Duty and delight

[NB: I am super, super irritated with how WordPress-on-my-phone sporadically doesn’t get my post to appear according to schedule. Or maybe it’s WordPress itself. Regardless, this is from Tuesday night…and I’m not making one for Wednesday. Nyah.]

Teach us, Lord, every day : the duty of delight. –from Common Prayer: a liturgy for ordinary radicals, smartphone edition (http://commonprayer.net for Nov 29)

After coffee, I read this, then read it again. My Scots-Irish Presbyterian psyche keeps trying to read “the delight of duty” each time I look at it. That, after all, is the quintessential Scots, or Presbyterian, approach to life. We have duties. Duties are a sacred trust, and duties are in large part the reason the Lord God placed us on the planet. So we might as well enjoy them while we’re doing them…we’re going to be doing them anyway. There’s a reason the Scots are considered dour!

But the duty of delight? That’s more in line with the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

That’s the only section I’ve managed to memorize. In part because I, along with the rest of my church’s leadership, recited it each February during our retreat. But mostly because it plucks a chord that started humming in me as I learned my adult faith shoulder to shoulder with my Jewish best friend.

In Christian circles, our Old Testament is often thought of as an angry book. “I prefer the New Testament; it’s all about love.” Which is true enough. But in Judaism, the Scriptures are also all about love: God’s love for humans, and humanity’s love for God.

In Jewish culture, out of God’s love God gave humans all sorts of good and glorious things here on earth, and part of our responsibility is to enjoy those gifts fully. Sunlight, beautiful scenery, works of art. Food, both freshly grown and pleasingly cooked. Wine. Community. Sex, absolutely. After all, it’s insulting to take a gift from a loved one and promptly turn around to rant about how terrible/waistline-ruining/morally dissolute the gift is. We are to enjoy the gift, and at the same time celebrate the giver.

Today has started out grey again, though I’m pretty sure I saw a scrap of brilliant blue. The air is blessedly colder, and the humidity less noticeable. In a moment, I’m off to sit with a friend while combing through the Internet for places to send my poems. Maybe the afternoon sun will again hit our potted basil on the head, encouraging it to grow. So sing with me, using the tune Old Hundreth:

Oh enter then his gates with praise
Approach with joy his courts unto
Praise, laud, and bless his name always
For it is seemly so to do

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