Lenten Devotion: Among the Nations

Psalm 105:47

Save us, O Lord our God,

            And gather us from among the nations,

That we may give thanks to your holy name

            And glory in your praise.

Among the Nations

Have you ever spent time in another nation, or among a culture in which you don’t speak the language? It is a rather disorienting experience. Even walking down the street and not knowing what any of the signs mean can leave you with a feeling of being unmoored from your surroundings.

About ten years ago I spent the better part of a week with a friend of mine in France. He is French Canadian and therefore did all the talking and reading, and consequently explaining to me. I was more or less along for the ride. After a week I thought that I had settled into my blissful ignorance of the language around me. On our return trip, however, we took the Eurostar train, which goes underneath the English Channel from France to England. As we pulled into the station in London a funny feeling washed over me. I could understand. All around me were billboards and posters, mostly advertisements. But I could read them. I never thought a grouping of ads could make me feel so good. Toothpaste, insurance, movies, it didn’t matter what the product was, they spoke to me in a way that a world written in French could never do. I was comfortable in my surrounding, a feeling I didn’t have while I was surrounded by a language I didn’t know. With one exception.

On this same trip, my friend and I took a special trip to Lourdes, the holy pilgrimage spot of St. Bernadette. Unlike our stop in the wine country of Bordeaux, unlike the hustle and bustle of Paris, it was in the tiny city of Lourdes where I felt the most comfort. And it wasn’t because there was more English. It’s because of another experience that transcended the cultural divide. At the great basilica that rises in the center of town we met pilgrims from all over the world who came to worship at this holy site. All of a sudden I wasn’t an English speaker in a sea of French but one pilgrim among a multitude from among the nations. We each had our own languages, not understanding each other directly, but worshiping God as one.

What the psalmist cries out for in Psalm 105 I saw it firsthand. The Lord our God does gather us from among the nations.

Pr. Daniel Joyner Miller