Psalm 54:1 Liberate me, O God, by the authority of Your name. Vindicate me through Your legendary power. 2 Hear my prayer, O God; let the words of my mouth reach Your sympathetic ear. 3 The truth is, these strangers are rallying against me; cold-blooded men seek to slay me; they have no respect for You. [pause] 4 But see now! God comes to rescue me; the Lord is my valiant supporter. 5 He will repay my enemies for the harm they have done; they are doomed! According to Your faithful promises, silence them. 6 I will sacrifice to You willingly; I will lift Your name by shouts of thanksgiving, O Eternal One, for Your name is good. 7 God has pulled me out from every one of the troubles that encompass me, and I have seen what it means to stand over my enemies in triumph.
The last few days have been painful for our country. These days of unrest and trouble come on the heels of months of struggle in quarantine and isolation. I heard someone describe this moment in America as 1918 combined with 1929 combined with 1968. I think that gets to some of what we are all experiencing – something none of have experience with or, really, could possibly have been prepared for.
Personally, I have been heartbroken as I watched the images of George Floyd’s last moments and as I watched the anger – built up over multiple incidents over the last several years – spilled over into protests and, finally, as bad actors took advantage of these incidents to incite violence and more damage to both people and property.
I have been struggling to wrap my head around what God might be calling me to share in this space today. How in the world can we put words – meaningful words – to all that has been happening. Then, as I read Psalm 54 above – the ‘morning Psalm’ in the daily lectionary today, I felt God putting a few things on my heart.
First, Psalm 54 is a ‘Psalm of David’ – meaning it is believed that David is the author and the notation included in our Scripture indicates that David wrote this Psalm after the Ziphites, people he trusted as friends, betrayed him to Saul. So, in this Psalm, David calls out to the God he trusts to come to the defense of the oppressed (Liberate me, O God). David calls out, trusting that God will bring justice (He will repay my enemies for the harm they have done).
This is a reminder to us that God, our God, is and has always been the God of the oppressed and the God that seeks – and brings justice – to those that have been persecuted, wronged, and taken advantage of.
What that means for us today, is that in this and in every situation, our call is to be instruments of God’s peace. The peace of God is not simply about the absence of violence or unrest, but God’s peace is about the presence of justice. As Christians it is our duty and call to seek out, and stand with those that have suffered injustice.
This is the good news of the gospel for all of us. Our world is broken, sin and evil run rampant in our world, and even in our hearts and lives. But into this broken and sinful world, through Jesus Christ, light and love, peace and justice arrive. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit with us is a testament to God’s power over the brokenness of our world, and a promise that ultimately God will bring both justice and peace.
The second thing that I felt God laid on my heart this morning is a bit harder for us all, I think. There is little about what I have written above that anyone could find objectionable. And few, if any Christians would doubt that part of our call as followers of Jesus is to be ambassadors of God’s love, grace, peace, and justice into the world around us.
So the question for us now, and where things get harder, is what exactly does that look like in this time and in this place? The answer I have heard as I prayed about it over the last few days is this: we need to listen.
One of the ways that the sinfulness and brokenness of the world is most obvious right now is in the way that our communities and our country have become so polarized and so divided. I have come to believe that we can’t truly share God’s love and peace with those that we don’t know or have a relationship with (God can work in miraculous ways – but I firmly believe that it is in and through our relationships that we are best able to share God’s love is through the relationships we build).
So what that means for us now is that we need to listen. If you are like me, you are struggling to understand how people around us are feeling…. Why are people upset enough to march in the streets? How does it feel to be a person of color in our country right now?
The only way begin to get some level of understanding – which is what will allow us to begin to really share God’s love and peace – is by listening.
I have felt convicted to seek out voices that I might not normally hear, to talk to people that don’t look like me, to listen to those that are seeing and experiencing these events from a different perspective. Not because I am wrong and they are ‘right’, or vice versa, but because it is through listening and understanding that the Holy Spirit will build bridges of love and peace.
I have begun conversations where I am being given the opportunity to listen to fellow pastors – but pastors that don’t look like me. I have already been enriched by these conversations and I hope to share more with you about them later. I encourage you to do the same, because in this time and place, listening is the first step in sharing God’s love.
Sharing God’s Love,
Prayer: God, we ask that you would bring peace and justice, healing and wholeness to our lives, our community, our country, and our world. Open our ears by the power of your Holy Spirit so that we can hear the cries of your people in need. Guide us to be your hands and feet – instruments of your grace and peace in this world. Amen.