Psalms for Super Tuesday

In light of Super Tuesday and in preparing for tonight’s midweek Lenten service, I was reviewing the Psalm from last week (3-year lectionary cycle, series C, third Sunday in Lent) – Psalm 85.

Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

Within the American context, how often is the emphasis on individualism and personal hard work?  We glorify the work of our forefathers – and not without reason!  Entrepreneurialism, capitalism, democracy, individual initiative, free market – we have many things that we credit for the restoration of the fortunes of the many, many people who came to this land poor and without prospects, yet who were blessed to become prosperous.  I hear less often talk specifically about how it is God who bestows and removes and restores fortunes.

You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin.  Selah.  You withdrew your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.

Again, hard to think about this in the American context.  What sin is there to cover?  Industriousness?  We tend to think of sins as something current rather than something persistent in all epochs and situations.  How often do we describe ourselves as a blessing, the result of judgment against other peoples and institutions and ways of governing?  How easy is it to see democracy as the great forgiver of other sins, rather than just one of a myriad sinful ways of organizing humanity!

Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!  Will you be angry with us forever?  Will you prolong your anger to all generations?

We like these words, provided that the Lord’s anger is directed against those on the other side of the socio-political spectrum from ourselves.  That’s where the Lord’s anger belongs.  Our side certainly doesn’t have guilt to confess, sins to confess, repentance to seek.  Or if we do, it’s a damn sight less grievous than what the other side ought to be repenting of!

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?  Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

Our hope is in the Lord.  Not in economics.  Not in the Right or the Left, not in liberalism nor conservatism.  Not in this candidate or that candidate.  Only in the Lord.  Human history is a long story of the abuses of humanity against our fellow men and women.  There is no perfect government, nor any form of government that has weathered the changing tides of history without blemish, or even survived very long at all!  Only the Lord has the truly big picture in mind, and the holiness and power to bring to fruition that which is truly best.  He has already shown us his steadfast love in his Son, Jesus.  Who happens to bear the Biblical name not of best friend or trusted adviser, but rather Lord.  King.  The rightful usurper of all other titles of dignity and honor that we like to create and bestow on ourselves and others.

Let me hear what the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.

I hear a lot of people complaining about the candidates and who is running or who is leading, but I hear so much less from Christians about seeking the Lord’s Word, rather than a political sound bite or a party platform.  What if Christians refused to be taken in by the blatant lies and ridiculously impossible promises of those who desire to lead us, and instead insisted on only trusting the Word of God, the Word of God made flesh who suffered and died for me and for you?  The Word of God who had no pension plan, no security detail, no speaking fees.  Who came to pour himself out as a ransom for many, rather than to further his own ideas or feather his own nest?  His salvation surely is near – as near as that Word that calls us to faith and trust in him alone.  This is the glory of our land – of any land!  When Creation recognizes and gives praise to the Creator!

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other.  Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky.  Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.  Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.

What’s missing from this campaign promise?  From this party platform?  Me.  It has nothing to do with what I like or don’t like, what I believe or what I don’t believe.  It has nothing to do with demonizing others to push my own agenda.  It doesn’t pander to my self-interests or self-righteousness.  What God promises is simply good.  Love.  Faithfulness.  Righteousness.  Peace.  These are the things you and I are to seek after in Christ.  These are the things that no human being is capable of providing, and therefore we should never presume that they will provide them, regardless of the depth of their convictions or the goodness of their intentions.

I hear a lot of rhetoric from Christians about who Christians must or must not vote for, as though there was a candidate who holds all righteousness.  As though we have perfected our political and social institutions so that they must be preserved and protected in stone or bronze for all eternity.  As though we can perfectly avoid the pitfalls of the past, despite our abysmal knowledge of the past, and despite our human sinfulness to want what we like and to lash out at what and who we don’t.

No candidate is free to give these good gifts.  They come only from God the Father, the Creator and Sustainer.  A leader may do a better or worse job of getting out of the way in this process, but they are not the fount of every blessing.  If you feel the need to demonize the opposition or a particular person because you are so outraged at them, make sure that you have looked in the mirror before you pick up that first stone yourself.  Be vigilant.  Be intelligent.  Be informed.  Insist on justice insofar as you are able to.  But don’t think that these efforts justify breaking the fifth commandment (murder) – which Jesus made clear was committed in insulting another not just in stabbing them.  Don’t think that these efforts justify breaking the seventh commandment against stealing from others, or the eighth commandment against bearing false witness.  Don’t think that you can justify the sinfulness of your rhetoric by the virtue of your goals.  Selah.

 

 

 

 

 

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