Friday, November 25, 2016

Psalmistry, Week 2: Psalm 32

Psalm 32 (ICEL)

(1) Of David, A maskil.

(2) Happy the pardoned,
     whose sin is canceled,
     in whom God finds
     no evil, no deceit.

(3) While I hid my sin,
     my bones grew weak
     from endless groaning.

(4) Day and night,
     under the weight of your hand,
     my strength withered
     as in a summer drought.

(5) Then I stopped hiding my sin
     and spoke out,
    "God, I confess my wrong."
     And you pardoned me.

(6) No wonder the faithful
     pray to you in danger!
     Even a sudden flood
     will never touch them.

(7) You, my shelter,
     you save me from ruin.
     You encircle me
     with songs of freedom.


(8) "I show you the path to walk.
      As your teacher,
      I watch out for you.

(9) "Do not be a stubborn mule,
      needing bridle and bit
      to be tamed."

(10) Evil brings grief;
      trusting in God brings love.


      Rejoice in the Lord.
      Be glad and sing,
      you faithful and just.

Day 1: Relationship
David and a forgiving God
David hides from God because of his sin and is miserable. Then he confesses and is reconciled to God, who is naturally frustrated but still loves David and protects him. This evokes a very parental relationship to me (see below, Situation/Context).

David and the audience
David is a prophet, a preacher in relationship with the audience. We listen raptly as he's telling his story, and at the end, he gives us a Word.

Day 2: Environment

This Psalm evokes a number of environments for me. The first stanza leads me to imagine a calm field on a sunny day. Next, I imagine a small, dark room, maybe a closet: a hiding place. I see a bursting out in the confession, into light that is blinding, because one's pupils have expanded in the dark, desperate for some shred of light. Then, in the field again, there is a tree. Open, expansive place, yet somewhere to shelter. Freedom and protection together, instead of the dark confinement of the earlier verses. The tree and the earth speak together in the voice of a slightly exasperated but eternally loving mother. "Didn't I give you good advice? Isn't it my job to keep you safe? I wish you would listen to me. I'm sorry you suffered, though. I love you." Then the narrator breaks the fourth wall, and suddenly the field and the tree are on a screen or a stage as David speaks to us, arms outstretched.

Day 3: Situation/Context
Did you ever read the book, No, David? David is a little child who is always causing trouble - scribbling on walls, tramping in dirt, breaking the cookie jar. And David's mom always catches him and says, "No, David!" Except for a few words to introduce and close out the story, this phrase is the only thing in the book, repeated over and over.

I'm sure David got tired of hearing, "No!" I bet there were times when David caused trouble and tried to hide it before his mom could see. In the psalm, David tries to hide his sin from God, but the guilt is overwhelming, and eventually, he decides whatever the consequence of confession, it will be less painful than the guilt and shame of hiding.

(Spoiler Alert) The end of the book, the last words of David's mom are, "Yes, David, I love you." In the psalm, David's God forgives his sin and he is overcome with joy. He praises God as his shelter, his savior. And God responds, reminding David that God is always showing the path, and David is free to walk it or not.

Then David turns to the reader, and shares his newfound understanding. He grieved in guilt and shame when he was trying to hide his shortcomings. He believed he would suffer if he was honest. It requires trust to open ourselves up and be vulnerable, and David here calls on his reader to trust in God and (in David's experience) in the joy that comes when the faithful confess and find forgiveness.


Selah is not listed in the ICEL translation, but since it's the name of my blog, it felt important to include it. :) 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Today, I stood in my shower in utter despair. I ceased to believe in the possibility of change. Amidst the horrors of humanity implied by these election results, I couldn't imagine a world in which anyone's heart could be moved. My hope was gone, my call to ministry shattered. Why bother?

And then I remembered.

I remembered  a People who had faced this despair.

Who were brought out of bondage only to be left wandering in the wilderness.

Who were conquered again and again but held fast somehow to the knowledge of Who they Are. Who in exile clung all the tighter to the markers of their identity, lest they forget to whom they belong.

Who knew Justice had come to set them free again and who rallied and fought for a better world. They truly believed it was happening before their eyes and under their hands. And then they watched that hope be crucified. What was left for then that evening but despair?

And so, though I've been feeling my way back into the intentional following of Jesus' examples of life  and ministry for quite some time now, I think today is the day I reclaim for myself the title of Christian. Christianity gives shape and form to my Unitarian Universalism, like a skeleton shapes the body; my Unitarian Universalism gives life to my Christianity, like the flesh on a skeleton.

When the Pulse massacre happened, it suddenly became important for me to own my queer identity, though I'd been living inside it for some time. Today, I am determined not to let the identity "Christian" be defined by division, fear, and hate.

It is Good Friday in my heart. Justice has been crucified and laid in a tomb guarded closely that I may not remove it or bring it back to my people. Holy Saturday will be long--four years, at least, I'd guess. And until I remembered this story, which despite everything is rooted in my soul and my soul in it, I despaired. Remembering is the glimmer of a beginning of a new foundation for hope.

Hope of resurrection. Hope of the spirit of Justice, Compassion, and Love rising up out of the tomb and dispersing through all the people. I haven't learned much yet in seminary about the early church, but they had a boundless (possibly groundless) hope that got them through. A hope so big that it might just get me through, too.

This is  not hope in an anthropomorphic sky god, or in a man more divine than any other. This hope in the resurrection of the SPIRIT, in the priesthood of all believers...hope that in the midst of despair, when all hope feels truly lost, we can and will, together, become Justice.