Wednesday of Pentecost 18 – Psalm 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant forever.
    Holy and awesome is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever!

Ed was always a bit of a character. He smiled a lot, had a few wise things to say, which he frequently said, and liked to tease people, including this preacher. But the first thing you often noticed about Ed was his hand. He only had a couple of fingers and the nub of a thumb. He used it well. I remember him raking mulch at the church, at least when he wasn’t leaning on the rake spouting some tidbit of wisdom.

Ed was a veteran of WWII. He had been in a bomb disposal unit in the Pacific theater. One day, while defusing a bomb, a detonator had exploded in his hand, removing fingers and most of his thumb. He nearly died. In fact, his mother received a telegram informing her that her son had died. That took a little while to straighten out. He continued to serve in the military as a bomb disposal expert. He had a healthy fear of the materials he was handling, and hence he was wise about handling them.

The psalmist says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. God is not safe. You need to know that. Time and again he has gotten under the skin of regular people like you and me and done some interesting things, dangerous things. Francis was the unremarkable son of a cloth merchant in Italy in the 12th century, but somehow God called him to follow Jesus through poverty and humble service. His life was forever transformed and much of Europe with him when he answered that call and took up his plain brown robe. You could follow the lives of many others and come to the same conclusion: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dorothy Day, or even a young struggling law student named Martin Luther. God is not safe. He has a way of getting hold of you and making the rest of this psalm your words of praise, spoken with your whole heart.

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