Psalm Psnippet 22: Why Rescue

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord praise him!” (Ps 22:22-23a)

In Psalm 22, David turns to call out to God even as he is forsaken by God and surrounded by people who seek to destroy him. “Trouble is near/and there is none to help” (v 11).

So he calls to God for help. But when rescue comes, David pivots: the good result from his rescue is his praise of God among the people. Rather than simply luxuriating in relief from personal pain, he turns immediately to praising God’s name in public.

Like all the psalms, we can read this as referring, ultimately, to Jesus. After all, he quoted it on the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” This suggests the denouement of the crucifixion – Jesus’ resurrection and ascension – likewise has the goal God’s glory ‘in public.’

The end of this story is God’s praise. That means, when we tell the story of Jesus (as I’ve just bungled in a church-sponsored “2-minute testimony”), that’s where we should end – praising God, not tangled in metaphysical speculation or engaged in our own struggles. Neither of those are bad but neither are they the point. The point is to “proclaim [God’s] righteousness to a people yet unborn” (v 31).

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PCA confronting racism

To say that the Presbyterian Church in America has a race problem is like saying a stray dog has fleas. Clearly true but kinda disgusting to think about too much.

That’s why I’m glad a recent Ad Interim Commission on Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation, composed of leaders already doing the work in the PCA, have written a report exploring what the elders of the denomination think about race and making concrete recommendations as to how we can move forward productively. Pointless, you say, but reports by commissions are how Presbyterians take things seriously.

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Naomi Klein Needs Jesus

Naomi Klein needs Jesus.

Duh – we all do. But in her latest book, No Is Not Enough, we see a Jesus-shaped hole toward the end when her hope lands in people, I’d suggest unsustainably.

Throughout the book, Klein does an excellent job of laying out the extent of our current crisis. An interlocking set of climate change restrictions, radical capitalist manipulations and reality TV politics are pushing us from one crisis to another. We are on a carousel seized by a madman who is spinning it faster and faster and getting off seems impossible.

Although Klein uses many of her old analytic categories, they shed some real light on our current political and cultural moment. President Trump really is a manifestation of the 90s triumph of licensing which she describes in No Logo and Secretary DeVos’ approach to education really is an extension of what happened in a post-Katrina New Orleans, a la Shock Doctrine. If her arguments seem old-school lefty (which they do, to me) perhaps that means we haven’t paid her enough attention.

So, with all of this gloom, how does Klein see a way out? Through the power of the people. The way will be hard, she tells us, but we just need to get tough. People are hungry for real change and when a shock comes, it is also a chance for ordinary people to seize the day and comprehensively fix all our problems. She points to a document she helped draft, the Leap Manifesto, as one attempt to tackle problems comprehensively and at the root. This one document isn’t sufficient but it sets a model for action in other places to address our interlocking crises.

Now, I believe in people power. After all, I work at a place that seeks to empower faith leaders. But that isn’t – that can’t be – where my hope ultimately lies. People screw up all the time. Even large numbers of people. Even the proletariat. Ultimately, my hope for society, as for myself personally, is in Jesus and his work of reconciliation.

That sounds nice and pious but it is difficult to see concrete application. But here is one simple way: we cannot place pressure on ourselves or our politics to fix everything. They cannot do that and we cannot do that. If we try, we will burn ourselves out or become terrible people to everyone around us. Huge pressure to fix everything does that. In my brief time in advocacy I’ve seen examples of both. But the good news is that God can fix it. Jesus died to fix it and he was raised to prove it.

I’m sorry, I don’t intend to get carried away. No Is Not Enough is valuable for what it is: a stirring indictment and analysis of our current political and social moment. Klein’s prescription is even valuable in itself – the progressive movement must take hold of intersectional, knotty problems and pose big answers to big problems.

Ultimately, though, we just all need Jesus.

Psalm Psnippet 21: God’s Enemies

I get nervous when the Bible talks about God’s enemies. I’d rather a pleasant God, without edges. But that wouldn’t be a personal God. That would be my personal idol.

Psalm 21 discusses ‘the King’ (who I’ve been reading as Jesus, pace Ari) dealing with his enemies. It uses explicit imagery:

You will destroy their descendants from the earth,
    their posterity from mankind.
Though they plot evil against you
    and devise wicked schemes, they cannot succeed.

 (vv 10-11)

This is weird. Jesus was big on “loving your enemies.” And here David seems to say that Jesus “will destroy [your enemies’] descendants from the earth.” That doesn’t sound like love.

This is the part where I make clear that I’m not a real Biblical scholar. Consult your pastor.

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Psalm Psnippet 20: Answering Gethsemene

“O Lord, save the King
May he answer when we call.”
Psalm 20:9

The first straight-up Psalm of blessing, Psalm 20 swiftly moves from asking God for help ‘for you,’ the interlocutor, to assuring us that God will help ‘his anointed.’ From there, the Psalm closes on verse 9 – a call to the Lord to save the king.

If we pray this psalm we are praying to God for the anointed, the King. Our hermeneutical principle is clear: we’re praying for Jesus, fulfilling the Gethsemane mandate which the disciples failed.

What is most amazing, though, is how God answers this prayer. Jesus died, was brutally murdered, for our sake. This was, amazingly, how he ‘answered us when we called.’ By joining us in our weakness, Jesus submitted to death, even death on a cross. Our sin, guilt and shame was nailed to the cross in him and his merit was applied to us.

But then, gloriously, Jesus triumphed. He defeated death in his resurrection – Easter follows Good Friday. This is why it is good news. A dead Jesus can’t answer us when we call but the living God does.

I’m at my word count, and these things are profound. But praise the Lord, who saves the King and answers us when we call.

Dance Ed

I started taking my most recent set of dance classes feeling like a bit of a scam. I was part of a volunteer program that had a limited budget assigned for educational endeavors – payment for a class, workshop or to build skills in other ways. Friends took classes on gentrification, or paid for workshops on web development. Instead, I managed to convince the person in charge of the money that I already had enough book knowledge but should take some jazz dance classes at a local studio.

I felt like a fraud, weaseling my way into something I didn’t deserve.

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Psalm Psnippet 19: How to be Innocent

“Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults
Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins
Let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless
and innocent of great transgression.”
Psalm 19:12-13

We see two errors revealed here which the psalmist seeks freedom from: hidden faults and presumptuous sins. Unknown unknowns, that is, and willful ignorances.

The psalmist wants freedom from both but they require slightly different approaches to be free from social shame and personal entrapment to sin.

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