Thursday, September 14, 2017

Psalm 87

Recently a dear friend shared this rabbinic statement about the Bible:
God said it.
I believe it.
Let us discuss it.

My heart was stirred by this. It affirms the truth of the Bible and yet it honestly expresses the struggle to come to terms with the text. Too often, the "mystery of God" is ignored as we create our certitudes to protect us from the realities of life. We are tempted to explain things. We are called to trust and worship. We are tempted by the tree of knowledge when we are called to embrace the Tree of Love (the Holy Cross).

Psalm 87 is one of those sweet, mysterious words of our God. It begins looking at Jerusalem, in particular Mount Zion, the city of David. The psalmist declares that this is God's favorite place in all of Israel. What could it mean that the Father Creator has a favorite? It is something to ponder. It may feel exclusionary, but so be it--reality often is uncomfortable. "Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of our God." A sacred and special place. Sanctified locations are important for many of us. Is it possible that there are places more God-full than others? I think yes, but maybe we need to discuss it.

Suddenly there is an unexpected shift in a surprising direction. "I count Egypt and Babylon among those who know Me." In case you forgot, Egypt is 'the land of slavery' and Babylon conquered Judah, leveled the temple, and took the people into exile. How can God number these two 'icons of horror' as those who know Him? Mysteries indeed. What Jewish author wrote it and what magisterium included it among the sacred songs of Israel? Pondering the surprise, I hear Jesus say, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Wondering: whom I am reluctant to see as children of God, as peoples embraced by His arms of love and mercy? God said it, I believe it, what could the ramifications be today, let us discuss...

"of Zion it shall be said,''Everyone was born in her''...the Lord will record as He enrolls the people, ''these also were born there." Everyone? God said it, I believe it, but..... everyone?
The lands identified (Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia) are filled with people as foreign to us as they were the ancient Israelite. Today, they are often Muslim. How am I to pray this psalm and hear it in my heart? How am I to embrace God's word in this strange message of inclusiveness (everyone born there) encompassing extreme favoritism (born there, in Zion).

Certainly, as Paul says, in Jesus Christ, God has made us into one people. With so much division and conflicts of various types how is my heart touched by the Word of God, which He spoke and I believe. Do I see them all with the Father's eye? Do I see them all as children of God? and if I do, what then of other Scriptures where the wrath of God falls heavily upon the enemies of God and His people? What of Psalm 137:9 and the most horrible beatitude? ('happy the one who dashes your infant's head on a rock') The Word of God is clear, the day comes when the enemies of God will quake in fear, on that day of deliverance the Lord will destroy all those who stand against Him.

God said it, I believe it, let us talk together. Let us prayerfully, humbly and sincerely talk together. Let us remember that God, wrapped in impenetrable clouds, is too big for our theories. Let us trust that He desires all people to be His own. Let us treat one another with the same compassionate kindness and longsuffering love. Let us know we are called to stand for Him or perish against Him. Help us understand, Lord... Holy Spirit, come and help us become the faithful people of God!

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