Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
One good spiritual exercise is something called “Sitting with Scripture.” There are many ways to understand and interpret Scripture. We can hear a sermon or read a commentary and have Scripture interpreted for us. Or we can sit, prayerfully and reflectively, look over a passage of Scripture, and see what jumps out at us. I don’t believe this is an exercise in “whatever you want this to say you can make it so,” but rather a reflecting with an open mind and open heart and seeing where the Spirit will lead our minds and hearts. When I write these messages, many times I sit with the Psalm and let the Spirit bring a thought to my mind. Then I reflect and pray on that thought.
As I read Psalm 134, one of the shortest Psalms, as it is only 45 words, my mind focused on three words, “stand by night.” The message for today is that we are Christians all the time. We are supposed to be Christians by day, and also by night. Most of our days are occupied by activities that we are either compelled to participate in, or we participate in by habit. For instance, every morning, someone has to take the children to school. During the day, we are working jobs that are fairly predictable. While the activities at work might not always be predictable (believe me, I live that), the commute, the office, the people in the office and the basic tasks are the same.
The variety in life comes from what we do at night or on the weekend. Perhaps we have mastered (or are well on our way to mastering) how to be a Christian during the day, with the same predictable routine with the same predictable people. That routine and those people might even be challenging, but again, predictable. What happens when we are not in our daily routine? What do we do at night?
Some nighttime activities are wholesome. Dinner around the table with family. A family game night. An edifying movie. A riveting sports game. A night out with friends. A quiet afternoon nap. Even mundane chores.
There are a lot of evening and weekend options that are less than wholesome. Sitting at a computer looking at pornography. Sadly, there are lots of teenagers and adults who do this on a nightly basis. Drinking way too much. This is not only a college activity; plenty of adults do this on a regular basis. Watching a violent movie. We’re all guilty of this. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking of the efficacy of watching a movie filled with violence and profanity for three hours, and then offering some prayers before going to sleep. It doesn’t seem to fit, does it? I’m guilty of this, for sure.
The takeaway from this brief Psalm is that we are Christians at all times. Not just on Sundays in church, when its easy because everyone is a Christian and how much trouble can we get into while sitting in the pews at church? Not just at work where the routine is pretty routine and we’re not likely to really act out. Not just with our kids or our families, when we are having fun with them. It’s about how we act when no one is watching. It’s about how we act when we are behind the walls of our homes. Because being a Christian is not just about how we act when there are people around to impress. It’s about how we act when we are alone, when no one but God knows what we are doing.
Can one be a Christian and still have fun? For sure. We should have fun. The Psalms are filled with references to joy and laughter. God wants us to have these things. There are ways to still enjoy these things under the umbrella of the Lord. There are many ways to have fun while still fulfilling the words of Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall be continually in my mouth.”
Psalm 134 calls on us to bless the Lord, and to specifically stand by night in the house of the Lord. This does not mean we must go to church every night. It means that since our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, (I Corinthians 6:19) we stand in the presence of God at all times, because God is in us at all times. We are His temple. And this is something to remember at all times—on Sunday mornings and on Friday nights.
One liturgical note, which is connected to this Psalm: At every Divine Liturgy, when the priest goes to the Prothesis (table on the side of the altar) to take the Holy Gifts for the Great Entrance, he prays the words of Psalm 134:2, “Lift up your hands to the holy places and bless the Lord.” This reminds the priest, and all of us, that the same hands we use to do all kinds of worldly things, as the same hands that will hold the Holy Gifts. The same eyes we use to see all kinds of worldly things, are the same eyes that behold the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. And the same mouth that says, and eats and drinks all kinds of things, is the same mouth we open to partake of Christ in Holy Communion. Therefore, it is important to bless the Lord at all times, so that our eyes can look on the Lord, and our mouths can receive the Lord with love and with joy, not with regret over the things we have seen, the things we have done, the things we have put into our mouths, or the things that have come out of them.
Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands to the holy places and bless the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion, He who made heaven and earth. Psalm 134
Be a Christian at all times, during the day and during the night, when people are watching and when they are not. Stand by day and by night in the house of the Lord!