Wednesday, June 17, 2015

God's Hiding Face

Psalm 13 opens out in a a fear of God hiding his face during King David being chased by his enemies. Has God forgotten us? Many times I have felt this. As my son gone through his surgeries and his struggles not of his own making, I am left wondering about God. Yes, God has given us the very breath and the beauty of life. Yet, I see the pain the taunts give him. I can see the fear he has about his future even at 6 years old. He has been given the gift of being gifted socially. He light up a room. Still, I feel the enemies chasing him. Those jealous of the opportunities he has had to be on TV. Those parents who would like their kids to ride in the Lilac Parade. Those parents can’t see the struggle of his condition. He works hard for a little guy. I wish him more of God’s presence to make it through the day. He already wants to marry a little classmate and she him. It is cute and her love for my son moves me to see God’s face in the details we ignore.

Smaller details opens out into an interesting idea. Smaller to whom. In the beauty of a little girl’s love for my son in her letter and her open heart, we are charmed and say such little thing floats as a small detail, but to the little girl and to my boy, this note is not small or little. To God, it opens out as large as my little boy’s heart, which is a large as the universe. God comes to us and it is our non-attention that makes God’s face hidden. Psalm 13, even in the very fact of being recorded, reveals the God hidden remains the God present, for God remains in a little Girl’s not of love, even as we search for comfort in the upcoming medical trip. God remains in details we ignore and in details we think are small. God’s presence in the flight of sparrow, in the caress of a mother, in my boy’s joy in splashing his papa with water on a hot day. Only a fool would can these moments small for where God walks, the ground it holy and when Jesus choose to walk with us the ground became Holy. I know this truth in holding my wife on her birthday, in wrestling with my son, in wrestling with my God during the time of medical issues.

God remains with us, and none of the moments with God are anything but small. For when God is present, the whole of universe opens out in love.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Psalm 11, Justice and the Silence of Christians

Psalm 11 calls on God to answer injustice of the wealthy toward the poor seem like a timely topic as we are in the middle of the greatest divide of inequality since the Gilded Age or the early nineteen hundreds. Yet, few Christian In that age, Christian rose up in mass to protest the rising inequality. Christians, then, saw the rise as the result of social Darwinism and secular materialism. What a hundred year changes. Today, rather than rising up and calling out philosophies like Ayn Rand and others who update the social Darwinistic thinking (their are just moochers and takers or the poor and the productive classes or the wealthy), Christians aren’t rising up like the King David does in both Psalm 9 and 10? The question is why.

 I recently saw a Ted Talk by a social science team, about how people respond to a rigged game of monopoly. The researcher looked at how privilege effects us. In this version of Monopoly, two players we assigned different roles. The game was like normal monopoly accept that one player got to roll more dice and collect more money when they passed Go. In other words, they got more advantage and privilege to the point they could not lose.

While they got this privilege simply by the literal flip of a coin or by randomness, they started to think of themselves as better players than the one on a weaker position. The Rich were better than the Poor. The taunted the weaker player and then when asked to evaluate the game, they pointed to the superior play. Their built in advantages factored little in their own evaluation of their play, even though that was the single most important reason for their success. They also show less and less concern for the other player as their dominance in the game grew. The became more belligerent to poor player, even if their advantage came from nothing more than a flip of a coin. In other words they turn to the sin of pride and swam in it as pig in muck. The social science team could have saved time as the Biblical wisdom on the sin of pride beats them to their conclusions.

The parallels to current reality as frightening and can explain the Psalm 9 in tying the oppression of the poor to evil. Pride makes us blind to the gifts we have been given and makes us think we are the authors of our own glory. We are the job creators and we think we should be treated with what is akin to reverence. Yes, we still love the original sin and think of ourselves as God. Those who can’t make it as simply moochers, looters or losers. God’s way, of course, is rejected in such a world. When we think that we are the cause of our success and not a gift from God, we start to act as the player with all the advantages without see them. We think it is our own efforts which made us and we grow in pride.

When we can see past our nose and discover the pain of the poor, we start to demand justice like Psalm 9. Then after a wait and look at history, we see nothing changes. Many times those who were oppressed rise up from their shackles, only to become the next generation of oppressors. The slaves of Egypt become the oppressors the minor prophets wail against in disgust. We then arrive at Psalm 10. Why has not God acted? Why do the evil doers continue to oppress.

Psalm 10 opens out into a dilemma. Psalm 9 tied evil to the oppression of the poor and calls on God to act on behave of the poor. Psalm 10 prays in what seems to be the response. God has not yet acted against the evildoers and their oppression of the poor. The prayer pleads for God not to hide his face in the face of such injustice. God seems silent and the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and we start to hold them in disdain for their poverty.

Yet, God did act and it should frighten us. When God became man, we dwelt with us and he chose to live with the poor and to be poor. Jesus was homeless, even though he could have had a Park Avenue address. He chose to walk with the poor. The Incarnation was God’s answer to those who viewed their success as theirs and not a gift to be use to love God and love others. Through out the Gospel, Jesus says the poor and how we will be oppressed will be answered. The question for us followers of Christ. Do we join the saints of the past and call on at the very least, the closing of the divide between rich or poor. For to side with the poor is the be biblical.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Sing a New Song of Justice... Psalm 9

Psalm 9 chants a song of liberation. It champions the poor over those who seek to oppress them. It, surveying the evils of injustice polis around King David, calls on God to act against the evil doers in favor of the weak. God does stand with the poor, as when Jesus choose to be the poor in his incarnation. He choose to be without home, without bed, and without respect. From rumors of being a bastard child of an illicit affair with a roman soldier to his death on cross like a common criminal, Jesus reveals the heart of God toward those people we would rather avoid and view with suspect. We avoid the poor. God calls the poor friends and more of his chosen twelve come from the ranks of the poor. Psalm 9 sings of this heart of God for the marginalized. 

Psalm 9 introduces the theme of injustice that run through the Tanak, the Gospels, and the whole of the New Testament. Moses set the poor slaves from capitative and God made them his own. King David calls on God to punish the evil to the poor in his poetry. In Gospels, God does act and we should be relieved. God chooses to be with the poor. He could have been born in the palaces of the wealthy. He could be like Caesar and been the head of an Army, prick justice by the cut of sword. But God chooses to be with the poor as one of the poor. This is good news because if we honestly look at who the poor, we can see who they really are. They have no resources but those given to them. They are dependent on others for their very living. They bring nothing in to the world and are left with nothing.

When we consider who the poor are … in our own moments of truth in the middle of a hail storm of fears, we have to realize that we are too the poor. All our gifts of warm houses, loving family, of good health, wealth in our bank accounts are nothing more than gifts from God. They could evaporate in the bright sun of time as they will. It may be a supernova of a moment when all our gifts explode into nothingness or in the slow craving of our strength through the course of the rive of time. The truth of being poor floats over our heads ready to burst at anytime. We are born from the dust of stars and we will return to dust in the darkness of a grave. All we are comes not from our labors, but from the kindness of Gods heart. We are called to use these gifts to love God and love others. When we lie to ourselves and think that we deserve or worse earned our gifts, we do all sort of nasty oppression. We are all not above the thinking of what about me. 

Psalm 9 should frighten us if we are honest. God being called to avenge the oppression of the poor we are all guilty of. God does answer the call, but he answers with his own body. It is this bloody hand, bloodied by the very oppression we demand God avenge, which is offered us. Our hope to transcend the oppression is the cross. 

I know this all to well as I soon will be dependent on the healing knife of a doctor. I will entrust my son to a man and his team I barely know. But that is the truth of life. We are always dependent on God. 

Psalm 9 champions the poor against the evils of oppression. Up to now the psalms had some universal themes as well as personal cares. God being the champion of those who have faith in him and a call for justice for personal enemies. Here in Psalm 9 comes the social dimensions. Evil will oppress the poor and again the judgement which King David calls God to deliver only calls for the evil to be returned. Rather than calling for torture of the evil doer, David calls them to suffer the pain they themselves called Psalm 9 makes us aware of the plight of the poor and how oppression of the poor has no room in the Kingdom of God.  

Then, in the Gospel, God takes the punishment into himself and offers us love. When we look for  justice we find love. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Peering into the Heavens - Psalm 8

In 1990 we continued the human habit of looking to the heavens by launching the Hubble Telescope into orbit. Like honey bees in the midst of a hurricane, we have been looking to heavens for answers about our fate, our God and our reality. In the decades that followed Hubble’s eye to the sky, the telescope brought us poetry form the heavens. We got to see vast glories of Heavens as none of our ancestors could have even imagined. Seeing the mysteries of the heavens pushes us to understand our limits as small creatures on a little speck of dust in the middle of nowhere. Why care about the fate of humanity? The Universe is vast and we are so small. Why would the creator of this massive existence care for my son upcoming surgery, the fate of my family, our world and our history? Time and Space are so wide.

God became fully man. The simple and profound belief of Christians reveals the mystery in God’s full Glory. Yes, God will be with my son as they rid once more his body of a tumor. Yes, God arises as Emmanuel in our daily lives and cares deeply about our faith. As we grow to understand the vastness of Universe and our small space of it, I grow more to love Psalm 8 and Jesus. The whole psalm speaks of the glory of God and how we share this glory not our of some ability, rather out of God’s grace. Growing up, we use to play the parlor game of finding the reason for man’s place in the world, though we falsely assumed it was one of power based on out superiority to the other animals. It was our reason and rationality. We were smarter. Books were written touting out thumb or our language. Yet, the Psalm 8 makes a clear case for our place being straight from God. God became man and dwelled with us, and because of Jesus and the Incarnation we are given love and grace despite the fact of our smallness in the world.

When my son comes under the surgeon’s knife, again, I find God who created the nebulas, the billions of Galaxies each with hundreds of millions stars like our small sun, lowers and empties himself to be with us. When this frighten father fearing the future sits around and waits for the report of our son and his recovery, I know God will be with me. When I look to the beauty which Hubble revealed, I find the Cross of Jesus; I find Jesus as he holds the whole of my family. The truth of the Psalm 8 fills me with love for God, for others, for the whole of creation, and for the future.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Psalm 7 & God's love

Psalm 7 pleads with God to save us from the enemies. So much so that one can hear the volume of the Psalm in the voice of a boy sent to his room for a timeout protesting his innocence and his moral outrage. “Why? I didn’t do it!”

Yet, Psalmist opens out in dark plains of his fears and outrage to the possibility that he too might be guilty of the crimes he prods God to avenge. If I have done these things, then let me suffer like my enemies. We Christians understand that we are all stained by our the shopping list of violence catalogued in Psalm 7. So are all to expect God’s judgement as the Psalm 7 demands of God. Violence without end? Where is the peace that knows no end come in? Context opens the door and lets us free ourselves from the punishing dark room where we protest, “them, God, get them and not me.”

King David is being pursued to be killed and he must take flight from those enemies that wish to dry his moving blood. Psalm 7, his poem of pleading for God’s help does show he is aware of his own failings. How many of us want God to take vengeance on our enemies and yet don’t consider that we too are the pursuer as well as the victim? The King David asks God to take his vengeance on King David’s enemies. He asks God for their own violence be turned on them. That they fall into the pit they dig, in others words, to take the effects of their actions upon themselves. If the loved God and others, then would God’s judgement be the return of Love to them?

For Christians, God does allow the judgement of David, but in his steadfast love, he takes on the cross. God in Jesus allows the violence of man onto to his person and nailed to the cross. God takes our violence and returns it to us so we can see what King David glimpses. When we see the cross, we should see that we are violent and like a mirror, we can choose life. We can finally take refuge in God and God grants us the ability to love, love God and love others. We find relief from the persecutors in our lives and the ones living within our own skin. God has pronounced judgement in the forgiveness of sin and asks us to return to him. That is the only miracle I need in my life. My God bless my son and my wife. May the Lord who is always with me love me even in this dark time?

Psalm 7

Plea for Help against Persecutors

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush, a Benjaminite.

O Lord my God, in you I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
or like a lion they will tear me apart;
    they will drag me away, with no one to rescue.
O Lord my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have repaid my ally with harm
    or plundered my foe without cause,
then let the enemy pursue and overtake me,
    trample my life to the ground,
    and lay my soul in the dust.Selah
Rise up, O Lord, in your anger;
    lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
    awake, O my God;[a] you have appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered around you,
    and over it take your seat[b] on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
    judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.
O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
    but establish the righteous,
you who test the minds and hearts,
    O righteous God.
10 God is my shield,
    who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who has indignation every day.
12 If one does not repent, God[c] will whet his sword;
    he has bent and strung his bow;
13 he has prepared his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 See how they conceive evil,
    and are pregnant with mischief,
    and bring forth lies.
15 They make a pit, digging it out,
    and fall into the hole that they have made.
16 Their mischief returns upon their own heads,
    and on their own heads their violence descends.
17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.