01 September 2010

Overpast

22 Elul 5770
Be gracious unto me, O God, be gracious unto me,
For in Thee hath my soul taken refuge;
Yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge,
Until calamities be overpast.
I will cry unto God Most High;
Unto God that accomplisheth it for me,
When he that would swallow me up taunteth, Selah
God shall send forth His mercy and His truth.
My soul is among lions, I do lie down among them that are aflame;
Even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
And their tongue a sharp sword.
Be Thou exalted O God, above the heavens;
Thy glory be above all the earth.
They have prepared a net for my steps,
My soul is bowed down;
They have digged a pit before me,
They are fallen into the midst thereof themselves, Selah.
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast;
I will sing, yea, I will sing praises.
Awake my glory, awake, psaltery and harp;
I will awake the dawn.
I will give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises unto Thee among the nations.
For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens,
And thy truth unto the skies
Be Thou exalted O God above the heavens;
Thy glory be above all the earth.
==Psalm 57
If I understood him correctly, my friend Daniel said he is memorizing this Psalm, the 57th of 150  in King David's collection, in order to celebrate the year of his birth.  I wasn't exactly sure what he said because I was lost in thought as I read it myself, at the lectern at Old First, during a brief walk-through ahead of our High Holy Days there again this year.

It's been a year since the ceiling collapse necessitated our being the blessed recipient of our neighbor's generosity and so we'll welcome as a community time's shift into sacred reckoning not in the setting intended by those who founded our buildings in Park Slope but by others, who founded a Church for prayer, during a similarly vague and uncertain time at the turn of the twentieth century.  In the early twentieth century the specter of the First World War had yet to emerge, which means, logically, that there could be no Second World War either.  Whole nations--for some, only dreams, for others, inconceivable, had yet to take their place on the maps we read.

"For Thy mercy is great unto the heavens,
And thy truth unto the skies
Be Thou exalted O God above the heavens;
Thy glory be above all the earth."

King David seemed to grasp, as he fled Saul in their epic battle for control of and destiny in shaping the Jewish nation, that forces beyond borders were guiding him.

I thought of the countless sick; the recently dead; those suddenly (or finally) in mourning.  I thought of a Reverend memorizing a Psalm, encoding its words and message in partnership with his God, in order to order his life and commitments to the *nation* of those he serves.   Above the heavens; above the earth.  I thought of that lonely President of ours, trying with all his might to lead a nation so angry and lost and impatient, deeply impatient, for the addictive quick fixes of the last fifty years.  I thought of King Abdullah, President Mubarak, Prime Minister Blair, Secretary Clinton, and Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, together at a table in the White House, breaking bread, staging the idea of peace.

"My soul is among lions, I do lie down among them that are aflame."

True leadership requires a faith we often can't fully articulate in polite circles but today, looking out across an empty Church, which in one week's time will be a full Synagogue welcoming the New Year, I wondered how more faith might sooner restore not only our buildings on 8th Avenue and Garfield Place but those who occupy them.  Faith in God, faith in ourselves, faith in a vision, and faith in a direction--toward Knowledge, toward Love, toward Justice.

Come what may--lions and flames--we can see ourselves through.  In relationships with those we love; with enemies with whom we are bloodied by hate; with nameless or faceless compatriots on the journey from here to there.

I was awed and humbled by the expression of hospitality we were shown a second year in a row; awed and humbled by a window into the delicate spiritual poetics of another's relationship to sacred text; awed and humbled by world leaders, breaking bread, and offering a dreamed for vision, a way forward into peace.

"Yea, in the shadow of Thy wings will I take refuge;
Until calamities be overpast."

No more calamities for a while, please.

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