With school just over the horizon, how about we revisit a lesson that most of us were exposed to fairy early in a classroom, namely, compare/contrast. Don’t go away yet! Really, this isn’t a creative writing exercise. You use these two devices every day. Any time you are trying to learn something, solve a problem, make a choice, or share your perspective with another person (or understand theirs) you’re walking in the land of compare/contrast. How do we try to get someone to try something they have never eaten before? “It tastes like chicken” – you compare, emphasizing similar qualities (why is chicken the baseline of the unknown anyway?), or, “It’s nothing like liver” (sorry, liver lovers, but it’s just wrong) – contrast – emphasizing the differences. Each serves to give us better understanding. Why the English lesson today? Because I saw a huge contrast in my daily Bible reading that is gnawing at me and I want to share it. Most of the time, my Old Testament and New Testament readings are a study in comparison, a reinforcing of a great truth but today it was contrast. Read these two verses: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” Psalm 42:11a (NIV), and, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” 2 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV). What a contrast! Both of these verses were written by, and to, people who were followers of God. Both authors and audiences enjoyed the favor (we call it grace) of the One who created all. The question to be settled is this, are we in a parade or a funeral procession? Before you accuse me of over simplifying, look carefully at the New Testament verse. It’s one little word that’s bothering me – “always.” It isn’t challenging to me because I doubt its truth. Rather, it is because I find myself way too often in the funeral procession. Remember what we have (If you don’t yet follow Jesus, these things are waiting for you!). We are forgiven – our sin thrown into the deepest sea and its accompanying guilt and shame removed. We are reconciled – enjoying a moment by moment relationship with the One who lovingly crafted us. We are empowered – all the resources that assured the resurrection of Jesus are in us (check out Ephesians 1:18-21) so we can live a meaningful life. And that’s just a surface scratch! Considering all these powerful things, how can I ever step into the funeral procession? This is just the question that the writer of Psalms is asking himself. And this isn’t about denying the overflow of trouble in this world either. Biblical Christianity teaches that “In this world, you will have trouble.” (Jesus said it). But all we receive from God is always with us, no matter the trouble. Parade or procession? Do you also find yourself in that sad, defeated march way too often? I thought you might. So how do we switch to the parade? Well, the guy who asked the question also gave the answer. Here’s the second half of Psalm 42:11, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” It’s a matter of focus. If you let troubles fill your sight, speech, and expectations, you will be trapped in the procession. However, if your vision is filled with the wonder of the Savior, you will be led into the parade…right behind the band! This really works, but it must be an intentional, recurring, practice. If you read all of Psalm 42, you will see this theme repeated – to get out of the negative, I must repeat the positives about God (we call it praise!). So take off your somber suit and put on your party clothes because we’re in a parade, and right out front is Jesus!