Monday, December 2, 2013

Psalm 72 and Dreaming Big

Click Here to Read Psalm 72

I would encourage you to read the psalm before reading the rest of this blog.

This is quite a lofty psalm with a lot of images.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What images stick out to you?
Why do they pop out?
How does this imagery make you feel?

Think about these things and then let's discuss, as much as we can discuss by me writing and you reading.

Like I said, this is a lofty psalm.  The first thing that pops out to me is the imagery of the king.  Now, it's easy to brush this off and say that this is a coronation psalm for an ancient monarchy (in our case, for the Israelite people).  But, we are singing this psalm this Sunday, Advent II, why would we be singing it if its context is so specific?

Something else that pops out to me is the image of prosperity.  This prosperity doesn't come without a cost.  Notice the position of the poor and those without help.  They are receiving what they need.  In righteousness, as the psalmist puts it, does the king look to the needs of the poor.  If this was the coronation psalm scholars believe it to be, what kind of king is being lifted up, and furthermore, what kind of kingdom?  Does this kingdom have implications today?  You're right.  It does!

Luther would have us to understand that every psalm is about Jesus, and if not explicitly, then we must consider that the psalm would have been prayed and sung by our Lord.  Luther also says that this IS about Jesus.  This leaps off the page to me, but admittedly a little too easily.  Why not just say it's about Jesus and move on?  With the context of this week's readings, including John the Baptist heralding the coming of the Messiah, it's easy to draw the conclusion without working out its implications.  I think that more than just lifting up the reign of Jesus, we have to consider what kind of kingdom is being established in this psalm.  Historically, this was likely a psalm for the coronation of Solomon--but that isn't terribly important at this point.  Let's look at liturgical evidence-- this psalm from the very beginning (as in the early church) was used for the Epiphany (January 6) celebrating God becoming human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.

"May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun.  May all nations be blessed in him..."  Doesn't this lift up the Christ as we have come to think of him?  Doesn't this highlight the Genesis 12 notion of being blessed that all nations may be blessed?  In him is our salvation, but for what purpose?  So that we may be saved and that's it?  No, certainly not.  It is in him that we are a people for good works, to usher in the kingdom as Psalm 72 describes it.  A kingdom of justice.  A kingdom in which the poor are not forgotten.  A kingdom in which the poor are looked in the eye and spoken to and listened to.  A kingdom that sanctifies creation as something good "like rain on the freshly mown field."  A kingdom in which the righteous flourish, and there is peace, wholeness, understanding, abounding love forevermore.  Forevermore.  Let that sink in for a minute.

This is the kingdom in which you are an active participant.  This is the kingdom in which you have been called to be at work, in the field heralding love to the loveless, hope to the lonely, comfort to those afraid, peace to the nervous, food to the hungry, and an ear to those who go unheard.  Psalm 72 confirms that our work is indeed holy and necessary.  Singing psalm 72 this week reminds us that the King in whose name all nations are blessed has called us to join him in the work of blessing.  You are called to bless.

This Advent season, I encourage you not only to claim the blessing of expectation and hope in Jesus, but share the blessing of a kingdom in which love abounds and peace is forevermore.

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