Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Meditation on Psalm 19 and Jennifer Aniston

The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart (Psalm 19:8).

Lately she has smiled at me nearly every Sunday morning as I ride the Peachtree express from the Cates parking lot to the church welcome center.

She’s not actually smiling at me – but she’s definitely smiling in my direction and it sure looks like she’s smiling at me. Jennifer Aniston’s face is magnified and majestic on a billboard on Roswell Road just south of East Andrews. Every Sunday morning our bus sits for few moments at the red light where Roswell and East Andrews meet. Look to the right, and there’s Jennifer.

The actual message of the billboard is very short and somewhat vague. The product is some kind of bottled water. The water part of the billboard is eclipsed by Jennifer’s hard to ignore face. Maybe that’s the intent. Create a connection in the mind between the compelling image and the product.

The thing about a billboard is that it’s out there for everyone to see. The billboard is aimed at the entire city of Atlanta, or at least that significant part of the population that drives south on Roswell Road. To see the billboard and enjoy the face of Jennifer, all you have to do is look up. If you’re driving you may need to look quickly and perhaps several times – but it’s there for free. Just glance up and there it is.

As is obvious by now, my attention is often drawn to the billboard while sitting at the red light. And while it’s nice to see Jennifer smiling in my general direction I have no expectation that I will ever have a conversation with Jennifer Aniston. I’m not hoping that someday she’ll actually talk to me about bottled water or anything else.

On the billboard there’s a message for me and anyone who will pay attention. But a message is not a conversation. The conversation will never happen. I can live with that.

The first six verses of Psalm 19 are like a billboard that God has placed in the heavens. The skies are proclaiming a message that goes out to the ends of the world, day and night. This message is for everyone. All we have to do is look up, pay attention, take it in.

But Psalm 19 does not end at verse six. The Psalm continues and makes a dramatic shift. The same God of whom the heavens speak also wants to speak personally to you. That kind of speaking comes to us through a different medium. God’s ways and will are revealed most clearly in the written text of God’s word. The Psalmist speaks of God’s law, statutes and precepts.

Plenty of people enjoy Jennifer Aniston on a billboard but never plan to actually hear her voice or speak directly to her. Sadly, plenty of people deal with God in the same way. They enjoy the heavens, especially when they see those heavens spanning the ocean’s horizon or forming mist over mountain peaks. It’s not hard to stand and gaze at the skies and be moved in some kid of vague way that feels good. Some describe this as a “spiritual” experience.

But the God revealed in the heavens and skies very much wants to say something to you. God has a message for your life, a word of hope for your struggles, a word of forgiveness for your failures, a word of acceptance for the person you are right now. To hear this message will require something more than a walk on the beach. These words are in God’s book. When you pick up a bible, do so with the expectation that God has a word for you. That’s a conversation we can’t live without.

Have you heard God speak personally to you through the written words of the Bible?

It staggers our minds, O God, that you wish to speak with us in ways that are personal and direct, not vague and abstract. Forgive our neglect of your written words. Give us an appetite for your scripture. May the words written on the page become for us a living voice, we pray. Amen.

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