In 1999 when appointed Bishop of Knoxville, I had the task of seeking an appropriate episcopal motto. That motto is the title of this bi-weekly column, “Hope in the Lord,” and I pulled it from Psalm 31. The lengthy Psalm 31 has been divided into three parts and is one of the psalms that forms the daily Office of Readings. When choosing an Episcopal motto, I remember how moved I was every Monday of the 2nd cycle of 4 weeks as I encountered Psalm 31.
Psalm 31 asks for God’s help, and from it comes the familiar words, “Into your hands I commend my spirit” – those words Jesus uttered in prayer from the cross right before He gave up the spirit and died. There is also the “My life is in your hands,” or as the translation I use says: “My times into Your hands.” This self-surrender of Jesus, one that His followers are called to emulate through His power and example, was perfect for me to say each day as a bishop. The psalm ends with a thunderous and hope-filled note as the psalmist becomes aware and even overwhelmed by the reality of God’s assuring presence. Stating that “the Lord protects the loyal,” the psalm ends with a verse filled with promise, with confidence in the Lord, and with great assurance. Here is the translation I like best: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”