Monday, November 14, 2016

For the oppressed let the Lord be a stronghold

I kept thinking all night about Rev. Alagna’s sermon, which I posted last night. He articulated what has been simmering in my mind.

It is an accepted truth of psychology that the best indicator of future performance is past behavior, and in this case the strength of this prediction has been amplified with [Mr. Trump’s] promises to remake this nation in his own disfigured image.  The demagoguery displayed in this race for the White House can only persist and intensify.  And given his party’s newfound majority in congress there will be few obstacles or checks to its advance.   

While Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”  And while He identified the archenemies of God and of God’s children, Jesus never instructed His disciples to, “Love the demons.”  Rather Jesus admonished His disciples to, “Resist what is evil.”   And He charged and empowered them to drive out demons, to expel and exorcise them. Demons have no rights in God’s reign and Jesus showed them no respect.  Jesus always commands them to depart.  At one point in the gospel story, a legion of demons were expelled into a herd of swine and driven over a cliff to their death in the sea below.    

The aftermath of this election may not be a case of “love your enemy” and trying to find common ground with the opposite ideology; this may be a full-on assault of evil. It was all the more poignant then to read Psalms 9 at Vigils this morning.

For the oppressed let the Lord be a stronghold,
a stronghold in times of distress.
Those who know your name will trust you;
you will never forsake those who seek you.

Sing psalms to the Lord who dwells in Zion.
Proclaim God’s mighty works among the peoples,
for the needy shall not always be forgotten
nor the hopes of the poor be in vain.

The nations have fallen in the pit which they made,
their feet caught in the snare they laid.
The Lord is revealed, has given judgment.
The wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.

Arise, Lord, let mortals not prevail!
Let the nations be judged before you.
Lord, strike them with terror,
let the nations know they are but mortals.

And then Psalm 9b (10)

Lord, why do you stand afar off
and hide yourself in times of distress?
The poor are devoured by the pride of the wicked;
they are caught in the schemes that others have made.

For the wicked boast of their heart’s desires;
the covetous blaspheme and spurn the Lord.
In their pride the wicked say: “God will not punish.
There is no God.” Such are their thoughts.

Their path is ever untroubled;
your judgment is far from their minds.
Their enemies they regard with contempt.
They think: “Never shall we falter:
misfortune shall never be our lot.”

Their mouths are full of cursing, guile, oppression;
mischief and deceit are their food.
They lie in wait among the reeds;
they murder the innocent in secret.

Their eyes are on the watch for the helpless.
They lurk in hiding like lions in their dens;
they lurk in hiding to seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them away.

They crouch, preparing to spring,
and the helpless fall beneath such strength.
They think in their hearts, God forgets,
God does not look, God does not see.”

Arise then, Lord, lift up your hand!
O God, do not forget the poor!
Why should the wicked spurn the Lord
and think in their hearts: “God will not punish.”

But you have seen the trouble and sorrow,
you note it, you take it in hand.
The helpless entrust themselves to you,
for you are the helper of the orphan.

Lord, you hear the prayer of the poor;
you strengthen their hearts; you turn your ear
to protect the rights of the orphan and oppressed
so that those from the earth may strike terror no more.

We can certainly and should certainly pray for the conversion of those we think are on the path of destruction of their own souls and leading others over the same cliff, but that is not the same as inviting them to an equal voice of authority in the conversation.  

Our psalms always end with a doxology that is also a Christological prayer, a brilliant innovation of our Fr. Thomas. Here is my prayer today:

To you be the glory, O Christ,
for you are the refuge of the oppressed.
When you opened your hands on the cross,

you redeemed all human sorrow.