1 All those who trust the LORD Like Zion are secure, Which never can be moved But always will endure.
2 Just as the mountains stand Around Jerusalem, The LORD surrounds his own, For ever guarding them.
3 The wicked’s evil rule Will not oppress for long The righteous and their land, Lest righteous folk do wrong.
4 On all those who are good Bestow your goodness, LORD— To those of upright heart Who reverence your word.
5 But God will banish those Who choose a crooked way; They’ll share the sinner’s fate. Let peace on Israel stay!
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland sing this to the tune Quam Dilecta here
I write amongst the 22 URC pilgrims who journeyed to the Holy Land in September and am struck at the poignancy of this Psalm; a song that pilgrims sung on the way to Jerusalem.
The text is clear, there is no distinction between “chosen” and “no good” people, but between those who trust in God and those who seek to do fellow pilgrims harm.
Passing pristine Jerusalem, we entered a checkpoint for nearby Bethlehem. We saw segregation personified. The difference between the two cities is obvious; rubbish compacted in every corner, unfinished buildings tell the story of government restrictions and years of violence. Near accidents are the result of few street lights or signs—certainly not as many as you see in Israeli territory. In the evening the sound of the Islamic call to prayer reminds me, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.”
Palestinians speak of the difficulties visiting families, celebrating feast days, and tending to emergencies due to restrictions placed upon them. The Palestinian government cannot protect the people from being treated like second-class citizens in their own land. Yet, their own theological understanding is not that they are a “chosen” people here, but that God is the owner of the land which is to be shared with ALL people.
The parallels to race relations in South Africa and the USA, are very evident. What is necessary is a revolution of values, as one Palestinian said to me, we need “people moved by beautiful values…for once we start speaking only politics and interests, there is no hope.”
On the Mount of Olives, a cacophony of human sounds can be heard: of Lawrence Moore teaching over the voices of pilgrims from other nations singing and speaking the Lord’s prayer, the distant the Muslim call to afternoon prayer, and birds chirping. It is an extraordinary experience. Not even a wall can partition us from God’s presence. “As the mountains stand around Jerusalem, the Lord surrounds his own, for ever guarding them.”
Living God, You dwell in the messiness of our circumstances. walking with us, turning us from pilgrims to children. Your lot is be amongst, not those who are right, but those who suffer. May we follow you, never forgetting the most vulnerable. May our understanding of you never be complicit in the suffering of our siblings in Palestine nor wherever segregation and indifference reign, but lead us to sympathy, solidarity and action. Amen.
The Rev’d William Young Minister, Morison Memorial URC Clydebank and Drumchapel Essenside URC Glasgow
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