Psalm 94: Tough Talk

Memorial of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

July 15, 2020

From 2016:

Today, in Mercy, on this feast of St. Bonaventure, we pray for God to be revealed across our battered globe. God does not hide from us. We hide God in our sinful choices. May we, no matter our religion or politics, find the means to confront terrorism, war and domination by uniting in the God who made and loves us all.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 94, a ruthless, stinging condemnation of greed, sinful arrogance, and hypocrisy. This morning’s prayer is not a comfortable one.

If you don’t think twice, you might feel like you’re reading today’s newspaper.

Set between Isaiah’s blistering condemnation of an “impious nation”, and Jesus’s expressed preference for the humble and innocent, this psalm scalds those who “trample” the widows, the stranger, the fatherless …

As I pray with the psalm’s uncompromising judgements, flashing before me are:

  • the faces of refugee families.
  • children in cages.
  • desperate parents pushed into buses to return to the terror they fled.
  • the Black and Brown faces of people consigned to our social and economic margins
  • the helpless eyes of those unfavored by a skewed justice system

Your people, O LORD, they trample down,
your inheritance they afflict.
Widow and stranger they slay,
the fatherless they murder.

My prayer is soaked with angry frustration at the unabated moral torpitude and social injustice of many with political power. When will they answer for their soulless actions and inactions!

And they say, “The LORD sees not;
the God of Jacob perceives not.”
Understand, you senseless ones among the people;
and, you fools, when will you be wise?

I take some solace in the promise of these final lines, stilling longing for a glimmer of the justice it describes:

For the LORD will not cast off his people,
nor abandon his inheritance;
But judgment shall again be with justice,
and all the upright of heart shall follow it.

May that day come soon, dear God, for all Creation and for all your beloveds suffering under the willful injustice, selfishness, indifference, or complicity of others.

Poetry: Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."
The free?
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that's almost dead today.
O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine—the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again

Music: All Who Love and Serve Your City – Eric Routley

All who love and serve your city,
all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice,
all who curse and all who bless,
In your day of loss and sorrow,
in your day of helpless strife,
honor, peace, and love retreating,
seek the Lord, who is your life.

In your day of wrath and plenty,
wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus,
“I must work while it is day.”
For all days are days of judgment,
and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him,
offering peace from Calvary’s hill.
Risen Lord! shall yet the city 
be the city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
be its name, “The Lord is there!”

2 thoughts on “Psalm 94: Tough Talk

  1. Would that we hear this poem read from our altars during Sunday service and preached it’s truth to those of us in the pews.
    Thank you Renee this post like so many of yours is a powerful reminder of the truth about our country, past and present.

    Liked by 2 people

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