The first casualties of upheaval can be love, kindness, and patience. But crisis is also a moment when love for God & one another can spring up. For 150 days, starting on 17th March 2020, I will write 300 words based on one of the 150 psalms in the bible. How can I find and give love in the midst of coronavirus?
What’s your signature dish? The one thing that you can cook that is your best. Something elaborate like bouillabaisse (I don’t know what it is either)? Or something simpler like poached eggs on toast?
My current signature is a prawn risotto. It is one key ingredient, without which it would be bland, so bland. It’s not the rice. It’s not the prawns. It’s not the onions. It’s the stock – in my case a vegetarian stock. This is the key ingredient that gives it the flavour needed – and it is very good, even if I do say so myself.
Psalm 129 is missing a key ingredient. Hear me out – I’m not a heretic!
It starts with a description of how the writer, and Israel, have been attacked:
1 ‘They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,’ let Israel say; 2 ‘they have greatly oppressed me from my youth, but they have not gained the victory over me. 3 Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long. 4 But the Lord is righteous; he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.’
Israel has been under attack for centuries – but God has delivered them again and again. They have been oppressed, tied up and ploughed over (this verse is applied to Jesus in the New Testament to describe the marks on his back after he was whipped).
Then we move to part 2:
5 May all who hate Zion be turned back in shame. 6 May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow; 7 a reaper cannot fill his hands with it, nor one who gathers fill his arms. 8 May those who pass by not say to them, ‘The blessing of the Lord be on you; we bless you in the name of the Lord.’
The psalm now calls down curses on these oppressors. It asks for them to be shamed, to wither and not to be blessed. It is a very understandable reaction. When anyone has been attacked and oppressed – this is the first reaction. We want them to be cursed, to have trouble, for the stuff that they have done to us to be brought back upon them.
This is the point where we need that missing ingredient. If we didn’t have it, we could walk away from this psalm thinking it’s a good idea to ask God to curse people who have troubled us. But, and it’s a big but – there’s something missing.
He said: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Jesus says that the correct response, the kingdom of God response, to those who are our enemies – is to love them and to pray for them. This doesn’t mean that we minimise what they have done, it doesn’t mean that we pretend they are our friends – it’s rather that we ask how can we love them, and how can we pray for them.
So please read this psalm – but don’t forget to add the key ingredient – Jesus.
Have a blessed day.