothing short of negligence. How much better it is to name these things and to entrust them to God, the One who can handle reality and who remains Holy in the face of all evil.
Prayer, whether in words or in silence, gives perspective. Facing our indignation clears the path towards fairness and transparency. Underneath the weeds lies the steadfast love of God.
Eternal Spirit, earth-maker, pain-bearer, life-giver, Source of all that is and that shall be, Father and mother of us all, Loving God in whom is heaven. The hallowing of your name echo through the universe! The way of your peace be followed by the peoples of the world! Your heavenly will be done by all created beings! Your commonwealth of peace and freedom Sustain our hope and come on earth. With the bread we need for today, feed us. In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us. In the times of temptation and testing, strengthen us. From trials too great to endure, spare us. From the grip of all that is evil, free us. For you reign in the glory of the power that is love, Now and forever. Amen.
The Rev’d Jim Cotter’s version of the Lord’s Prayer from the Anglican prayer book from Aotearoa, New Zealand
Roberta Ritson is a member of Horsley Church in the Tyne Valley, Northumberland and a 4th Year student at the Scottish College