25 October 2010

150 (82-84)

82.  Maureen Dowd's column on Sunday lined up perfectly with the sentiments expressed here in this psalm.  "How long will ye judge unjustly, and respect the persons of the wicked?  Selah."  How long?  Her target was the seemingly whole cloth ownership of the political process by special interests and free-flowing, undisclosed corporate money, enabled by a Supreme Court decision that is likely to go down in history as one of the worst decisions the high court has ever made.  The language of the psalmist if prophetic, searingly harsh and true about the ill effects of corruption and the destabilizing effect of rampant self-interest being defended and pronounced from the bench.  "They know not, neither do they understand; they go about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are moved.  I said, 'ye are godlike beings, and all you sons of the Most High.  Nevertheless ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes.'"  Our mortality, the awareness of our humble end, is meant to guide our ethics and our moral pronouncements.  "Do justice to the afflicted and the destitute, rescue the poor and needy." 

I for one would like to live long enough to see this change and to see future historians put this sordid era into its proper conflict.  In the meanwhile, there's comfort here in the psalm.

83.  Throughout Jewish history there have always been nations that have sought the total annihilation of the Jewish people.  This is not something you want to teach a child right away; and yet, even with Purim, there is that gruesome, macabre, masked message to convey--albeit with humor, song, and funny shaped cookies.  This hat we eat is that of the man who sought to kill us.  Eat his hat! 

But despite this psalms grim opening message, I imagine its author looking out over a horizon, searching his heart for comfort and inspiration in the face of his own feelings of powerlessness.  Another army is poised on the ridge, ready to overtake us.  Let them be scattered like wheat in the wind; let the mountains burn with fire; pursue them with a tempest, frighten them with Your storm!"  Imagine a time in history, being stateless and powerless, where only prayer--and the weather--can help you.  Alarmingly absurd; and true.

84.  Seeking sanctuary.  "My soul yearneth, yea, even pineth for the courts of the Eternal; my heart and my flesh sing for joy unto the living God."  Imagine such peace and happiness.  And then this line, so soothing:  "Yea, the sparrow hath found a house and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young; Thine altars, Eternal of hosts, my King, my God."

My grandma, whose husband was murdered in 1939, never dated or remarried for the remaining 60 years of her life.  On her maple kitchen table she kept a jar of lemondrops and outside her window were two bird feeders, busy all day, in every season, with varieties of seeds for her winged friends.  That's where I learned to watch them.  With sweet candy in my mouth, I was taught to identify finches and sparrows; swallows and thrushes; jays and cardinals; even the tufted titmouse.   One day she told me her favorite psalm (121) and I learned then that without the love of her life she transcended her grief through faith.  "Happy are they that dwell in Thy house, they are ever praising Thee.  Selah."

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