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, May 21, 2017

Sunday Morning Meds--A shocking end

But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more.” 
Psalm 104:35

Whoever it was that wrote Psalm 104 didn’t have an MFA, didn’t study at a prestigious writing program with celebrated writers for teachers. How was he to know that introducing a whole new subject at the very end of the poem here is just simply not done?

He needed an editor badly. Someone should have told him what’s perfectly obvious—that taking a cheap shot at the wicked—(whoever that is)—at the end of this breathtaking survey of all creation is not only sophomoric but gauche. After all, “the wicked” are not at the heart of this poem, for pity’s sake; God’s providential hand in his beautiful, natural world is. That's what the poem is all about. 

In 35 verses of one of the most beautiful and comforting poems in the whole library of human literary achievement, there’s not one mention of “the wicked.” Not one. And then, here, in the last verse, with the poet's final breath, as if out of nowhere, the wicked come into the picture only to get thumped. If he wanted to explore “the wicked,” he should have pulled out another sheet of whatever it was he was writing on and started in on another song, don't you think? 

I’m a writing teacher. I know better. I edit papers, have for years. I know what works and what doesn’t. Listen. Isn’t this preferable?-- “But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.”

Cut the ending, sir. It comes out of nowhere, a sucker punch.

Scholars like Phillip Jenkins say uppity Christians like me--educated, acculturated, tasteful believers--will face some difficult adjustments someday when Christians from what we’ve traditionally called “third world” countries will outnumber us (they already do). One of those adjustments will arise from their wholly different life experiences, lives like that of Pastor Jwala in Madhya Pradesh state, India. 

Hindu extremists on Sunday beat four Christians, including a pastor, who were later arrested on charges of “forced conversion” in Madhya Pradesh state.
            A group of about 15 extremists punched and hit the Christians with hockey sticks soon after worship ended at about 10:30 a.m. After the initial attack, the extremists dragged the Christians to the Sheopur police station about 500 meters away, beating them en route. The police promptly arrested the Christians, as a complaint against them had already been filed.
            The officer in charge of the police station, Hukum Singh Yadav, also allegedly beat up Pastor Jwala at the facility. Yadav was not available for comment. 

Jenkins says that when those we’ve “missionaried” will come to the secular west to missionary us, we’ll have to recognize that the Pastor Jwalas among them have suffered at the hands of “the wicked.” The plain truth is, that which I can only imagine is as real as water to many believers around the world.

I need to understand that I want to cut the second-to-last line of Psalm 104 because—it’s true—I don’t know “the wicked” all that well, nor have I experienced their wickedness. My disregard makes the psalmist’s comment extraneous. Thus, I want to strike it.

But it’s likely that Pastor Jwala can’t imagine the blessed world of Psalm 104 unless that world is scoured of the God-haters who persecute him.

My prejudice is showing, as well as my naïvete. I am, after all, an American.

God’s word is so much bigger than I am, so wide and encompassing, so much broader, so much deeper, so much richer than the parameters of my small world. That's the truth.

Thank goodness it’s his Word, not mine.

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