the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
the LORD loves the righteous.
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
As I read Psalm 146 this morning, my thoughts turned to Baltimore, to the violence, the hopeless desperation, the crushing poverty, the senseless looting, the justifiable anger, the lack of opportunity, the fear... It is so tempting to draw easy and simple explanations, to point a finger and say, "There! That's the problem." But mostly I just find myself horrified by all of it, wanting to cry but unable.
A colleague, Ray Roberts, posted this on Facebook last night. "Watching Baltimore burn and praying for our country. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they did not know the things that make for peace..." We still don't.
As I mulled the psalm over in my mind, I wondered if the psalmist had experienced happiness from God executing justice, feeding the hungry, lifting up the bowed down, and thwarting the ways of the wicked. Or was the psalmist instead longing for those things, even attempting to stir divine action by reminding God of God's own character.
Jesus came speaking in a manner much like the psalmist. He said he came "to bring good news to the poor... proclaim release to the captive... (and) to let the oppressed go free." But people didn't much listen to the ways Jesus proclaimed and taught, and we don't listen much better today. Surely Jesus weeps over Baltimore, and most other cities in America, just as he once did over Jerusalem.
Faith is hard sometimes. I'm not talking about magic-formula-faith that hopes God will reward me for sharing that Facebook post or punch my ticket for heaven if I believe the right things. I'm talking about a faith that actually embraces the things Jesus and the psalmists proclaim when they insist that God is working to bring down the powerful and lift up the lowly, a faith that lives as though that were really true.
Almost 2000 years ago, Jesus was on better terms with folks like those in troubled areas of Baltimore than he was with religious leaders, police chiefs, governors, or captains of industry. He proclaimed a new day, a kingdom of God without a top or a bottom, a day when those who had plenty used it to make sure all had enough. But the powers that be thought that a terrible idea. And they still do.
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