1 O LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy hill?
In the film Annie Hall, Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer refers to an old Groucho Marx joke that describes his relationships with women: "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member."
We all have a need to belong -- not only to another person, other friends and families, but also to communities and groups. Especially faith communities. Our relationship with God is rich and full and indescribable and often unbelievable, which only leads us to feel we don't truly belong there.
So who are the "righteous"? What kind of person does belong in the presence of God? Who can be bold enough to enter the dwelling place of God? Who is permitted to bask in the glory of God's grace and love?
The psalmist struggled with this question: Who is worthy of membership in God's "club"? The psalm appointed by the lectionary for this Sunday, January 30 (the 4th Sunday after Epiphany) -- Psalm 15 -- provides some clues as to the kind of people God likes to be with.
2a Those who walk blamelessly, and do what is right ...
That doesn't mean we have to be perfect, to live without ever doing wrong. That's inhuman. It does mean we live in a way that focuses utterly on knowing and serving God.
2b [those who] speak the truth from their heart;
Be authentic. Be yourself. When you know and accept yourself as God's unique child, you will be honest in everything. Because it will come right out of your heart.
3 who do not slander with their tongue, and do no evil to their friends, nor take up a reproach against their neighbors;
How you treat your friends says a huge amount about the kind of person you are. What do you tell other people about them? Do you run them down or build them up? Love, serve and honor all who are close to you, always.
4 in whose eyes the wicked are despised, but who honor those who fear the Lord; who stand by their oath even to their hurt;
Be known as one who can be trusted to do what you say. It may even hurt you to do what you promised, to be available to those who need you. It may cost you time, money, and lots of energy. But this way you and your words are always on the same page. That's integrity.
5a who do not lend money at interest, and do not take a bribe against the innocent.
Give freely with no strings attached. After all, your money and your resources are not really yours, are they? God gave them to you for a reason. Sure, you have to pay your bills and fulfill your obligations. But be generous and honest in all your dealings with others, especially those in need.
5b Those who do these things shall never be moved.
Is it that simple? Or rather, that difficult? There aren't very many to-dos here, but how naturally do they come to you? How well are you already doing these things? What do you need to focus on?
It's a lifelong project to work on these things. But you can abide with God in the process. As long as your heart is in the effort, as long as you desire to "walk blamelessly" with your God, you're there. It may not feel like it at times, and there will surely come times when you absolutely crash into the wall of selfishness. But even in those times, you're dwelling. You're abiding. You're present with God in the secret, holy, life-giving place.
And there, you cannot be moved. Or shoved. Or pushed out into the cold. Whatever grief comes your way, you will be in a place where you can get through it. And praise God in the end.
Follow Rev. Peter M. Wallace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pwallace