Finding Home Again — Psalm 90:1-4 & 12-17
4th of July is an integral part of our culture. Its also a fun day with celebrations and ritual that give our society cohesion. It is important. It reminds us of where our “home” is.
Will Rogers once said that after reading the casualty list every fifth of July morning, one learns that we have killed more people celebrating our independence than was lost fighting for it.
26 years ago, on August 8th, Henza and I arrived in the US with our two young sons with nothing but hope for a better future. It was a choice we made. It began a process of letting go of that which we once called “home” in our search for a new home. On the 4th of July, 13 years ago, I found that home when I became a citizen of this country. A few months later the rest of the family followed.
Symbolism and ritual play a powerful part in both culture and faith. The Old Testament is a collection of interpretations of God’s presence in the lives of the tribes of Israel and especially, in their search for “home”. A place of safety and a place of peace.
Ps. 90’s vision of God could be interpreted as that of a deity, who through supernatural means, determines the outcome of the human story. When God is pleased, God’s hand of protection keeps us safe and when we do wrong, God allows disastrous consequences as our punishment.
In vs 15-16 we read; “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.
The author is interpreting God to be somewhat like an autocratic king who exercises the final say over life.
This interpretation gives Christian literalists such as the late Jerry Fallwell and the very alive, Pat Robertson, reason to proclaim that the results of 9/11 and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, to be examples of God’s anger for the sins of the people.
It reminds one of the parrot that was adopted and found to have a very bad habit of cursing. After threatening it for its cursing the new owners eventually could stand it no longer and one morning, after a stream of bad language, the parrot was stuffed into the freezer where the parrot’s gaze fell upon a frozen turkey.
“Wow, I don’t want to know what dirty words you used” the parrot muttered under his breath.
God does not cause or allow tragedy to befall us and God does not supernaturally favor one nation over another, one church over another, or one family over another. There is no evidence that God is present to us in this way. To the contrary, there is a randomness to life.
We must be very careful how we interpret God. Too often we create God in OUR image.
We learn from this Psalm about the fear and anxiety which is part of the human experience. “Relent, Lord. How long will it be…?”
It is also about gratitude. “May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.”
It is legitimate to say that God is the recipient of our deepest expressions of both pain and joy. The Jesus story reminds us that we are the trustees of God’s love. Therefore, it is up to us to recognize the pain and joys of others. It is up to us to “bind the wounds” of the wounded and dance the dance of joy with those who celebrate. It places a great deal of responsibility in our hands.
Indeed, as the song goes, we have a Friend in High Places, but it is a Friend who willed for us the gift of free will. Whether we celebrate the 4th of July or whether we stand at the abyss of disaster, we are called to be people of compassion and courage looking out for others as well as ourselves, creating “home” for others, as well as ourselves.
Whether we celebrate the 4th of July or whether we celebrate communion, we are invited to do so, united by the prayer we find in this Psalm:
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us and establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.”
May the work of our hands reflect the love of God as seen through our shared life as a nation and as a church community. May we embrace our call to create “home” – a place of safety and welcome, for all. Amen.