Worship on Sunday, June 21st, Father’s Day, became focused the attack by a young, self proclaimed, white supremacist on the participants of a Bible Study in an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. The message from Psalm 27, which follows, was substituted for a discussion of divisiveness and diversity in the experience of the Church.
Susan Gray shared her passion for working with the League of Women Voters.
Last Sunday we visited a Psalm of lament. That Psalm that was a prayer for help when the bottom drops out, which for everyone it happens hopefully not all that often. Very similar to the prayers for help, there are psalms of trust that are prayed from a situation of severe crisis. What Psalm 27 calls the time when “evildoers assail me” (27:2), or Psalm 46 calls the times when “waters roar and foam” and the “mountains tremble” (46:3). These psalms are very, very clear that life in God’s creation isn’t safe. There are very clear and present dangers.
The major difference between the prayers for help and the psalms of trust is the dominant mood. Both types of psalm depend on God. Both types of psalm at least imply a request for help. And both types of psalm include expressions of trust. But whereas the prayers for help strike the dominant note of fear and desperation, the psalms of trust hit the chord of trust.
For this reason, while the psalms of trust have one foot in the camp of “disorientation” because they are spoken in the midst of crisis, they also have the other foot firmly planted in the camp of reorientation – that’s that note of hope rather than terror.
An interpreter might imagine the prayers for help amidst crisis as the prayers of those who are younger, who are going through their first times of crisis. While the psalms of trust are the words of those who aren’t in their first traffic accident or the first death of some beloved person. This crisis isn’t these psalmists’ first rodeo. They’ve been thrown before, had the floor fall out from beneath them before. And even though the crisis is horrible, they are able to trust on the basis of past experience that a brighter tomorrow will soon dawn.
The first phrase of Psalm 27 — “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?” – is wildly optimistic. For some of us, when the bottom has dropped out, it has helped us get through a long night of the soul. I’ve known people who have lost limbs and sight, essential organs, children and spouses to un expected tragic situations. They never got back what they lost but the testified to the experience that God, my light and my salvation, was there throughout and when they emerged from the darkness. There is no question, life can be dangerous and deadly. But these words of trust from those who’ve been there before us, people for whom the bottom has dropped out, and who ‘cried to the Lord’ found God’s very present help in time of trouble.
1The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
2When evildoers assail me to devour my flesh— my adversaries and foes— they shall stumble and fall.
3Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war rise up against me, yet I will be confident.
4One thing I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
5For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.
6Now my head is lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud, be gracious to me and answer me!
8“Come,” my heart says, “seek his face!” Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9Do not hide your face from me. Do not turn your servant away in anger, you who have been my help. Do not cast me off, do not forsake me, O God of my salvation!
10If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up.
11Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies.
12Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen against me, and they are breathing out violence.
13I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
14Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!