Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
June 25, 2020
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 79, a Lament Psalm so sorrowful that Brueggemann calls it one of the ”Sad Songs of Zion”.
So what’s going on in Psalm 79?
Israel is heartbroken. They had thought they were uniquely special to God, that preference being symbolized by their magnificent Temple in Jerusalem. When the Temple was ravaged, as described in today’s first reading from Kings, the community is bereft.
The psalm demonstrates the prayer’s transformation from initial angry sadness to restored faith in God. Israel has allowed its perception of God to become institutionalized in a symbol, a building. But faithful reflection moves them to realize that God is beyond institutionalization. Through their lament, they return their hearts to the true Name of God – “I am Who am”.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
I think we, too, try to domesticate God into bricks and mortar, customs, national symbols, people, rules, and all kinds of other potential idols. When those things crack or crumble, as all things might, we experience a devastation like that found in Psalm 79.
- Some of us felt that way when the clerical sex abuse scandal was revealed.
- Some of us felt that way on 9/11, or because of the pandemic
- Some of us experience this lament when systems we trusted turn corrupt: law enforcement, medicine, religion, government.
Because we can’t see God face-to-face, we often paint that face on representations of power in our lives. That’s what Israel did with the Temple.
When those symbols prove untrustworthy, we might use it as an excuse to stop seeking God’s true and loving Face. Let’s learn from the Psalms how to persist in faith until we finally do see God face-to-face.
Early 17th century poet George Herbert captures the idea, I think.
Music: Shackles – by the group Mary, Mary – the song is kind of a modern Psalm 79, a movement from lament, through painful experience, to praise. Suggestion: Get up and move with it!