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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, July 20, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Psalm 52            

Why do you boast, O mighty one,
   of mischief done against the godly?
   All day long you are plotting destruction.
Your tongue is like a sharp razor,
   you worker of treachery.
You love evil more than good,
   and lying more than speaking the truth.
You love all words that devour,
   O deceitful tongue.

But God will break you down forever;
   he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
   he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see, and fear,
   and will laugh at the evildoer, saying,
“See the one who would not take
   refuge in God,
but trusted in abundant riches,
   and sought refuge in wealth!”

But I am like a green olive tree
   in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
   forever and ever.
I will thank you forever,
   because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful
   I will proclaim your name, for it is good. (NRSV)

I must remind myself that psalms are meant to be sung, expressing emotion. They are a moment to pour out one’s heart to God.

I had a tough time connecting with this psalm. The speaker calls out a powerful, rich, evildoer for their wicked deceits, they get a violent comeuppance from God, and the speaker sits safe and grateful like a tree in God’s household. I do not relate. “You love evil more than good” seems pretty simplistic; the speaker seems whiny. I don’t like violence; I don’t expect God to fix the world’s problems and for me to sit by and watch, nor do I feel particularly safe. What do I do with this?

I consider the time when I truly began to pour out my heart to God, especially in song—my adolescence. Suppose this psalm were sung by, say, Alanis Morissette or Fiona Apple. Suppose it had a dark piano riff by Tori Amos, bassline by D’Arcy, beats programmed by Bjork. Was I angry then about lies and deceits I saw in the world? Was I vulnerable enough to cry out hoping for God’s justice? Suddenly this psalm seems like something I could have sung then and meant it when I sang it.

Suppose it is now. Perhaps the speaker is Kendrick Lamar or Jamila Woods. Suppose the music is by Frightened Rabbit, bassline by Eliot Sumner, drums by Dave Grohl. Can I picture a deceitful person I would like to see God vanquish? Probably. I can sing this. Loud.

OK, I found my way into the psalm. But what was it for? To pour my heart out. To express myself to God, feel my feelings with God, and move on. The moment passes. Art is experienced, the psalm is sung. Hopefully the moment was strengthening, rejuvenating, comforting. An outlet, perhaps. Time to move on.

God, thank you for art. Thank you for the artists from every time and place who help me pour my heart out to you. Amen.

Written by Kat Evans, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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