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Faith Community Perspectives: The Dwelling Place

By Shannan Hudgins, M.A., M. Div., Bereavement Coordinator, Baystate Hospice, West Springfield, MA

The opening declaration of Psalm 90 has been my go-to prayer for as long as I can remember. How that particular psalm moved to the center of my prayer life, pushing aside the 23rd with its proclaimed assurance of God’s care and keeping in language lilting and captivating ~ Shakespeare’s English of the King James Version  ~ is a mystery. My first hearing was likely in the hymn tune, St. Anne: “Oh God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come.” My mother was a musician, and hymn singing was a central activity in our home. Those words and cadences together deliver a message of assurance and wellbeing that have soothed my aching heart and solidified a cracked faith in a rough patch. The landing place is firm and assured: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” [Ps. 90:1 NRSV].

The beginning of creation unfolds for me in subsequent verse, and God’s abiding presence is the landing place. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” [Ps. 90:2 NRSV]. I settle in for the reading of familiar words of comfort at dawn when light is young with promises of a new day. There’s a mid-day read to buoy my spirits and reorient my thinking as the sun’s stronger light reveals a challenge or a quandary. Evening’s arrival offers yet another opportunity to revel in the psalm’s promise of shelter in God’s favor at the sun’s setting.

Psalm 90 is a reminder that life’s changing circumstances are woven into the living of our days. We’ve work to do; we pray for God’s favor and we pray that God will “prosper for us the work of our hands” [Ps. 90:17 NRSV]. Our days are limited in number. We pray for wise hearts in the days we are allotted, for God’s steadfast love to hold us in our gladness and rejoicing. This dwelling place of generations and generations offers reassurance and renewal. The Psalmist declares, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God” [Ps. 90:2b NRSV]. May we settle in God’s dwelling place ~ for the day before us, and each day ever after.

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