Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Happy are those to whom the Lord imputes no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the Lord.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.  (Psalm 32)

This past Sunday the congregation I worshipped with sang this Psalm with a cantor.  The refrain we sang was the beginning of verse 7, “You are my hiding place, O Lord.

It was a beautiful, haunting psalm and I felt drawn deep into the meditative part of worship as I sat in the pew. My mind went to the images of places I wanted to rest in God, where I could imagine God as my refuge, God as a place to hide for a while, God as a place to seek comfort.  The singing of the psalm did exactly what it was intended to do as it worked on my soul–bring me into a deeper experience with God.  

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

We are now deep into the Lenten season.  We are also deep into our worries for the world around us–things we cannot “go” alone, we desperately need to remember that God is with us.

Some things that are occupying my mind these days…

A political season in our country that feels out of control, particularly mean-spirited and angry.

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

Worries about the health of the Creation after an unusually warm winter, concerns that follow me sometimes when I wonder what sort of a world my daughter might live in someday. Am I doing enough as a parent to seek the world I want for her?

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

The work with this Presbytery, the challenge of adaptive transitional change. My conversations lately have shifted to some of the grief that we encounter in the letting go and the wilderness experience of wandering we tend to be in these days as a larger Church. None of us have all the answers we seek.

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

A concern for the health of colleagues and friends, many of whom are struggling these days.

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

For everyday fears and worries, concerns that I hold, that I think nearly everyone does at one point or another.

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

Deep concern for the vulnerable around our world who are trapped into places of violence, fear and war from which there is no escape.  I feel helpless sometimes when I think of this reality.

You are my hiding place, O Lord.

What is occupying your mind these days?

I was thinking on Sunday as I prayed that God is not the hiding place we had as children; like the contents of a closet that we hid under while playing hide-and-go-seek.  God is like a bird.  A place where we can gather under wings of protection for a little while–but then we have to get back out there and fly again.  This is our central call as the Church today, even in the midst of lots of upheaval and a healthy dose of fear, to rest in God–but to also trust enough to take on transformative leadership despite the mess and despite an unclear path.  God is with us.    

I offer two images below for your meditation and prayer along with this Psalm.  Both of birds with their children under their wings.  Psalm 91 has these words:

You who live in the shelter of the Most High,

  who abide in the shadow of the Almighty,*

will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress;

  my God, in whom I trust.’

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler

  and from the deadly pestilence;

he will cover you with his pinions,

  and under his wings you will find refuge;

  his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

You will not fear the terror of the night,

  or the arrow that flies by day,

or the pestilence that stalks in darkness,

  or the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Hearing God’s Words of comfort and gazing on these images of birds seeking shelter helps me to gather up my strength from the love and nourishment that is present in my baptism.  It reminds me of my calling.

How is it for you?  What do you hear in these Psalms and see in these images?

Blessings as you continue the sacred Lenten journey….

About Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo

Shannan grew up between the Jersey Shore and Philadelphia and have also lived at various points in Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey and upstate New York. Internationally, I have lived in Scotland, Greece and Colombia. My family is transnational, my husband is an immigrant and we divide our time between the United States and Colombia. You can learn more about Shannan at: https://srvoconsulting.com

The purpose of the Albany Presbytery Blog is to share information, tell stories, and promote the mission and ministry of the presbytery, synod and beyond. While the breadth of this medium is intentionally broad, it is not a platform for opinion pieces related to business coming before the presbytery unless designed as part of an initiative to provide a diversity of viewpoints at the direction of the presbytery. Exceptions to this policy may be brought to the presbytery officers who will determine appropriateness of submissions.