Got Solace?

March 27, 2020

A Reflection on Psalm 91

In times of unease and fear, recalling God’s deliverance brings solace to our weary souls. Our times are bringing anxiety. Panic is setting in. We can see it in the hoarding going on at the grocery stores. The churches are scrambling for ways to address the rising tide of dis-ease COVID – 19 is bringing to us. Even if we are not infected, we are affected.

The psalms of the Hebrew Scriptures are a great resource for addressing the human condition. In the psalms we find praise, assurances, expressed anger, comfort and assurance – a gamut of human emotion. Psalm 91 gives us assurance.

“You who live in the shelter of the Most High…” hear this word from the Almighty. God will deliver you from the snare of the fowler. God will cover you with his pinions – (I hope this is a small army of angels with arrows to pierce the plague.) You will not fear the night… you will not fear the pestilence that stalks in darkness or the destruction that wastes at noonday. Sounds like good news to me.

Then I get to verses 7 and 8 of Psalm 91. Here is what they say:

            “A thousand will fall at your side,

            ten thousand at your right hand,

            but it will not come near you.

            You will only look with your eyes

            And see the punishment of the wicked.”

Even in the midst of comfort, I get stuck on these two verses. Seems to me that a little slippery slope is hidden in the solace. I ask myself, who are the wicked? Who are the other, those who have not done what is right so as to lose the protection and blessing of God? You know, so I have heard, the good are blessed with a providential specialissima[1]

We so quickly identify the bad and are quick to call them wicked “godless, nasty, self-serving people who are a cancer on Americans. They are a band of demons.” And this is just a sample of how we are characterizing others of a different political party. Think of the ways we demonized homosexuals when HIV first arrived. It was not until a young hemophiliac in Ohio contracted HIV from a blood supply that attitudes began to change. When I ask who are the wicked, I think it must be I myself.

I, as all of us, have a shadow side. It’s where anger and rage live. It’s where the bruised ego lives, that part of me that needs to make someone else less so that I can be more. It’s the place where the greatest reckoning is called forth; the place of my constant Examen.

Indeed, I do know God’s providence and assurance and blessing. I also know that God’s providence is broad upon the creation God called very good. God will be with us in this trouble. God will hear our prayers. Let us not destroy one another in our differences, but lift one another in our common humanity and oneness. Life is fragile at best. Let us uphold one another in all that is good, all that is God. Amen.

[1] Hans-Joachim Kraus, The Psalms, A Commentary, p. 225.

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