June 21, 2020 – Pastor Teressa Sivers
Psalm 147: 1-11 (Inclusive Bible)
Resilience…to be resilient. Most, if not all, biblical scholars who wrote commentary on Psalm 147 label this psalm as a Psalm of Praise, one of five psalms of praise the close the Book of Psalms, the Psalter. And, of course, they are correct. Psalm 147 is clearly all about the praise. Yet…yet, I would argue that this psalm is also a song of resilience, and a tribute to the Source of resiliency, our God, Yahweh: the One who names the stars and calls the clouds to cover the heavens, the One who feeds the little raven chicks and tends to each of our wounds.
Resilience…to be resilient. Miriam-Webster dictionary says that to be resilient is “to be able to withstand,” “to be able to recover quickly for difficult conditions,” “to be able to spring back into shape, leap back.” Resilience goes along with words like endurance and perseverance. The Rev. Dr. Marcia McFee and Dr. Wendy Farley, creators of the worship series (Beguiled by Beauty) that we have been adapting, use vivid examples from nature for resiliency (lifted up in the threshold moment of our service today). New growth after a wildfire—the tree burns and appears dead, but from its stump a sprout springs forth! Or, those beautiful, indominable weeds that find every little crack in the sidewalk and spring forth into new life! Resilient!
Rev. J. Barrie Shepherd, an Anglican priest (Church of England) poetically argues that weeds are a better resurrection flower than any Easter lily.
Our Christian symbols seem, at times, not quite
appropriate to the meaning that they bear.
For instance, take the Easter lily, white
and fragile sign of resurrection. Rare,
its graceful silent trumpet greets the light
of March or April only under glare
of florists’ lamps, unnaturally bright.
You never find the in the open air
before July. A better flower for Easter Day
would be, as every angry gardener knows,
the dandelion, seeded by the gay
abandoned wind that , as it listeth, blows.
No matter how we weed out every stray,
digging as deep, the root still deeper goes.
And when, at least, we quit and go away
the rain falls, and a host of fresh bright foes
stand resurrected, and the garden glows.
…the root still deeper goes…and the garden glows! Resilient!
Psalm 147 does indeed proclaim praise repeatedly in its stanzas, and rightly so. Because God’s people who were dragged into exile have endured…and more than that, they persevered…and still more, they withstood and are restored. They were able to do this because of the creative power and caretaking of their God, of Yahweh…I am that I am. So this psalmist cannot help but sing and proclaim to the resiliency made possible in the light of God. And the psalmist calls us to do the same, to “sing to our God with thanksgiving!!” “It is a pleasure to make beautiful praise!” It is a pleasure to make beautiful praise. Why? Because God builds anew amid destruction and devastation, because God gathers together those who the world seeks to exile, because God heals our broken hearts, lifts up the oppressed, and casts the corrupt to the ground! Hmmm…this sounds a bit like some of songs found elsewhere in scripture. It seems that resiliency has a sibling in this psalm-song, and that sibling is named Justice!
Like so many other psalms, and so many other passages of scripture throughout our Bible, our holy texts use nature as examples; examples of discipleship, examples of God’s kin-dom at work, examples of God’s will being done in the world. Trees, plant life, clouds and stars, cattle and baby ravens…and rain—water! If we are going to talk about justice, we have to talk about water. Water throughout scripture is a powerful symbol of perseverance and resilience and JUSTICE! Consider the familiar passage from Amos 5, “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” We have so many examples of the enduring resiliency of water all around us in the Finger Lakes region: Cascadilla Gorge, Ithaca Falls, Buttermilk Falls and State Park, Robert Treman State Park, Taughannock Falls…and every other creek and stream and little falls…carving rock, moving sediment, endlessly in motion, creating change. What a perfect example of the divine hope, the perseverance, the resiliency God calls us to.
The psalmist juxtaposes amazing images of God’s resiliency at work in this beautiful song. God heals our brokenness and tends our wounds, AND God counts and names all the stars in the heavens! God feeds the cattle in the field and the little ravens in their nest, AND covers the skies in clouds, raining nourishment on all the earth. God calls us to the resiliency of the ever-flowing stream, carving out justice, AND God pours forth God’s resurrection power into us so that we spring back again and again against all those who would root us out.
These days we are living in call for the resiliency of the dandelion and the constancy of the ever-moving stream. It is so easy to give in to the weariness we feel. We ARE tired of masks, or isolation, or restricted movement…but the virus is TIRELESS! We are exhausted and overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of systemic racism, but our siblings of color need us to continually address racism and privilege. Their lives depend on it. We are discouraged by the continued fear and hatred directed at the ‘different;’ differences in color, culture, gender identity, sexual orientation, and so much more. But those who are targets of such hatred implore us to come alongside and fight for change. For you see, alone we cannot push through the resistance, cannot find the cracks in the concrete. Alone our wells run dry.
But together, we can dig our roots deep into the waters of life, the source of grace. We can be resilient! Together we are transformed from trickling stream to thundering falls, rolling down justice! Together we are an army of ‘fresh, bright foes’ bringing light to the world…indominable! Together we help one another listen and learn and plan and act. Together we withstand the forces of exile and corruption. Together we Lift Every Voice and Sing!!! Now is the time! Now is the time! No matter how the world seeks to weed out our work, ‘digging as deep,’ ‘our roots go deeper still!’ We ARE resilient!
Thanks be to God! Amen!