Psalm 44

We have heard it, God, with our own ears;
    our ancestors told us about it:
        about the deeds you did in their days,
        in days long past.
You, by your own hand, removed all the nations,
        but you planted our ancestors.
    You crushed all the peoples,
        but you set our ancestors free.
No, not by their own swords
    did they take possession of the land—
        their own arms didn’t save them.
    No, it was your strong hand, your arm,
    and the light of your face
        because you were pleased with them.
It’s you, God! You who are my king,
    the one who orders salvation for Jacob.
We’ve pushed our foes away by your help;
    we’ve trampled our enemies by your name.
No, I won’t trust in my bow;
    my sword won’t save me
    because it’s you who saved us from our foes,
    you who put those who hate us to shame.
So we glory in God at all times
    and give thanks to your name forever. 
But now you’ve rejected and humiliated us.
You no longer accompany our armies.
You make us retreat from the enemy; 
our adversaries plunder us.

You’ve handed us over like sheep for butchering;
    you’ve scattered us among the nations.
You’ve sold your people for nothing,
    not even bothering to set a decent price.
You’ve made us a joke to all our neighbors;
    we’re mocked and ridiculed by everyone around us.
You’ve made us a bad joke to the nations,
    something to be laughed at by all peoples.
All day long my disgrace confronts me,
    and shame covers my face
    because of the voices of those
    who make fun of me and bad-mouth me,
        because of the enemy who is out for revenge.
All this has come upon us,
but we haven’t forgotten you
or broken your covenant.
Our hearts haven’t turned away,
    neither have our steps strayed from your way.
But you’ve crushed us in the place where jackals live,
    covering us with deepest darkness.
If we had forgotten the name of our God
    or spread out our hands to some strange deity,
wouldn’t God have discovered it?
    After all, God knows every secret of the heart.
No, God, it’s because of you that we are getting killed every day—
    it’s because of you that we are considered sheep ready for slaughter.

Wake up! Why are you sleeping, Lord?
    Get up! Don’t reject us forever!
Why are you hiding your face,
    forgetting our suffering and oppression?
Look: we’re going down to the dust;
    our stomachs are flat on the ground!
Stand up! Help us!
    Save us for the sake of your faithful love.
Common English Bible (CEB)

The Psalm for this evening as found in the Daily Office Lectionary is Psalm 44. This psalm is real prayer of lament, with a bit of praise sprinkled in here – but let’s be very honest… the Psalmist is really crying out to God for some help!

I can’t help but think of the state of life in America. With every one of those young men and women who so eloquently cry out for some common sense in the wake of losing their friends to the 18th school shooting in the first 45 days of 2018, I hear the cry of young people who have been raised in a day when the ‘shining city on a hill,’ or the ‘land of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’ is something that their ancestors have told them about, about a golden age of days long past. They, who were crushed on that 45th day of this year, are not cowered by the 45th president. As if the terror of Ash Wednesday was not enough, they are fighting back against a president whose narcissism and self indulgence is so out of control that he victimizes these youth with words shot to the world from bed or, perish the thought, his gilded gold toilet. His little fingers tapping away, there seems to be no low this man will not stoop to. So they speak up. They do so loudly and they will, I pray, not relent.

They want their homeland to be exceptional.  They have heard from their infancy that it is “the greatest nation on earth.” Many young people in America grow up with this notion. The privileged often are unaware of the fact that people are dying daily from gun violence in that great, oblivious to the fact that on most weekends there are hundreds shot across the land of liberty! This weekend alone saw 5 dead and 21 more shot in Chicago. Gun violence in America is epidemic. In this calendar year alone there have been over 2000 deaths and 3400 injuries due to Gun violence in the US. Consider for a moment – that’s Pearl Harbor level or carnage. What must it take for change to come? It is in that context that I hear those young people who have sadly come to know what too many mothers and fathers have known for decades. And it is collectively that voice that I hear crying out; [my words added]

You’ve handed us over like sheep for butchering;
you’ve scattered us among the nations.
[You have allowed other nations to divide us and interfere with our freedom]
You’ve sold your people for nothing,
not even bothering to [ask] a decent price [of your friends in the NRA].
[One AR-15 is more valuable that 17 of our friends]
You’ve made us a joke to all our neighbours;
we’re mocked and ridiculed by everyone around us.
[Nowhere else in the industrialized world suffers from this sort of violence]
You’ve made us a bad joke to the nations,
something to be laughed at by all peoples. 
[The Russians are laughing at us – the North Koreans too!]

These young people, day after day, have been sold a legend of a land that welcomed all and offered the American Dream, and offered justice and freedom to all. They are learning, sadly – it has been a lie.

With that pain in their hearts many are making a genuine prayer to God…
Wake up! Why are you sleeping, Lord?
    Get up! Don’t reject us forever!
Why are you hiding your face,
    forgetting our suffering and oppression?
Look: we’re going down to the dust;
    our stomachs are flat on the ground!
Stand up! Help us!
    Save us for the sake of your faithful love.

But alas – thoughts and prayers just can’t fix all of this. Real, gut turning lament like Psalm 44 might be a start. But only if its words can soften the hearts of the rich and the mighty.  Let those with ears to hear listen to the cry of those crushed in the place where jackals live. Those covered with deepest darkness.