Sunday, April 11, 2021

Psalm 4: Sleeping

Look at the bookending verses of Psalm 4: Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer... I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety. You gave me room...I will lie down and sleep in peace. What a gift it is to have security and space to rest. 

Psalm 23 may be the automatic go-to for a song about God providing rest. Those green pastures and still waters are an enticing image. But in this fast-paced, overscheduled, no-time-to-stop world, the gift of rest is priceless. Our inattention to rest is manifesting itself in children younger and younger, and that's a shame, since our day begins with rest. And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day. 

How often do we remind ourselves that, according to the rhythm of creation as we read it in Genesis, our day begins with rest? We probably more often tend to think of sleep as a time when we desperately try to recharge from the previous day's journey. We stay up late to get work done, and just don't get the sleep we should. We may think of it as extending our work day, but it's actually borrowing from the "next" day. 

Depending on which internet source you trust(!), it was the Romans or the Egyptians who settled midnight as the beginning of a new day. The pivot point was noon - the time of day when the sun was at its highest point, and there was no shadow on the sundial. That is the meridian. Opposite noon is midnight, which was the dividing point between ante-meridian (before the meridian, or a.m.) and post-meridian (after the meridian, or p.m.). The Romans may have taken their idea from the Greeks who got it from the Babylonians and so on. 

But in our story of Creation, a new day begins when the sun disappears. We are charged to begin a new day with a meal and then with rest. And, after resting, we move through our day. I confess, that's not the way it usually happens in my world, but I'm trying to change the way I think. 

David Bradley. To Sleep, Perchance to Dream. 2005. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture

Psalm 4 promises that the psalmist can lie down and sleep in peace. Is that the case in the painting above? David Bradley,  Minnesota Chippewa artist, uses bright colors. What are the colors saying about this sleep? What is the subject matter saying about this sleep? 

The opportunity to start the day with rest is a gift from God built into our vision of how the world was made.  You gave me room...I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.

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