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Complete reversal

by davesandel on March 6th, 2018

Complete reversal


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior.

– From Psalm 25

In her landmark book The Crucifixion, Fleming Rutledge says, “If there is one thing certain about the children of Israel, it is that they did not deserve their election” (p. 11). God chose them; they did not choose God. God loved them even when they rejected God.

They? Them? What about us? God chose us, and God loves us, and we are a far cry from deserving it. If any fingers are pointed at me, they should be the accusing kind. But instead Jesus puts his hand on my head and I put my arms around his legs, and we sit together at the well.

Being loved has the amazing effect of making me loving. In Rev. Moon’s Unification Church forty years ago I wondered at the Japanese sisters’ tears when we talked about God. I wanted to cry too, but I could only watch. I wanted to love like that. Being with those girls in our worship epiphanized the rest of my life. God rested on me in that moment and it changed everything.

So now I read Psalms in the morning, sunny or not, busy or not, anxious or not. Gradually I experience more of the communal aspect of this prayer, because loving God also means loving each other. In Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s underground seminary, thirty people lived together and prayed together. They prayed the Psalms:

The Psalter is the prayer book of Jesus Christ in the truest sense of the word. He prayed the Psalter and now it has become his prayer for all time. The Psalter is the vicarious prayer of Christ for his church. And the new humanity of Christ, the Body of Christ on earth, continues to pray his prayer to the end of time. Even if a verse is not one’s own prayer, it is nevertheless the prayer of another member of the fellowship; it is quite certainly the prayer of the true Man Jesus Christ and his Body on earth. (Life Together, p. 46-47)

The community is vertical as well as horizontal. I learn to love others and love God. God’s love for me imbues me with value, but still I am not in charge. God is the subject and I am the object, even though I easily forget that obvious truth in my everyday life.

In reading the Psalms as part of the Body of Christ and remembering that Jesus Christ is reading them through me, I can expect what Bonhoeffer calls “a complete reversal” in my point of view and the way I live:

It is not that God is spectator and sharer of our present life, howsoever important that is; but rather that we are the reverent listeners and participants in God’s action in the sacred story, the history of the Christ on earth. The fact that Jesus Christ died is more important than the fact I shall die. What we call our life, our troubles, our guilt, is by no means all of reality. Only in the Holy Scriptures do we learn to know our own history. (p. 53-54)

The crucifixion and all of the Bible is about God, not us. We ask better questions, and get better answers, when we ground our own lives in God’s, and our own sufferings in God’s. And reading the Psalms opens a wide-open highway into this adoration and growth.

Teach me your ways, O God. Lord, let me walk in your truth. Lead me in the way everlasting. I lie down and sleep, O Lord, for you alone make me dwell in safety. Let me dwell in your house forever.

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