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Psalm 80:1-7

1Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
 you who lead Joseph like a flock!
 You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
 2before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
 Stir up your might,
 and come to save us!
 3Restore us, O God;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.
 4O Lord GOD of hosts,
 how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
 5You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 and given them tears to drink in full measure.
 6You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
 our enemies laugh among themselves.
 7Restore us, O God of hosts;
 let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Faithful Lament

I haven’t put much time and thought into the Psalms. I have viewed them as a glimpse into the lives of those poor, beleaguered people of Israel who could not catch a break. I could sometimes muster some sympathy but mostly I felt pity because they seemed to have more than their fair share of misfortune. 

What I missed was how faithful these ancient people were, despite the misfortune they encountered. It has taken several months of my daily life being disrupted in inconvenient and sometimes frightening ways during the pandemic to cause a change in how I read the Psalms. The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes under verses 1-7: “A lament of the community follows a national calamity.” I think we can all relate to that!

The verses take on a more literal meaning when considered within the context of our present circumstances. “Given them tears to drink in full measure” (verse 5) brings to mind the hundreds of thousands of souls lost to COVID. “Make us the scorn of our neighbors” (verse 6) is being played out over social media with polarization over vaccinations and masks. I cannot read these verses with detachment. They inspire feelings of fear, loss and empathy. 

What will save us is exactly what the people of Israel turned to so long ago: faith in God. “Stir up your might and come save us! Restore us O God; let your face shine that we may be saved” (verse 2). May we have the faith of the people of Israel and look to the shining face of God for restoration. 

Stir up your power, God, and come! Give us the gift of faith for the challenges in our lives and world. Amen.

Kim Michaud – Epiphany Lutheran Church, Valdez

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