Psalm 85: Be A Neighbor

Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children

“A great prayer for life is urgently needed, a prayer which will rise up throughout the world. Through special initiatives and in daily prayer, may an impassioned plea rise to God, the Creator and lover of life, from every Christian community, from every group and association, from every family and from the heart of every believer.”

Evangelium vitae, 100

January 22, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 85, a Psalm we have prayed with seven times in the past six months. Have we wrung it dry, do you think?😉

Never! That’s the beauty of scripture and particularly of the Psalms. They speak to us in a new voice with each new day’s blessings and challenges.

The verse that grasps my heart this morning is this:

Near indeed is salvation to those who fear God
glory dwelling in our land.

Psalm 85: 10

What will “glory”, or well-being,
look like when it dwells in our land,
throughout our earth?


Walter Brueggemann, in his many writings about the Old Testament and the Psalms, stresses the concept of “neighborliness” as integral to communal well-being.

The well-being of the neighborhood, inspired by the biblical texts, makes possibleand even insists uponan alternative to the ideology of individualism that governs our society’s practice and policy. This kind of community life returns us to the arc of God’s giftsmercy, justice, and law. The covenant of God in the witness of biblical faith speaks now and demands that its interpreting community resist individualism, overcome commoditization, and thwart the rule of empire through a life of radical neighbor love.
(Description of Brueggemann’s book, God, Neighbor, Empire: The Excess of Divine Fidelity and the Command of Common Good)

Praying with Psalm 85, we might hear echos of President Biden’s Inaugural Address which called on our capacity for “neighborliness”:

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.
We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.
We can treat each other with dignity and respect.
We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.
For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.
No progress, only exhausting outrage.
No nation, only a state of chaos.


The President also said this:

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, the saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.
What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?
I think I know.
Opportunity.
Security.
Liberty.
Dignity.
Respect.
Honor.
And, yes, the truth.


Thousands of years ago, the psalmist clearly described the glorious community which God promises to those who live in mercy, truth, justice and peace:

Mercy and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.

The LORD  will give benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before the Lord,
and salvation, along the way of God’s pattern.

Psalm 85

Prose: Here is the quote from St. Augustine referenced by President Biden, as well as the passage from Cicero which inspired Augustine

If one should say, ‘a people is the association of a multitude of rational beings united by a common agreement on the objects of their love,’ then it follows that to observe the character of a people we must examine the objects of its love.”

St. Augustine, City of God 19.24

A republic is a numerous gathering brought together by legal consent and community of interest. The primary reason for this coming together is not so much weakness as a sort of innate desire on the part of human beings to form communities. For our species is not made up of solitary individuals.

Cicero, Republic, 1.39-40 

Music: After Cicero and Augustine, a little music from our own modern philosopher, Mr. Rogers❤️

Psalm 2: A Political World

Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, religious

January 4, 2021

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 2. The prayer seems a fitting reminder to all of us, and especially US citizens, as our new political season opens.

And now, O rulers, give heed;
take warning, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice before God;
with trembling rejoice…
Blessed are all who take refuge in God!


Although I was relieved to lessen my political attention after the November election, I realize that we always have a moral imperative both to pray for our leaders and to measure their efforts, and our own, against the standards of social justice. 

Click right triangle above to hear how Handel felt about it as he uses Psalm 2 in his Messiah.
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
and who do the people imagine a vain thing?
The kings of the earth rise up,
and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord,
and against His Anointed.
George Frederic Handel: Messiah 
Psalm 2: 1-2

The interplay of politics and morality is on-going, and its energy rises once again with this month’s seating of the new Congress and inauguration of President Biden.

The U.S. and the world has been given stark lessons under the tenure of the exiting president. Some have learned from these experiences. Some have allowed their ignorances to be confirmed.

It has not been easy. We live in an age when truth and morality have been rendered elastic – seemingly malleable to multiple alternative narratives.


Another verse of Psalm 2 from Handel’s Messiah
Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast away their yokes from us.
(Psalm 2:3)

Psalm 2 reminds us of the one true narrative:
we are all creatures of God
charged to live in harmony
with one another and with the Creator.

Seen in a political light, we are a long way from achieving that charge. 

Our elected leaders have an almost impossible job to guide this fractured nation closer to our moral hope. But our prayer, and our sincere contribution to the effort, can make a huge difference in the result.

Despite any partisan leanings, can we pledge that contribution?


Poetry: The Paths of Love and Justice – Christine Robinson

Why are the nations in an uproar?
Why do the peoples mutter and threaten?
Why do the rich plot with the powerful?
They are rebelling against the demands of Love and Justice.
God laughs, cries, and says with anger:
I have set my Love in your hearts and my Justice in your minds.
You are my children and I have given you the universe
your lives, and the tasks of your days.
Be wise
Be warned
Stick to the paths of Love and Justice.
Your restless hearts will find me there.


Music: Justice and Mercy – Matt Redman