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Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Scripture Reading: Psalm 50:7–23
“Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, I will testify against you.
I am God, your God.
Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;
your burnt offerings are continually before me.
I will not accept a bull from your house,
or goats from your folds.
For every wild animal of the forest is mine,
the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know all the birds of the air,
and all that moves in the field is mine.
“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
for the world and all that is in it is mine.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls,
or drink the blood of goats?
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and pay your vows to the Most High.
Call on me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”
But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes,
or take my covenant on your lips?
For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
You make friends with a thief when you see one,
and you keep company with adulterers.
“You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
You sit and speak against your kin;
you slander your own mother’s child.
These things you have done and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one just like yourself.
But now I rebuke you, and lay the charge before you.
“Mark this, then, you who forget God,
or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.
Those who bring thanksgiving as their sacrifice honor me;
to those who go the right way
I will show the salvation of God.” (NRSV)
“Mark this, then, you who forget God, or I will tear you apart, and there will be no one to deliver.”
This is not the God we like to think about—judgmental, vengeful, inflicting terrible retribution on those judged unworthy. We like to think about the nonjudgmental, unconditionally loving God who withholds judgment and spares everyone—mainly because we don’t want to be judged; we want to be spared.
But there are consequences to our actions, whether or not we are entirely comfortable with that notion. In metaphysics, like in physics, an action results in a reaction. Some people call it karma.
In this psalm, there are two types of people—those who court the appearance of righteousness and those who unabashedly serve themselves. Both types, each in their own way, are indulging in self-love—the single thing that most separates us from God. Ego.
And there are consequences. And it’s not the “tearing apart” piece—the circumstances of our lives do a good enough job of making us feel torn up. The great and awful consequence is the loneliness, the “with no one to deliver you” part. If you love yourself above all, serve yourself above all, in the end that’s all you ever have—and the world is a wide and lonely place when all there is, is you.
But the psalm contains a wonderful bit of advice: be grateful for what you’ve been given. God always acts first, and it is up to us to respond in gratitude. And that makes restoration possible, the simple prayer of “Thank you.” As long as we can say “thank you,” we are not defeated by circumstance. We may feel torn apart, but we always have someone with us.
Dear God, for this day, thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.
Written by Rob Koon, Fine Arts Coordinator
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