Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Psalm thoughts for the 3rd day of Advent...

Hmmmm now here's something I didn't expect:  the Revised Common Lectionary I am using for the daily Psalms of Advent have us reflecting and reading THE SAME Psalm 3 days in a row. I double-checked the home page and that is true so... there must be some method to this madness, yes? No harm in that... especially as a way of slowing down.

So, on the second day with this Psalm, here are a few additional thoughts:

+ Last night, at our new members orientation, a couple very new to the community - long alienated from the Roman church but unsure of other options - wondered about the nature of this first psalm.  "What's the context?  Without it this psalm just seems like whinging." That gave me pause:  how many other folk need context and interpretation when it comes to the Psalms?  There is truly a biblical illiteracy in so many of our churches - even the strictly fundamentalist ones - for so many reasons.  For this alone, I am grateful that we'll be reading the same Psalm for three days in a row.  It gives me a chance to offer a few words of historical and theological context in my weekly all-church email.

O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple;
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the bodies of your servants
to the birds of the air for food,
the flesh of your faithful to the wild animals of the earth.
They have poured out their blood like water
all around Jerusalem,
and there was no one to bury them.
We have become a taunt to our neighbours,
mocked and derided by those around us.

+ Peterson urges us to read these "psalms of lament" carefully so that we learn to savor and embrace the totality of our lives.  Don't try to jump ahead of the story he warns.  "Don't skip the hard parts, erase the painful parts, detour around the disappointments. Lament - making the most of our loss without getting bogged down in it - is a primary way of staying IN the story (with God.)"  As I reread Psalm 79 I find that I am drawn to all the bodies scattered in the streets - bird food - desecrated and defiled.  I think of the people in my town trapped and torn by addictions. I think of the thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians who have been slaughtered in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 10 years.  I think of sisters and brothers in Syria being gunned down.  These are real bodies and the lament makes me weep over their real deaths... and well it should.

+ I also hear U2 singing "40" - their take on the heart of the psalms of lament - and how this song of sorrow simultaneously becomes a prayer of hope when chanted together by thousands with heart and soul in an arena nee Sanctuary. I have experienced becoming part of "one body" with  25,000 strangers as we wept this Psalm together and it became a sustained cry unto the Lord.

Last night, another man at the orientation told me that after we shared U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" this summer, he had a sense that his faith was real:  fear is the opposite of faith he said - not doubt or questions.  I think that's part of this Psalm, too: wrestling with fear in the context of both a deep fidelty and confusion.

Tonight there is band practice - we'll work on a few things - and then go out afterwards for a brew:  more celebration than practice.  I think that living into the celebration is part of the balance these laments ask of us. Life is short and precious and often very hard.

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