When I find myself in a new environment, I like to explore-to wander and to wonder about the slant of light, the direction of a breeze, the flora and fauna, and most especially the rivers and waters that surround me.
I have always lived near a river, from the Copper River and Chena Rivers in Alaska to the Gunpowder in Baltimore County and now the Chester River here in Chestertown. I have been drawn to stand on their banks and walk alongside them. I have listened to rushing waters and noticed the relative silence of a still pond. And all the while I have noticed reflections of light within, upon and coming from moving water.
Each day’s walk brings me near the river. Even when I don’t see it, I can feel the breeze it stirs up and smell the slight watery tang in the air. This river is soft, languid and reflective-at least from the shore! And it is full of water. The river stretches from shore to shore to reach landward without a break.
Now when I read Psalm 65, I picture the Chester River filled almost to overflowing. Indeed this lovely waterway is full of water. It almost goes without saying doesn’t it? What else would a river be full of?
Let’s remember for a moment where the Psalms were written and what a river full of water would mean for the first hearers of this Psalm. In a desert land, water is the difference between life and death. Even though many of us live in a ‘green and pleasant land’, we have our share of desert as well.
Today there was a shooting in Alexandria, and there were fires in London, and every day there is another incident that stuns us until we find we aren’t stunned anymore by even the most violent incidents. Today we need the River of God, full of water, full of life, full of God. We need that stream flowing right through and into our cities, and towns, and, perhaps, most especially our hearts. For us, this River of God will be life, rather than death.
Psalm 65 is a Psalm of thanksgiving for all that God has done for God’s people. We shall not be grateful for gunmen and violence, but we can be grateful for extraordinary human response to suffering. We can live as though that river of God was even now coursing through our veins, because it is. We can reorient ourselves to God’s viewpoint. We can pray, and we can work, and we can hold the ones right before us who need that river and all that it gives.