A new feature I am trying… and if any contributor want’s to contribute, please do so!
Psalm 129:1 A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.
From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me.
Let all Israel repeat this:
From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me.
My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows.
But the LORD is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly.
May all who hate Jerusalem be turned back in shameful defeat.
May they be as useless as grass on a rooftop, turning yellow when only half grown, ignored by the harvester, despised by the binder.
And may those who pass by refuse to give them this blessing:
“The LORD bless you; we bless you in the LORD’s name.”
(I would recommend all of Calvin’s commentary on this Psalm compared with what theologians do today with the Church and Israel)
Sinners are planning upon our backs; and what we devise against each other, they turn against us all: and we have become a new spectacle, not to angels and men, as says Paul, that bravest of athletes, in his contest with principalities and powers, but to almost all wicked men, and at every time and place, in the public squares, at carousals, at festivities, and times of sorrow. Nay, we have already–I can scarcely speak of it without tears–been represented on the stage, amid the laughter of the most licentious, and the most popular of all dialogues and scenes is the caricature of a Christian. (Gregory of Nazianzen)
Israel is personified into one single individual, or perhaps, every individual shares in the pains inflicted upon Israel, whether they contributed to the sins or not. How often we look at the problems of the world, the Church, even our neighbors with anything but empathy. We do not stand with others in their despair which may explain, in part, why do not proclaim victory in the arenas in which we fight.
This Psalm is meant to be sung together, as one, as often the choir hymns are, or the liturgy, to remind us of our oneness in the Body of Christ. Our sacraments are meant to engender this oneness – baptism into the community and into Christ; the Eucharist into unity with Christ. Marriage is meant to bring two to one. Despair should be used as a uniting feature, not one in which we use to shun those who are weak and defeated.
Paul, countering the accusation that he was a weak man, defeated, broken, listed some of this ‘weaknesses’, then writing,
Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger? (2nd Corinthians 11:28-29 NLT)
Paul, through his weaknesses shared in those defeats of the congregations. Can we say the same thing about our level of empathy?
Do you share empathy with the old pastor or the young couple, the poverty-stricken people around the world, and even the Creation being murdered along the Gulf Coast? Can we share each other’s burdens?