by Jon White
O God, I call to you;
my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry;
lest, if you do not hear me,
I become like those who go down to the Pit.
Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry out to you,
when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.
Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers,
who speak peaceably with their neighbors,
while strife is in their hearts.
Psalm 28, St Helena Psalter
Like many of you, I am still processing the results of this most recent American election. Right now I am bewildered, saddened and fearful. And angry too. But not knowing where exactly to place my anger, I am directing it to God. I am lamenting and so I turned to the Psalms, whose treasure trove of laments express the anger of God’s people towards the absurdity of human life across millennia.
I was especially drawn to Psalm 28, whose opening verses are above. It captures, more eloquently my own lamenting. I want to cry out, “damn, God, why? How could so many people who claim liberty as their highest value have chosen oppression instead?” It is stark for me, from a place of tremendous privilege, to be so harshly confronted; to have my values and beliefs so resolutely disavowed. Such open misogyny, xenophobia, and racism behind a bulwark of conspiracy and lies has been hard to bear. It’s not just the Shadow “who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men,” it is now on public display and ratified by electoral success. That a bare majority of the popular vote was contrary to the final result is dry and bitter consolation.
Ours is a society racked with fear. It is not lost on me that my own fears, emanating from this electoral result, are a mirror of the fears of those who made it so. What I have seen and experienced as progress others have seen as dissolution and decline. What I see as opportunities gained is experienced by others as loss in a zero-sum view of life where another’s fortune can come only at the cost of one’s own defeat.
But the psalm continues; “Blest are you, O God, for you have heard the voice of my prayer. You are my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in you.”
“My heart trusts in you.” I know it is true, but right now my heart is sore. I suspect it will be sore for some time yet. While my brain reels and my heart grieves though I know that I can trust in the rhythms of the life of faith to carry me through. “You are the strength of your people, a safe refuge for your anointed,” the psalmist writes. For me I know that is true. There is solace in the rounds of daily prayer and scripture, the resilience of the prayer book will be sufficient while my own ebbs at low tide.
The sun is already showing on a new day and that is the day the Lord has made and placed us in. Today is the place where ministry is happening, where needs are expressed and met by the faithful. Today’s trouble is enough for today, tomorrow’s worries will have to wait. Ultimately, I believe, that faith rests on hope and trust in God’s power to overcome the evils that beset the world. We too have our part and our portion of the work; to live in the kingdom of God even while all the evidence points to the folly of doing so.
We thank you for the torch of liberty which has been lit in
this land. It has drawn people from every nation, though we
have often hidden from its light.
We thank you for the faith we have inherited in all its rich
variety. It sustains our life, though we have been faithless
again and again.
Help us, O Lord, to finish the good work here begun.
Strengthen our efforts to blot out ignorance and prejudice,
and to abolish poverty and crime. And hasten the day when
all our people, with many voices in one united chorus, will
glorify your holy Name. Amen.
Jon White is the Rector of St Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Beckley, WV and is the Managing Editor of the Episcopal Cafe