The afflicted shall see and be glad;
you who seek God, your heart shall live.
For the Lord listens to the needy,
and his prisoners he does not despise.
Let the heavens and the earth praise him,
the seas and all that moves in them;
For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;
they shall live there and have it in possession.
The children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his Name will dwell therein. — Psalm 65:34-38
I almost hate getting up in the morning, simply because I’m afraid to look and see what the morning’s headlines are. It seems like almost every day there is a disaster, a shooting, a mass murder, injuries, natural disasters; everything seems to be piling on at once. Even the Eucharistic reading for today seems to bring shades of disaster right to my eyeballs where I cannot help but read them. And just reading them is enough to make me feel uneasy, and at times, rather sick.
“The afflicted shall see and be glad you seek God your heart so live for the Lord listens to the needy and his prisoners he does not despise.” These days it seems to be hard to find things to be glad about. There don’t seem to be enough pictures of new babies, or people getting married, or cute kids doing wacky things, puppies, and, lots and lots of kittens. Where are they when we need them? They make us feel happy, they lighten our mood.
Instead, though, we are barraged with eyewitness stories, commentator speculations, worst-case scenario presentations, and lots more that can increase our feeling of disconnect from God because we’re too busy being afraid of what our fellow human being could do was.
The last two verses seemed to strike even deeper. “For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah, he shall live there and have it in possession. The children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell therein.” If any place right now needs to hear that God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah, it’s probably the people of Puerto Rico, who have undergone not one but two devastating hits of category 4 hurricanes within the space of only a couple of weeks. Their fields, towns, villages, and most of its infrastructure have been destroyed.
Puerto Ricans pray for release from situations which are life-threatening and more than just merely inconvenient. But praying carries things only so far. Throwing paper towels into a crowd of Puerto Ricans is not exactly the way to show deep caring and empathy. So many want to help, but are hindered by red tape and the fact that Puerto Rico is surrounded by waters no bridge can cross. So many need the help that can be brought in, yet it took over a week for much of a response to even begin to trickle in.
It’s all well and good to say, “Pray and God will take care of it.” The problem with that is that God gave us brains, hands, feet, hearts and also our senses of compassion and empathy. Prayers are great; they help us focus on something that is troubling us and, in a sense, lay those things at the feet of God so that their weight is not so much on our shoulders. Still, even though the weight may be off those shoulders, we need to keep the weight in our hearts. Usually that’s the only time we get out and do what we should do to help those in need, to volunteer to raise funds, or gather supplies, or even travel to places where devastation is so widespread, to be able to help those who are very much in need. It’s only when our hearts really get involved that we are truly motivated to do what God originally intended, which is for us to work together to heal the broken, rebuild the shattered, and make the world a place of peace and safety for all people, not just one race, nationality, or any other qualification.
“Let the heavens and the earth praise him, the seas and all that moved in them; for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah.” This is the promise and this is a declaration that God will rebuild, but contrary to some belief, God needs us to accomplish what the psalmist attributed to God. It’s doable, but it’s going to take work. Too many of us are too busy worrying about our own lives, and accumulating our own words of wealth and possessions, and perhaps feeling mild pity for those who are in deep distress, but that’s as deep as it goes. It doesn’t touch our hearts, or at least it doesn’t touch most hearts very deeply at all.
Yet the Psalmist tells us that not only are the heavens praising God but the earth, and by the earth it means all of us who live here, all the living things: animals and birds, trees, and even the rocks, waters, the mountains, and the hard desert soil. All of it must rejoice and praise God because all of it is connected to God, not just a few select individuals who believe they are to be the recipients of God’s bounty on this big blue marble on which we live.
It’s about those who quietly and sometimes totally unnoticed do what is necessary to help their fellow human. Like those who responded to the shooting in Las Vegas this week, thousands of people were caught and thousands of people were the targets. Some ran for safety, some covered the bodies of others with their own to protect them, some held the dying so that they would not feel alone at that time, and some worked feverishly to save as many lives as possible. They did God’s work, and I’m pretty sure God was very proud of them, but God expects us to step up to the plate and to what we can to relieve suffering, comfort the dying, and ensure the safety of everyone at any time, not just at times of great trial.
This week I think I will probably be praying that it would be a calm week, without a lot of heart- wrenching details of tragedies and disasters to fill up the pages of newspapers and the posts on Facebook. But I also need to remember that I must praise God, and to remember I have a responsibility to do what I can to help bring this chaos into a state that God would truly call a kingdom.
Mother Ann Lee, founder of the Quakers, said it so well and so succinctly, “Hands to work, hearts to God.” Amen to that.
Image: “My heart in your hands” by Louise Docker, Sydney, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for two Education for Ministry groups, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, a wannabe writer, and a homebody. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She is owned by three cats. She is a member of the Episcopal Church of the Nativity, North Scottsdale, AZ.