As a deer longs for flowing streams,
   so my soul longs for you, O God. 
My soul thirsts for God,
   for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
   the face of God? – Psalm 42:1-2
The blog this week is the homily I offered during the annual Alumni Memorial Service, held on Friday, November 5, 2021.
I did not find my way to the Episcopal Church until I was a late teenager. In fact, I was formed throughout my childhood in the Church of Christ. Being a denomination that shies away from instruments during worship, I distinctly remember the powerful effects of a Capella singing. And I also remember the fireside room, literally a room that had a built-in fireplace in the center, where we would gather to sing praise songs. And Psalm 42, which was just read for us, was one that I know deep in my bones. So, here goes my a Capella attempt at recapturing that moment for us:
♪ As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after you
♪ You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship you
The Psalmist longs for God. To pour out his soul. To shout songs of thanksgiving. To be nourished by God and quenched of thirst. To seek and be remembered and pray and praise. The Psalmist longs for hope and for his soul to have the quiet confidence that only God can provide.
But, we are not the only ones that long; with outstretched arms. We are not the only ones that yearn for presence, relationship, and connection. Woven throughout our sacred text are stories that indicate God’s longing for us. For presence and relationship and connection. To abide, our John alludes to in the reading from the Gospel today.
It has rained quite a bit over the past 24 hours, causing quite a stir over the festivities that surround homecoming weekend. Over the years, I have had the privilege of presiding over a good number of marriages and funerals, many of which also were showered with rain. I’ve heard it said that rain at a wedding is a sign of good fortune to come. And perhaps that is true.
As I glanced out into the rain this morning, I imagined God reaching down to us, with the same yearning the Psalmist evokes. Those fingertips of God bouncing throughout creation, a reminder of God’s presence and desire to abide. For rain refreshes and renews. Rain bring life and color and beauty. Rain quenches the thirst of dry land. As does the touch of God.
In just a few minutes we will be reading the honor roll of those who have died in our Berkeley family. And as we name them, we reach out, yearning to be one with them, though we see them no longer. I believe they too are reaching out to us, with longing, to renew us; to quench our thirst. Those who are in the nearer presence of God, the very fingertips who have dearly touched our lives, showing us a glimpse of the holy.
And the song goes on…
♪ You along are my strength, my shield
To you along may my spirit yield
♪ You alone are my heart’s desire
         And I long to worship you
May we abide in God and those we love but see no longer.
And may God and our communion of Saints, our wider Berkeley family, abide in us. Amen.
Founded in 1960, Berkeley is an independent, Episcopal, college-preparatory day school located in Tampa, FL, for boys and girls in grades Pre-Kindergarten through 12. Approximately 1,400 students gather here from the greater Tampa Bay area to form ONE Berkeley.