Friday, January 4, 2013 -- 11th Day of Christmas (Year One)
Elizabeth Seton, Founder of the American Sisters of Charity, 1821
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]
Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 940)
Psalms 85, 87 (morning) // 89:1-29 (evening)
The background circumstances that seem to prompt the prayer of Psalm 85 feel familiar to our circumstances today. "You have been gracious to your land, O God; ...You have withdrawn all your fury and turned your self from your wrathful indignation." (vs. 1, 3)
One recalls the exiled community of Israel that has returned, maybe the late 6th or early 5th centuries BCE. The active destruction of the land is over. The period of exile has ended. Restoration has begun.
It seems for us today that what some are calling the Great Recession starting December, 2007 has ended. Some say it ended in 2009. Restoration has begun.
"Restore us then, O God our Savior; ...Will you not give us life again?" (85:4a, 6a)
The returned community of 5th century exiles struggled with ongoing depravation and insecurity as they sought to rebuild Jerusalem and the surrounding region. The reconstruction was painfully slow.
Though our U.S. stock market has rebounded and wealth has returned quickly to the wealthiest, unemployment remains high, salaries and income are flat, and the 90 percent have not seen their economic circumstances improve.
"Show us your mercy, O God, and grant us your salvation. I will listen to what you are saying, for you are speaking peace to your faithful people and to those who turn their hearts to you. ...Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring up from the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. You, O God, will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase." (85:7-8, 10-12)
In their weak and depressed state the returned community of Israel asked for God's blessing and fixed upon a vision of a new community uniting mercy and truth, righteousness and peace. Some scholars say that we should more consistently translate the Hebrew word here rendered "righteousness," as "justice," economic justice in particular, with special attention on behalf of the poor and vulnerable. Let truth spring up from the earth and justice look down from heaven.
We pray today for a society that will receive God's mercy and salvation. One that will listen to God's word of peace and embrace it. We pray for a society of mercy, especially toward the suffering and vulnerable. We pray to be people who embraces truth over partisanship. We pray for justice, and for a fair and just society where every person has a solid chance for prosperity. With justice/righteousness available we can embrace peace and be a people of peace.
The psalmist closes: "Righteousness/Justice shall go before you, and peace shall be a path way for your feet." (85:13)
It seems that the psalm connects beautifully with today's reading from Exodus. Moses takes off his shoes in an encounter with the burning bush. The God of Righteousness/Justice has heard the cries of the oppressed workers in Egypt. God commissions Moses to be God's instrument to lead them out of their bondage and economic oppression and to take them into a new community where God can teach them the truth that can lead to the creation of a fair and just society where God "will indeed grant prosperity, and our land will yield its increase."
The structures of Egypt's economy will not yield without struggle. Restoration and rebuilding can been difficult and slow. Mercy, truth, justice and peace are hard won. But God leads us when we are committed to divine righteousness and justice rather than Egyptian-style greed and power.
"Restore us then, O God our Savior; ...Will you not give us life again? ...Show us your mercy, O God, and grant us your salvation. Righteousness/Justice shall go before you, and peace shall be a path way for your feet."