This post has been in the works for months. I’m reminded of it every time Psalm 117 rolls around in the Liturgy of the Hours — it did today. “Oh Praise the Lord, all you nations, acclaim him all you peoples! Strong is his love for us; he is faithful for ever.”~NAB Except those are not the words I memorized in Vacation Bible School when I was a child. The words I learned are from the King James Version – “O praise the LORD, all ye nations: praise him, all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the LORD endureth for ever. Praise ye the LORD.” The second verses are nothing similar and for awhile, I’d run over my Liturgy of the Hours and hit this verse like a vinyl LP or a CD with a scratch — what happened to my second verse?
Really, this is not even about what happened to the second verse. It is about my memories of that particular Vacation Bible School that come flooding in every time I read Psalm 117. Our VBS was divided in age similar to Sunday School — Primaries, Juniors, and Intermediates. VBS was more for the Primaries and Juniors — all of Elementary or Middle school age. Intermediates covered High School grades 9 – 12. I didn’t have a lot of peers — they all seemed two or three years younger or one to five years older than me. Just as I moved up to the next Sunday School level — several of those moved up too.
Back to this VBS — I don’t remember the theme, but our book had one lesson per night and one memory verse. At the end of the week, we should be able to recite our memory verses. The Sunday night following VBS week was a graduation ceremony of sorts. The different classes took turns showing our parents what we learned. My class had learned about Zacchaeus. My teacher decided we would do a skit for our commencement and I was chosen to be Zacchaeus. I have this vivid memory of wearing a bath robe and some towel or pillow case around my head. I was wearing flip flop sandals. I was an awkward and self-conscious 11 year old — square in the middle of being a Junior. I stepped to my place and proclaimed – “My name is Zacchaeus. I heard that Jesus was coming so I climbed up in a sycamore tree because I am too short to see over the crowd. Jesus saw me in the tree and said he was coming to my house for dinner……..” And so I told what I had just learned that week. We sang “Zacchaeous was a wee little man and a wee little man was he — he climbed up in a sycamore tree to see what he could see ……” I proclaimed my memory verse, “O praise the LORD, all ye nations!….” It was finally over.
It was finally over and then I heard one of the teen boys call out to me, “Hey Zac!” There was a group of boys in the Intermediate class who were the object of many girl crushes – including my own. They respected my parents and I was treated like a sister. “Zac”, became my nickname — just one of the boys called me Zac. A few short years went by and I didn’t think about it. The boys were a few years out of High School and I was near graduation. That boy married and they were friends of my family. They invited my parents, sister, and myself over to their house for the first time after their marriage. For the first time in a few years, I hear it — “Come here Zac!, Come here Zac!” I turn in response to “my” name only to realize he is calling for their cat — a beautiful smoky gray cat. I think we met glances and smiled. I dared not ask.
That is what Psalm 117 means to me.