posted on April 21
“Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.”
~ Psalm 106:3
Psalm 106 is a complex litany of confession, lament, and hope. It summarizes all the ways the young nation of Israel got it wrong. It reveals thanklessness, forgetfulness, greed, jealousy, bigotry, bloodshed, grumbling, and idolatry. The people failed to trust God or each other. “They forgot God their Savior.” (v.21a) Young Israel found itself perpetually calling for a new beginning, and for rescue from the perils of their violent decisions.
The Psalmist, and the nation, owned their failures and dared to ask for another chance. The “mighty doings of the Lord” (v.2) and their attendant beautiful opportunities for right living had been ignored. Goodness had been repeatedly forgotten and forsaken; idols were served, mostly idols of power. The people had been disloyal in the wilderness, and most everywhere else.
The Psalmist, and indeed all future readers, find themselves amazed by God’s capacity to help a nation begin again. Here is the miraculous result, and the credit is due to God alone:
Nevertheless, God regarded their distress when He heard their cry.
For their sake He remembered His covenant,
and showed compassion according to the abundance of His steadfast love.
God was eager to give the people a new beginning, a new focus of divine love and mutual respect. God’s ways have not changed. I believe that is what God wants to do for our own nation, in these days. I believe that Jesus illustrated that to us on the cross, and we live in its unifying light right now in the Easter season of 2021. Perhaps, after so much violence and so many abuses of power, we are beginning to compose our own nation’s psalm of lament. We recognize it will need to be much longer than the 48 verses of Psalm 106.
It is in God’s nature to continue to forgive, to continue to offer new beginnings. God sees beyond our many mistakes, our many violations of the humanity of others, our many attacks against all the imago Dei in our neighbor. God hears our confessions, regards our distress, and that generous compassion from above gives us all reason to both praise and hope.
This week we are invited to live a moment in the life of the Psalmist. We “observe justice” being done in Minneapolis. We all held our breath as the trial of Derek Chauvin drew to a close and the jury returned a verdict. Unfortunately, nothing that happened in the courtroom could return breath to George Floyd, but we were able to exhale in the redeeming consolation of justice being done. The verdict cannot bring George back to life here on earth; it does not fix the harm. It does not remove the unjust perils that people of color experience every day. It does not lessen our need to write a national psalm of lament. But we did observe justice. And as people who love God, and love each other, that is indeed a happy moment. “Happy are those who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times.” (v. 3)
May we have more happy moments. And many less to lament. And as we “observe justice” with our eyes, may we “observe justice” in our daily habits and actions.
Trusting in the Mighty Doings of the Lord,
Rev. Bev Coppley