Sunday, September 10, 2006

Starting from Psalm 146:4-9

I wanted to meditate on this, especially here; but events have intervened, and I haven't had time to. Still, it's a welcome quiet space, an oasis, in the weekend's news:

Happy are they who have the God of Israel for their help!
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise forever;

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.

The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;

The Lord loves the righteous; the Lord cares for the stranger;
he sustains the orphan and widow, but frustrates the way of the wicked.

The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Hallelujah!

That was the psalm this morning. A neat summary of the law and the nature of God. You have their the Creator, the source and origin and reason for all things. And what does this source do? Insure justice in the creation; supply need. Justice for the oppressed; food for the hungry; freedom for prisoners; sight to the blind; lifting those bowed down; solace for the stranger; sustenance for the widow and orphan (the powerless); frustration to the plans of the wicked.

Quite a catalog. Notice two of them challenge the status quo of empire; and you make a connection to Paul. Notice those challenges might be quite challenging indeed: freedom for the prisoner? Victims of exile, only? Or of any prison? And the oppressed? Victims of a foreign power only? Or the foreign power of the world as it is ordinarily conducted, the world of empire, of the Chinese realists Boreas and Rick mentioned below?

Compare it to Isaiah (35:4-7a), also from this morning:

Say to those who are of a fearful heart, "Be strong, do not fear! Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you." Then the eyse of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water.
Easy to read those words as a messianic prediction, a vision of a future far, far away. But read them again, carefully, just as they are. Notice, first, that what is announced is a reversal: springs in the desert, thirsty ground giving up water; burning sand a pool. And those who can't walk, leap; those who can't speak, sing; those who can't hear, hear; who can't see, see. From absence, comes presence; from lifelessness, life. And what does this? The kerygma, the proclamation: Be strong, do not fear!" Why not? Because "Here is your God. He will come with vengeance, with terrible recompense. He will come and save you." Just as God's word spoke creation into existence (there is no gesture for God, no waving of hands or muttering of incantations, just the act of speech, a very fundamental speech-act, as it were), the proclamation of God's justice reverses lifelessness and brings forth life. Not just needs, this time, but reversal into abundance and fullness and joy!

As Fra Giovanni said: Take joy!

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