Saturday, January 28, 2023

A Time, and a Psalm, for Lament

It's been a week of shocking violence.  There were 2 mass shootings in California, right on top of each other, to the point that when I read about the latter one, it took me a few sentences to process that I wasn't reading about the first one, that there had been a second shooting.

And then there was the release of the footage of what should have been a routine traffic stop in Memphis, the revved up violence of the police, the death of a young black man.  The footage was released yesterday, in the early evening, to give people time to get home ahead of expected demonstrations.

I'm not sure I understand why we need to release this kind of video evidence to a wide audience.  Save it for the court room and then release it if necessary.  There was talk of transparency, but who needs this kind of transparency?  I don't think the parents of the murdered man demanded its release.  Most of us in the community don't need to see it; if the police chief says it's the most sickening thing she's ever seen, I'm willing to take her word for it.

I understand the need for demonstrations, and I'm glad that the demonstrations that happened around the nation last night remained mostly peaceful, from the news coverage that I've seen.  I wasn't too worried about my personal safety, since my seminary apartment is far from where violence would erupt, if it erupted.

Last night, I wrote this Facebook post, which I want to preserve here:  "Somewhere in this seminary apartment building, I hear a baby crying, and a parent singing. On this night when we get another recording that shows us how we can be so brutal to each other, I am grateful for babies who cry and parents who soothe, and I sing my own prayers to a God who can transform all sorts of brokenness into beauty."

I had been thinking of a poem possibility before last night.  In the wee small hours of the morning earlier this week, I had awakened to the sound of someone singing.  Sounds travel in strange ways in this building, so I'm not sure who was singing or why.  I'm fairly sure it was a human singing, not a recording.

This morning, I turned my attention to my prayer book, as I do every morning.  I use Phyllis Tickle's The Divine Hours, which is rooted in the lectionary that comes to us from the ancient monastic tradition.  One of this morning's passages leapt out at me:  "The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed" (Psalm 103: 6).  

It's not the first time that a passage seemed chosen for our particular day and time, and I do realize that the beauty of the Psalms rests in the broad scope of them, everything from mourning/lament to joy to anger and all the emotions in between.  

This verse bears repeating:   "The Lord executes righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed" (Psalm 103: 6).  

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