Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Psalms

Tuesday, June 28, 2011 -- Week of Proper 8, Year One
Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, c. 202
To read about our daily commemorations, go to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog:
http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com/category/holy-women-holy-men/

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 972)
Psalms [120], 121, 122, 123 (morning)      124, 125, 126, [127] (evening)
1 Samuel 11:1-15
Acts 8:1-13
Luke 22:63-71

We begin today's readings in Psalm 120, with the cry for deliverance "from lying lips and from the deceitful tongue.  [From] the sharpened arrows of a warrior, along with hot glowing coals."  (One wonders if this last is a reference to a form of torture.)  The psalmist feels surrounded by enemies, Meshech (in the north) and Kedar (in the south).  "Too long have I had to live among the enemies of peace.  I am on the side of peace, but when I speak of it, they are for war."

We've passed the $1 trillion mark in direct financial costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  How can we put a number on the human toll?  I've seen it here in our town among veterans returning with deep psychic wounds.  Ask anyone who works with the homeless how many combat vets they encounter.

Not one dollar of special revenue has been appropriated for these wars.  It's all been put on the federal credit card.  Now we live with the strain of deficits, from war and from a financial meltdown.

I remember the 2008 PBS "Frontline" documentary "Bush's War," a factual inquiry into the story of how our nation was led into war against Iraq.  Using exaggerated fear as a weapon of persuasion, lying lips and deceitful tongues drowned out every word of peace.  Our leaders sharpened their arrows and heated their hot glowing coals, aimed toward a pitiful nation that was thoroughly contained and deterred.  Our leaders could speak only of war. 

Then we bent so far away from our moral compass that our own White House orchestrated a calculated process to ignore Geneva Conventions as well as the advice of our military in order to attempt legal rationalization for torture.  Some are say we perpetrated war crimes.

I recall those crucial early days following the attacks of 9-11.  So many voices called for restraint.  We could have used the moral credit we had earned and the international outpouring of sympathy to forge a world-wide cooperative response of compassion and healing.  We could have called the world together for a global plan to reach out to heal the suffering of the marginalized and poor.  We could have given power and voice to the moderate expressions of religions and governments in the wake of the world's horror at the spectacle of what militant extremism can lead to.  We might have encouraged an earlier expression of the deep longings that have only now emerged as the "Arab Spring."  Instead, we became militant to the extreme.

So when virtually every national and international religious body spoke out in opposition to the Bush plans for war (with the notable exception of the Southern Baptists), when so many prophet-sentinels warned of dire consequences, this proud group ignored all words but their own.  And what suffering and catastrophe they have wrought. 

Since that time we have suffered another arrogant attack, this one from within our own financial sector.  Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about the 2010 Academy Award winning documentary "Inside Job."  The film traces how deregulation of the financial industries removed the boundaries that protected us from certain forms of systemic risk.  Deregulation and greed fueled systemic corruption in the financial services industries and provoked the worst economic meltdown since the Great Depression.  Although the stock market has rebounded and many companies are now flush with cash, unemployment remains painfully high and there is little economic energy in the middle class.  Money and power is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.  We have become a plutocracy.  Some say we still have failed to restore regulation that would prevent similar financial abuses in the future.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?  My help comes from God, the maker of heaven and earth."  How beautifully Psalm 121 gives hope to the anguish of Psalm 120. 

Then we read Psalm 122, and a new vision of harmony comes to us from the center of the conflict.  "Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity with itself."  Can we imagine Washington as a city that is at unity with itself?  Grounded.  Centered.  "Peace be within your walls and quietness within your towers."

Psalm 123 completes the hopeful prayer.  Again we redirect our gaze:  "To you I lift up my eyes... as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Holy One our God, until God shows us mercy. 

"Have mercy upon us, O God, have mercy, for we have had more than enough of contempt, Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich, and of the derision of the proud."

Amen.

Lowell

__________________

Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Click the following link:
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Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at missionstclare.com -- Click for online Daily Office
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html --  Click for Divine Hours

Discussion Blog:  To comment on today's reflection or readings, go to http://lowellsblog.blogspot.com, or click here for Lowell's blog find today's reading, click "comment" at the bottom of the reading, and post your thoughts.

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

3 Comments:

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once more, when I begin to despair of the voices of peace, restraint and compassion being preached and heard within the walls of the church, there is Lowell. Telling us what we don't want to hear as patriots and lovers of our country and our God is always up to the prophets and I consider Lowell to be one of those. Don't let it go to your head, Lowell. I also see you as firmly grounded as one of us.

Caroline Stevenson
Episcopal Peace Fellowship

 
At 2:50 AM, Anonymous janet said...

Hi Caroline and Lowell,

It seems to me Lowell's reflection and voice is an attempt to be firmly grounded in truth and thus in God. And sometimes he grasps it wonderfully, like today, and my breath just catches when I read his words. I cannot even comprehend what a trillion dollars is. What if we broke that down to understandable dollars, perhaps some to create jobs, healthcare for all, homes for the homeless.. with plenty left over for valid national security needs.

I am more of a poet than a politician, firmly grounded in metaphor. I don't understand the realm of unreality that some political decisions seem to be grounded in. It seems to be a very narrow focus, not inclusive and not even acknowledging that there is a big world out there that we are a part of. I think war is one of our most dangerous collective illusions, a darkness within (a nation, its people) projected on the other. Christ teaches us there is no other that we should not embrace, love, take care of. He also teaches us about union with God and with all.

For our cities to be at unity with themselves, the people in our cities need to be at unity with themselves.

Everywhere Peace Flourishing, a personal acronym for EPF, would be the natural, free flowing result of that unity.

Peace and light and blessing to you both for all you do!

Janet

 
At 9:37 AM, Blogger Lowell said...

Thanks for the words, Caroline and Janet.
Lowell

 

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