Sunday, September 30, 2007


jIH ghaHta' Quchqu' ghorgh chaH ja'ta' Daq jIH, “Let's jaH Daq joH'a' tuq!”

I was glad when they said to me, “Let’s go to the LORD's house!” Psalm 122:6

(click for podcast)

I'm fond of changing the desktop image on my computer - I love to pick an image that opens for me a window to another place. That has included family pictures, paintings, or scenes from vacations. Recently I featured a great view from the top of the Ferris Wheel at our State Fair. Last week that image gave way to a terrific shot of the Delta rocket launch that began NASA's "Dawn" mission to the asteroids. It's a stunning picture of that rocket launching over the sea, against a clear blue sky.

As I consider it, I realize that rocket launches are a frequent choice in these backdrops, and it isn't surprising - whether launching my own rockets, or looking at the launches of interplanetary spacecraft, there is something about watching a craft sail into the sky that gives me a lift.

That "lift" is just the feeling I hear in these words from the Psalmist - this excitement to be in that place, that very special place - the LORD's House - where we can stand on the threshold of all God's promises.

jIH ghaHta' Quchqu' ghorgh chaH ja'ta' Daq jIH, “Let's jaH Daq joH'a' tuq!”

I was glad when they said to me, “Let’s go to the LORD's house!” Psalm 122:6

When was the last time you said that, as you got ready to go to worship? How often do we find that excitement, that uplift at the thought of going to a service? Isn't it far more a stereotype that heading in is a chore, a blot on one's free time? Why is that?

The Psalmist uses the word "samach" for "glad". It's a word that appears almost 150 times in the Bible. A primitive root meaning "to brighten up" - carrying the idea of to "cheer up", be glad, joyful, merry - to rejoice. I used a form of the word "be happy" (Quch) for the Klingon, Quch plus the intensifier -qu' for "Quchqu'."

What keeps us from experiencing this? The Life Application Bible notes,

Going to God’s house can be a chore or a delight. For the psalmist, it was a delight. As a pilgrim attending one of the three great religious festivals, he rejoiced to worship with God’s people in God’s house. We may find worship a chore if we have unconfessed sin or if our love for God has cooled. But if we are close to God and enjoy his presence, we will be eager to worship and praise him. Our attitude toward God will determine our view of worship.

One thing I've noticed - participation can make a difference. Just as making (and launching) rockets increases my understanding and appreciation what is happening in a NASA launch, so too, I've found that being involved in the life of my congregation - singing in the choir, or reading lessons in a service - gives me a different attitude toward "the LORD's house." Sure, this means work - and it isn't always fun... but over time, the involvement means I'm far more interested and involved and excited about going to "the LORD's house."

I encourage you, next time you're in your house of worship - if your're finding this psalm's words hard to make your own - look around. If there's a place where you can help (and try to tell me there is a congregation that DOESN'T need volunteers), then pitch in - you'll be glad to find what a difference it can make!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Under One Protection

joH'a' DichDaq pol lIj ghoS pa' je lIj choltaH Daq, vo' vam poH vo', je forevermore.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore. Psalm 121.8

(click for podcast)

Visit the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C., and you'll see some historic air and space craft. From Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis to Apollo 11, that carried the first men to walk on the moon.

At the entrance to the museum it struck me - as you gaze on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules from the US space program, if you look up, you can even see SpaceShip One - the first private spacecraft. As big as (or bigger than) the earlier capsules, it occured to me that that vehicle which won the X prize - besides having wings - had one important difference with those pioneers. And that difference meant those earlier ships could go further - they had shields.

Now that was no accident. The X Prize went to the first privately made ship that could go into space (100 kilometers above earth, about 62 miles) and back twice, and be able to carry three people. Since it wouldn't go into orbit, the speeds involved would not generate the tremendous heat of re-entry. That meant that the extra mass of a heat shield was not necessary - and less mass means better performance - going into space you never carry more than you need.

Now SpaceShip One COULD go farther. With more power nothing would stop it from going into orbit or beyond - but no passenger would survive the re-entry. To go into orbit and beyond - you have to have a spaceship that can protect you. You need a shield.

joH'a' DichDaq pol lIj ghoS pa' je lIj choltaH Daq, vo' vam poH vo', je forevermore.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore. Psalm 121.8

This verse, this whole psalm, Psalm 121, is about being a traveller WITH A shield, for as we read it, again and again we hear of the shielding care of the Lord:

  • He who keeps you
  • he who keeps Israel
  • The LORD is your keeper
  • The LORD will keep you from all evil
  • He will keep your soul.
  • The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in

In all those places the Hebrew word is the same - rendered simply (and not entirely accurately) with the Klingon verb pol (keep). But it comes from the Hebrew word (used more than 400 times in the Bible) shamar, with the idea of a hedge, a fence to protect one. A better word would be the Klingon verb "to shield" (yoD).

Psalm 121 is considered a traveller's psalm - perhaps a theme song for a pilgrim travelling through the hills to reach Jerusalem. Such a traveller would certainly need a shield or some kind of protection, to travel alone, perhaps encountering thieves or wild animals. And just as such a pilgrim needs protection, or as a spaceship requires a shield to traveller far beyond our planet, we too, need protection as we make our way through life.

About this verse, the great English preacher Charles Spurgeon said:

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. When we go out in the morning to labour, and come home at eventide to rest, Jehovah shall keep us. When we go out in youth to begin life, and come in at the end to die, we shall experience the same keeping. Our exits and our entrances are under one protection.

How far do you want to go? Make no mistake, Spaceship One is a tremendous engineering accomplishment - and opens up new prospects for space travel. BUT - it is limited. It can go so far, and no further. Without a shield - without a caring Lord we too are dreadfully limited. But when we entrust ourselves to his care, to his keeping, to being our guide and our shield - there's no boundary. With him the sky ISN'T the limit!

joH'a' DichDaq pol lIj ghoS pa' je lIj choltaH Daq, vo' vam poH vo', je forevermore.

The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth, and forevermore. Psalm 121.8

Monday, September 17, 2007

(oops - these notes weren't meant to be published - they're for an upcoming podcast; d'oh!)

Preserve is rendered pol (keep) and comes from the Hebrew word (used more than 400 times) shamar, with the idea of a hedge, a fence to protect one. You might also use the Klingon word "shield" (yoD) or "forcefield" (botjan).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

From All Evil

joH'a' DichDaq pol SoH vo' Hoch mIghtaHghach. ghaH DichDaq pol lIj qa'.

The LORD will keep you from all evil. He will keep your soul. Psalms 121:7

(click for podcast version)

During one incident in the exploits of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock with the Enterprise they encountered "the Excalibans." The Excalbians were interested in learning about the difference between Good and Evil when they pitted Kirk, Spock, Surak and Abraham Lincoln against a number of historical villains - including Genghis Khan from Earth, and the Klingon Kahless.

Now - to a Klingon, it's not flattering that Kahless, one of the heroes of the Klingon race, was cast as a champion of "evil" - though in time it became apparent that it was more of a projection - as one of the Federation's enemies he was regarded as an embodiment of evil; the Excalibans constructed their representation of Kahless from Kirk's impression of him, not the real person. But that's fiction - I'm sure we'd never make that mistake in real life - or would we?

How we define evil - what it is, who is affected by it, or who commits it, is a tangled question. No wonder how in time of war or interpersonal disputes we can misdirect or misunderstand the our enemy in a conflict as evil. But this verse cuts through all the dimensions of "evil" but getting to the most important point:

joH'a' DichDaq pol SoH vo' Hoch mIghtaHghach / The LORD will keep you from all evil.

This verse is one of those worth commiting to our quiver of "promises" - it encourages us to move forward with confidence with the knowledge that evil cannot be the final victor.

The Hebrew word for evil here is "ra'" - the same word we find in Psalm 23's "I will fear no evil" (lo eira ra). Translated here as mIghtaHghach - ongoing-evil, it is a frequent word appearing over 600 times in the Bible and comes from a root meaning "to spoil." The KJV renders it many ways, including adversity, affliction, bad, calamity, distress, evil, grief and harm, to name a few.

I like that root of "to spoil," for believers understand that represents something gone wrong in creation - and it's something that God has pledged to make right.

Of course the challenge we find in such promises is - well, the fact that we KNOW "bad things happen to good people." Despite promises like this - and many others - it sometimes seems as if evil DOES have the upper hand. But, as one writer notes:

In the light of other scriptures, to be kept "from all evil" does not imply a cushioned life, but a well-armed one. .... Psalm 23:4, which expects the dark valley but can face it. The two halves of verse 7 can be compared with Luke 21:18f, where God's minutest care ('not a hair of your head will perish') and His servants' deepest fulfilment ('you will win true life', NEB) are promised in the same breath as the prospect of hounding and martyrdom(Lk. 21:16f.). [Psalms 73-150, Derik Kidner]

Now - that is a direction that a Klingon can embrace: not ... a cushioned life, but a well-armed one.

This directs us to take the whole of scripture in mind when we consider the problem of facing evil. It draws us to realize we move toward God's ultimate victory.
When we reflect on that we will rejoice with St. Paul proclaiming:

je the joH DichDaq toD jIH vo' Hoch mIghtaHghach vum, je DichDaq pol jIH vaD Daj heavenly Kingdom; Daq 'Iv taH the batlh reH je ever. Amen.

And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me for his heavenly Kingdom; to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Timothy 4:18