I was reminded this morning just how subversive the scripture can be. When you’re not looking, God breaks in with a word to challenge your cultural understandings of good and evil. Reading Psalm 146 this morning, was like getting a missive about world events and a proper response of a nation.
“Praise the Lord, O my soul!” writes the psalmist. Reflecting backwards in life and recognizing the ways that God has been present the psalmist warns, “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.” Maybe, I was just needing to be reminded that evil may appear to win, but God is just. God, the psalmist tells us, “executes justice for the oppressed . . . gives food to the hungry.”
“The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the stranger; God upholds the orphan and the widow, but the way of the wicked (God) brings to ruin.”
Outrage across the nation for the way immigrants are being treated is one of God’s ways of watching over the stranger, upholding the orphan and caring for the widow. God is in hearts breaking with the pain our brothers and sisters in Christ are experiencing at the border. God is calling us to a faithful response as we have seen people looking for asylum have their children taken from their arms.
I am certain there are many good people working for the Border Control . . . People who are overwhelmed with the numbers, but untrained in dealing with the influx put in detention centers. In the midst of appalling private Facebook pages by some current and former Border Control agents, I suspect that most agents are trying to cope the best way they can in a situation that has overwhelmed their resources. Border Control employees have been caught in our national argument over how a nation ought to respond in a just and moral way to human need.
This week we celebrated our nation’s independence from tyranny. Yet today, our policies have contributed to grave injustice and injury to people who are fleeing violence and extreme poverty. There are no simple answers to why people leave their homes, countries and families behind. But, this I know, God is watching how we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. God still “executes justice for the oppressed . . . gives food to the hungry . . . sets prisoners free . . . lifts up those who are bowed down.” God is watching “over the strangers; upholding the orphan and the widow.” Punishing people who are fleeing violence and the extreme drought of Central America is both un-American and un-Christian. It still matters to God how we treat the strangers in our midst.
“Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praises to my God all my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they return to the earth;
on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!”
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)