Just like a deer that craves streams of water, my whole being craves you, God. My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and see God’s face? My tears have been my food both day and night, as people constantly questioned me, “Where’s your God now?” But I remember these things as I bare my soul how I made my way to the mighty one’s abode, to God’s own house, with joyous shouts and thanksgiving songs—a huge crowd celebrating the festival! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. My whole being is depressed. That’s why I remember you from the land of Jordan and Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep called to deep at the noise of your waterfalls; all your massive waves surged over me. By day the Lord commands his faithful love; by night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. I will say to God, my solid rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I have to walk around, sad, oppressed by enemies?” With my bones crushed, my foes make fun of me, constantly questioning me: “Where’s your God now?” Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God. Establish justice for me, God! Argue my case against ungodly people! Rescue me from the dishonest and unjust! Because you are my God, my protective fortress! Why have you rejected me? Why do I have to walk around, sad, oppressed by enemies? Send your light and truth—those will guide me! Let them bring me to your holy mountain, to your dwelling place. Let me come to God’s altar. let me come to God, my joy, my delight—then I will give you thanks with the lyre, God, my God! Why, I ask myself, are you so depressed? Why are you so upset inside? Hope in God! Because I will again give him thanks, my saving presence and my God (Psalm 42-43, Common English Bible).
This is part 19 in the November Thanksgiving series, “Pass the…” for a listing on the other posts please see the index.
Before I ask you to pass the dressing I need to know what kind of dressing is on our table. If it is cornbread dressing, the dressing most of us, at least in my part of the world recognize as being the traditional dressing on the traditional Thanksgiving table. If that is what is on our table, I may ask you to pass the dressing but it will just be so I can pass it on to the person sitting next to me, the person who really wants it. I told you several days ago how much I love cranberry sauce and how my mother made me stop putting cranberry sauce on my plate. This is a problem she NEVER had with dressing. When I was a kid, every year she made me put at least a little on my plate and she expected me to eat it.
In my family, and Cindy’s too, dressing for the traditional Thanksgiving table is cornbread dressing. For the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would mess up perfectly good cornbread my making it into mushy dressing. I feel pretty sure doing such a thing is a sin. I’ve never found it in the Bible but I know it has to be there somewhere.
And please, don’t tell me I just don’t like dressing because I haven’t tried yours. I have eaten my mother-in-law’s dressing several times. I am told it is very good, among the best. Before my father-in-law retired, when they would have a big eating event, he ALWAYS had to bring a large pan of dressing and it was also always gone! I don’t care for my mother-in-law’s dressing either.
Now, if we are talking about other kinds of dressing, I am at least willing to talk about it and for that matter, I am willing to try it. And, I will eat cornbread dressing, if I’m starving. But, just because I will eat it doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I know there are various kinds of dressing besides salad dressing. There is oyster dressing and rice dressing. I made an apple dressing a few years ago that was pretty good. I’ve also made cranberry dressing. I really liked that one. It made me get curious. I wondered how many different kinds of dressing there are. I went to allrecipies .com to look. I was surprised, there were 121 different recipes for dressing in that one database. I’m not even going to start to list them or it might take you all day to read this post. I’m sure you have better things to do. Just suffice it to say, there were some I would try. Others didn’t sound so good. Think about it. Prune dressing? Really? Come on!!!
All of us have things in our lives we don’t like. Even if you are one of those rare people who say, “There is no food I don’t like,” there is still something you don’t like. It may not be food but there is something.
In food I might not know either but I do know for some people. Cindy doesn’t like tomatoes. My mother doesn’t like bananas. I happen to love both. My father didn’t like squash. For me it depended on preparation. My oldest son doesn’t like onions, my youngest doesn’t like nuts and my sister doesn’t like beans. Former President George H.W. Bush famously doesn’t like broccoli. There aren’t any of those things I don’t like except maybe the squash and I won’t eat the broccoli raw. If you cook it, I’ll eat it. I learned to eat mess deck food in the Navy, I can pretty well eat anything if hungry.
Psalm 42-43 finds the psalmist crying out because of God’s seeming lack of presence for Israel. They were unable to see God in the turmoil around them. The psalmist is crying out for God to return and lead the nation.
The temple was destroyed as well as other places in Jerusalem by Babylonian invaders who were now an occupying force in the land. For the Israelites the temple was the symbol of God’s presence with God’s people. With the temple gone, so was the possibility of temple worship. There was no cleansing of that which was desecrated. With the temple gone worship, at least the way the Israelites understood it was gone too. All this led the ancients to fear God was gone as well.
Of course, God wasn’t really gone at all. Though the psalmist says otherwise in the lyrics of the psalm, what he really knows and believes is evident in the simple prayer the psalm is to God. The psalmist somehow knew in the deepest places of his being that though God seemed far away, God’s presence was real and present.
Without question the psalmist didn’t like what was happening in Israel. If we tried to place ourselves in his situation, we probably wouldn’t like it either. But, his options were limited. He could quit and accept the Babylonians presence as a permanent reality or he could pray that God would see fit to bring Israel back again to be a real power and presence in the world. It was the later he chose.
So, with a thankful heart for all God had done in the past the psalmist prayed. God’s presence would be with the nation again. With that presence the people would worship once again, from the temple to the smallest synagogue in the land.
It begs the question, how can one be thankful in the presence of something one dislikes so much? How can I be thankful for the cornbread dressing in my life? I think for the psalmist, it was because he was thankful for God’s presence and actions in the past, he knew Israel would overcome this and would see God at work again. We should look for the same in our difficult situations. God’s presence is with us. God’s presence is real.
I will tell you friends, I am thankful to God, even for cornbread dressing that I am probably not going to eat. I am thankful for it because I know so many people I love are thankful for cornbread dressing. They are happy. They enjoy it. In turn, that makes me happy and thankful.
I can also be thankful for cornbread dressing because seeing it reminds me of the bounty of a great thanksgiving table and I know with that full table, God provides for me and for all those I love. I can be thankful for what I don’t like because of God’s presence with me, with all of us. It is in that cornbread dressing and in all that we eat when we celebrate this great holiday together with friends and family.
No, I’m probably not going to eat that dressing. If I do, I assure you it won’t be much. And, just so you know, it is just fine with me for you to eat my portion. And, if it’s OK wit you, I will keep being thankful, even for the things I don’t like so much.
So Lord, please pass the dressing. I’m probably going to let it pass right on by but I know this table is surrounded by people I love, and I know they would like to have at least a spoon or two, even of the cornbread dressing I don’t like so much.
With that, pass the dressing. I am thankful.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Grace and Peace,
Copyright 2016, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved