Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Morning Meds--"Play it again, Sam"

“. . .those the LORD blesses will inherit the land, 
but those he curses will be cut off.” Psalm 37

We’ve been over this before, of course, as in verse 11: "But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.” As I read through Psalm 37, verse by verse, it seems the world’s greatest poet is stuck on a chord. You don’t have to be an English teacher to realize some redundancy. Where was his editor anyway?

Far be it from me to criticize the Word of the Lord, of course. For that matter, far be it from me to critique the world’s greatest poet. Those who pulled together the canon, inspired as they were, gave scant thought to the possibility that their readers would be hoity-toity literary critics. They weren’t thinking of art.

But let’s ask the question anyway: why does King David repeat things so often?

Maybe it's because we're kids. Several years ago we spent the entire day without phone service because our grandchildren hiked up to our bedroom, played with the phone, then left the receiver off the hook. Hence, no one called. How do I know they were the culprits? Because playing with the upstairs phone is step eight or twelve or 23 in their weekly ritual when they come to Grandma’s house. Our two-year-old grandson pulls at the room dividers and slides his pudgy bulk under the couch pillows. He goes to the cupboard and pulls out a can, then proclaims to all of us that it’s corn, as if it were gold. Children love repetition and ritual; they love doing the same things over and over. As do we, I think.

Why? I suppose it's because the rituals they’ve created relive joy. It was fun to grab the corn the first time; let’s do it again—and again, and again, and again.

I wonder if David repeats himself in this psalm because the each repetition offers another jolt of joy--well, and confidence too. Say it again. And again. And again. “I have a dream” is a line with a built-in echo, not simply because it rose singly from a famous speech by a famous man, but because Dr. King repeated it, time after time after time.

Repititon is a reinforcer too, of course. Maybe David doesn’t ever, ever want us to forget our inheritance. He wants to drive the point home, so it becomes the chorus, the refrain. And we love it because we love repetition. Maybe that's why so many songs have refrains.

Maybe he says things again and again and again and again because he knows he’s only too well that his own personal doubt requires a battering ram of repetition. Maybe he repeats himself to hold himself together. Maybe he says it again and again because he fears the silence. We do that too, most of us anyway. One doesn’t have to be Buddhist to have mantras.

“Play it again, Sam,” an unforgettable line from Casablanca, one of the most famous movies of all time, is memorable not simply because of who said it or the movie itself. It’s famous because we know, from the heart, its impulse. We too have fears.

“Play it again, David,” we might just say. I want to hear it. I need to hear it. I can’t go on without hearing it again. So say it again. Play it again. Sing it one more time. One more time, David.

For all of those reasons, I like reading the line again: “those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,” a land without tornadoes and grasshoppers and hail, a land He’s given us forever. The land of eternity.

Let me hear that again. One more time. Play it again.

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