I will listen to what you have to say, YHWH—a voice that speaks of peace, peace for your people and your friends so long as they don’t return to their folly. Your salvation is near for those who revere you and your glory will dwell in our land. Love and faithfulness have met; justice and peace have embraced. Fidelity will sprout from the earth and justice will lean down from heaven. YHWH will give us what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Justice will march before you, YWHW, and peace will prepare the way for your steps. Psalm 85: 8-13, Inclusive version
I want to live in the world our Psalmist describes: one where justice and peace embrace. Actually, they are doing more than embracing. As other translations reveal: they are smooching.
Our passage this week is a prime instance of how Hebrew verbs can be vague on time and tense. So it is unclear. Have love and faithfulness just met, are they meeting, or will they meet soon? Likewise, have justice and peace kissed, or is it a kiss that they (and we) are still anticipating?
How does it reframe our life—individually and collectively—if we understand it as being lived in the space in between desire and lip to lip contact?
And even better when we consider who is making out: two aspects of the Divine are leaning in toward each other and we live our lives caught in the middle of that embrace. How might I live differently if I recognized my location in such a cozy spot?
The fancy word for the figurative device employed in Psalm 85 is a merismus (a figure in which two contrasting or complementary parts of an entity are cited to imply the whole). This is especially true in the next part of the passage when fidelity sprouts from the earth and justice leans down (or rains down) from the heavens. We live our lives in the middle of a summer downpour. Sweet rain and fruiting field surround us— divine gifts available to quicken and revive our droopy constitution.
On Sunday we talked honestly about anxiety—the intense kind that keeps us up at night and the more quotidian kind that we pass around and even cultivate in our friends and families as we navigate changes in our church and our country. And together we wondered —what are the spiritual practices we can employ that speak to this anxiety? How do we cultivate postures that calm our hearts and quiet our minds so that we can better discern the wisdom of the Spirit?
These are questions we continue to live into as a community. I hope we come up with a whole list of practices—so many that there is one that feels inviting and accessible for everyone we know and love.
One practice we should add to our list is the holding of life-giving scripture.
While wrestling with a difficult passage is also a spiritual practice, it is good to identify a few passages which don’t require any wrestling at all—but instead speak to the world we want to live towards and describe it better than we ever could by ourselves.
These passages can reduce our anxiety because they remind us we are not alone and they give us a poetry we can get inside and live.
I hope everyone will join me on Sunday as we talk more about Psalm 85: one of our traditions most lovely and comforting descriptions of God’s restorative work.
I am indebted to Feasting on the Word for parts of today’s reflection. Especially the big words.
Volunteer with Refugee Writers
Lauren and her brother Justin have launched a project to support refugees, asylees and forced migrants. (featured in the Dallas Morning News). Lauren is looking for volunteers to coach the writers for an upcoming speaking engagement at SMU. Details below.
Escape to Dallas:
Stories of Flight and Survival
Produced by REFUGEE WRITERS_
Sponsored by SMU Department of Human Rights
Thursday, October 6th
At the SMU Campus, room location TBD
The event highlights the stories and writings of international refugees, asylees, and other forced migrants currently living in Dallas. Presenters offer their experiences of flight from conflict, political and economic threats and their resettlement in the Dallas area.
We need volunteers to coach forced migrants, one-one-one, for 6 to 8 weeks in preparation for their event presentations.
— 6 to 8 weeks, 1 to 2 hours per week
Monday Nights: 6:30-8:00pm
August 17th to October 3rd at 7611 Park Lane, Dallas, TX
(the Lutheran church across from Northpark Mall)
— 1 Hour Optional training/ information session:
Saturday August 13th, location TBD