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Psalm 124

Now, call me un-American, but I am not a huge fan of baseball nor do I know precisely how difficult it is to hit a curveball. But something I do know is that the term “curveball” has come to mean much, much more than a pitch thrown to stump the batter, falling to one side or the other when least expected. We use the term to describe the ways we experience difficulty in life: Life throws us curveballs. I had a bad day—Life-1; Me-0. I hurt my knee. Life-2; Me-Still 0.

The words quoted moments ago were the last words written on a pink sticky note by Katherine, a graduate of my local church’s youth group only three short years ago, to a friend in the midst of a difficult time only hours before Katherine was struck and killed in a car accident. The accident occurred not long after Katherine had learned of her boyfriend’s cancer, hence the hurried decision to drive home from college.

Life-2; Us-0

I watched as the family, friends, and busloads (literally) of college friends and sorority sisters sat in ashes last week as they wept and mourned and grieved, trying to understand why life would throw such a curveball. I didn’t know Katherine, and yet I felt the weight of loss, of striking out, through conversations with her loved ones.

We might read our psalm this week and think, the Lord, and certainly life, is not on our side

One does not need to be a genius to know that Israel experienced numerous curveballs—too numerous to count. Sometimes they struck out (much of the time, really), and other times they gracefully—perhaps with a few obstacles—moved forward to the next base.

Israel’s experience of God followed somewhat of a pendulum pattern—sometimes Israel understood and lived into their covenant relationship with God and other times Israel failed miserably. Often, Israel’s capacity to know God and obey God was contingent upon Israel’s leader at the time, upon whether that person had their eyes set on God or on power and fame. Our psalm this week is considered a song of ascent, sometimes called a pilgrimage song. We know, then, it is a song of praise during a festival wherein Israel offers thanksgiving and worship for God’s faithfulness and protection. The leader at the time this psalm was written may have been David who may be the psalm’s author. Regardless of authorship, however, we know this time Israel got it.

Israel recognized God’s hand in the midst of their hardship. A nation that once blamed God for how difficult life had been is now acknowledging the truth that all good things come from God, even if those good things come in the form of protection from bad things. Ellen Davis writes, “through the language of faithful worship, we come to see the world as it really is: the work of God’s hand, the object of God’s endlessly patient love.”