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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 72:1–7, 10–14

Give the king your justice, O God,
    and your righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
    and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
   and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
   give deliverance to the needy,
   and crush the oppressor.
May he live while the sun endures,
   and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
   like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
   and peace abound, until the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles render him tribute,
   may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts.
May all kings fall down before him,
   all nations give him service.

For he delivers the needy when they call,
   the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
   and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
   and precious is their blood in his sight. (NRSV)

While I’m incredibly grateful for the religious freedoms the U.S. Constitution grants us, I have a hard time with the phrase “separation of Church and State.” I don’t want Congress telling us how or whom to worship, obviously, but what about when things go the other direction? What happens when we separate our political selves from rich, faithful expressions of morality like this psalm portrays? What happens when the voice of the poor, the oppressed, finds faithful amplification from compassionate churchgoers?

Certainly God hears those cries, but do our leaders take us seriously when we stand prophetically in solidarity with those seeking justice? When the power of faithful religious expression grows up from the bottom and surges to the attention of the halls of power, who are we to keep those things separate? No one is forced to worship any particular god in any particular way, but I would hope that the poor and the oppressed would find themselves regarded with esteem and respect in our political process on that day.

I know that there are a lot of competing priorities in government. Heck, there are a lot of competing priorities in churches, too, but this psalm is clear on its priorities: justice; righteousness; care for the poor, needy, oppressed, and victims of violence.

When was the last time you heard justice for the oppressed prioritized in a politician’s stump speech? When was the last time you debated in a political conversation the most faithful way to deliver the needy from violence?

What is the most faithful way to be politically and religiously whole, not separated? Ask someone that question today.

Gracious God, fuse us and make us whole. Integrate yourself into our political lives the way you fill our religious lives. Keep those in need foremost in our minds. Amen.

Written by Alex Wirth, Minister for Evangelism

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