23 September 2009

Lantern for feet and light for paths

Your word is a lantern to my feet *
and a light upon my path.
~Psalm 119: 105

While on a hiking trip in North Carolina with Outward Bound, the first day we left the bus that brought us to the woods and after sorting through our bags and stuff we headed out to our first campsite. We left at about 8pm and were hiking until at least midnight. Luckily, I had bought both a fancy headlight and a small "lcd" flashlight. We hiked through the darkness and chatted with our new friends and tried to avoid twisting our ankles and busting our heads on low-lying branches. Luckily, I carried my flashlight which I could point down the path and I had my headlight to bring light to my feet. In darkness, having just a bit of light can make all the difference.

Likely, the writer of Psalm 119 had done his or her fair share of night walking, and knew the importance of having a lantern for one's feet, as well as a light for one's path. When walking along, we need to both see that our feet are properly set on the path, and also that we have a good sense of where we are going. Psalm 119 is a long hymn to the law and word of the Lord, which do provide a lantern to our feet and a light to our path. In the Hebrew scriptures, the law is not merely the rules and regulations for daily living, but also a great gift from God, a reminder that God's people have a particular role, and are to rely upon God - not on any human construct - for their trust and Faith.

In our rapidly changing post-modern world, it may seem old-fashioned or out of date, but turning to Holy Scripture as our light and lantern makes a great deal of sense. Of course, many of us are out of the practice of knowing how to read, mark, and inwardly digest the scriptures - but a great place to begin are the Psalms. The Psalms were the "prayer book of Jesus" as well as the prayer book for 20 centuries of monastics and other church mothers and fathers.

I pray that we may each find the light and lantern that God provides for us when we are in dark and rocky places. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

~The Rev. Peter M. Carey

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