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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 20, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Psalm 11

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to me,
“Flee like a bird to the mountains;
for look, the wicked bend the bow, they have fitted their arrow to the string,
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.
If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
and his soul hates the lover of violence.
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur;
a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face. (NRSV)

Reflection
I have often wondered about the world the psalmist inhabited. And when I read this psalm, I find myself really wondering about whether the psalmist was encountering a world rife with traumatic events, worry, fear, and often feeling overwhelmed. The opening image is simply terrifying. As if the psalmist heard a rustle in the bushes outside of his home and his blood ran cold in his veins, he lifts a prayer to God that God is his refuge, but also tips his human hand with the fear that the wicked is aiming a bow at his upright heart. And then, as if we are being taken into the mind of the psalmist, it is not only his own life that is under siege but the foundation of the world itself. All that is trustworthy and accepted as the societal norms and values are subverted.

Over the past years a lot of investigation has been carried out in pastoral care and therapeutic settings on trauma theory. There is much written on the limbic brain and how humans, like other animals, respond when they are in situations that are really scary or life-threatening. An example I remember most about these ideas is that when an animal—say a zebra—is in danger of being attacked by a predator like a lion, the zebra’s response is either to fight, freeze, or flee. The psalmist suggests that perhaps that fleeing to God like a bird to the mountains is his option, but I think there is some freezing and also some fight in him as well. But the psalmist is clear about something else. He is not acting alone. God deals with the traumatizer and sets the terms toward the path of peace, trust, and holy power. This is a God that stands firm against anything—I mean anything—that would undermine God’s will for the world, which is shalom for all of Her children. And our work is to seek the very face of God, even in the face of deep fear and trauma. That is enough. Yes, that is enough.

Prayer
Holy and magnificent God, your promise to be present with this world is trustworthy and true. Even when we are afraid or worried or wonder if you are there, please come to us in the unanticipated ways, that we would know you more fully and trust you more deeply. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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