Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Put Not Your Trust in Princes

We will start looking for, and being, the helpers...

At our election eve service that happened to receive a lot of media attention, Portland Tribune/KOIN, KGW, KATU, Kansas City Star (and others), one of the texts was from Psalm 146:
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.
Put not 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.
S/he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked s/he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!
This psalm comes from longing.  Despite the language of praise, I hear in it profound disappointment, despair, and a realization that the "princes" are not to be trusted.  They will not do the work that needs to be done.   They may even work against the work that needs doing,
justice for the oppressed,
food for the hungry
freedom for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
dignity for those brought down,
love for the righteous,
protection of the stranger,
justice for the orphan and the widow,
justice, too, for the wicked, for those who cause harm...
This psalm speaks to me on Wednesday morning more than it did Monday night.
Put not your trust in princes.
But don't despair over the princes, either.
Put not 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.
The princes never can be trusted, even the good ones, to carry out this work.  It is up to someone with greater depth and with a longer history.   The psalmist longs for "the Lord."  I, too, long for the Lord.

I don't exactly know what to make of what or who "the Lord" might be.   While I don't think there is any supernatural being or personality out there, I do think there is a reality to which this symbol points.   That reality is not "out there" but within and especially among.

I like to think of "the Lord" as the human aspiration for what is good and just.   Not an abstract ideal of the good or the just, but goodness and justice as it is done and has been done and will be done in the lives of human beings.   Goodness and justice incarnated in the bodies of those who feed, care, march, build, weep, encourage, liberate, and love.  
We will start looking for, and being, the helpers...
A member at Southminster, Chris, posted that on my Facebook page.  It caught me up short.  Of course.  We will.   We will look for and we will be the helpers.  

This Lord is what Mark Lewis Taylor calls "The Executed God."
The executed Jesus of Nazareth is not in himself some executed God, as readers might first think from this book’s title. No, the God who is executed, suffering imperial, state-sanctioned crucifixion, is presented in this book as a whole life force, a greater power, if you will, that is made up of three dynamics that were crucial to Jesus’ way of the cross: (1) being politically adversarial to religiously backed imperial power, (2) performing creative and dramatic instances of resistance to imperial power, and (3) organizing movements that can continue resistance and flourish even after imperial executioners do their worst. The executed God is a force of life that is greater than all imperial powers and thus can foment the resistance and hope that all suffering peoples need.
The other day I posted a transcription of an interview with Professor Taylor, "The Beloved Community Vs. Today's Clintonian Neoliberalsim."  We talked about this day, Wednesday after the election.  What do we do now?  Both of us assumed, I think, that Clinton would win.  Now that Trump has won, the same tasks might seem clearer.   Perhaps the scales will fall from our eyes, now, that the image of America, known by so many suffering people throughout the world as a ruthless, narcissistic, imperial bully, an image that has been sustained by neoliberal policies enacted by the Clintons, is now real for Americans in the figure of Donald Trump.

Trump is the ugly face of who we really are.

On this Wednesday, I think we do a couple of things.  First, we clarify the placement of trust.  Trust in any kind of prince, Democrat or Republican is misplaced.   Our trust needs to be in "the Lord" the "executed God" that moves us toward liberation.   This Lord is found in the movements of resistance to all oppressive regimes, including our own.

Second, we follow the lead of the "radically unloved" as Mark Taylor said:
With neoliberalism the agendas for change, for “development,” are set largely by the elites of the global North and their proxies across the global South. It is top down development that usually leaves those most economically and politically impacted without voice and without an empowerment that makes for equality and the flourishing of life. 
In contrast, King’s vision of the Beloved Community works from the other direction. As Cornel West stresses in his book The Radical King, the beloved community starts not with any top-down community dynamic, nor simply with a call to build community with everyone (“Can’t we all just get along?”) No, King’s vision of a just and beloved community starts with, as West emphasizes, with love for the “radically unloved” in society. In other words, beloved community proceeds from, with and for those in socially-imposed suffering, but also in resistance as the dispossessed peoples of our time. Being transformed with and by those dispossessed by the neoliberal regimes today is the way we build beloved community. Beloved community rises from a solidarity with the movements for the radically unloved. Clintonian liberalism does not do that. Yet, there is a powerful force here that can erode empires’ power through the deep and wide working power of resolute and creative peoples. The “radically unloved” mark the suffering of the beloved community but also bring the power of resistance and liberating change that all society needs.
Thus we follow the way of "the executed God."   We start looking for and being the helpers, that begins with those who are most fearful today of what a Trump presidency will mean for them.  Now on this Wednesday we renew our commitment to be in solidarity with suffering people around the world and at home.

My church member, Chris, also posted this.   It is a good place to start:







4 comments:

King Phillip said...

Super message!

John Shuck said...

Thanks!

~Emmie~ said...

Hi John,

I'm the originator of that quote. Thank you for using it.

It's funny - I am a passionate Christian. I've been an ordained elder in the PCUSA for 14 years. I have served two congregations as a youth pastor. I currently serve as a church administrator. My parents are both pastors, and my husband is a current youth pastor.

We have two young daughters. We have many friends who are part of those 'labels' I used. I believe strongly that my most important role now, as a Christian, as a human, as an American, is to show my children and my country and my world that I will not allow people who use hate as their rhetoric to dominate the conversation.

Thank you for agreeing, and for your support as well.

John Shuck said...

Emmie!

You are famous now! That must have circulated all over Facebook. I picked it up from a church member. Powerful quote. Thank you. Thanks after the fact for permission to use it! : )

Blessings,
john