Psalm 129 The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s Oxford
1 They have oppressed me from my youth— Let Israèl now make this known— 2 They have oppressed me from my youth; Yet I have not been overthrown.
3 They drew their ploughs across my back; The ploughmen made their furrows long. 4 The LORD is just; he cut me free From cords of those who did me wrong.
5 May all who hate Jerusalem Be put to shame and turned away. 6 May they, like grass upon the roof, Not grow, but wither and decay.
7 Such grass can fill no reaper’s hands; The gatherer has no reward. 8 May passers-by not say to them: “We wish you blessing from the LORD!”
The Editors of Sing Psalms suggest the tune Soldau for this Psalm.
What a curious poem for the height of incarnation celebrations! Word made flesh in the incarnation of Jesus is high celebration. Flesh has become holy ground, loved with holy habitation. Yet the fleshed body we meet in the first section of this poem is an oppressed furrowed thing. Celebration comes with release by the Lord, flesh cut free from oppressors. Sadly, the releasing celebration turns in on itself as this dear flesh moves to a different kind of oppression, weighed down by vengeance, calling others to refuse blessing to old perpetrators. This poem is likely not about a person, but about a multitude – the state of Israel, a long story of oppressed people with particular preferenced relationship with God. Such a multitude is tasked with doing better than this, of moving beyond vengeance. But multitudes are made up of individuals. We humans, holy ground of God, often struggle with the holy task to forgive with no ill will called into action.
It is hard work to believe that God has released us all from old oppression and will literally release us from present terrors. Jesus shows us profound connection with human flesh, connection with heart, mind, soul, strength. That connection releases us from the need to turn old oppression into new vengeance. Our wonderful gnarled furrowed selves are free to welcome God to our own bodies, and in that physical connection, have the strength of God (truly) to let history be history, to put down the past and not carry it into our free and released futures. If we are still being oppressed – now, as we read this devotion – we can breathe to courage because of Jesus. We can find the deep strength from God inside us (inside the real bodies of you and me) to find a route to release. This is God’s work. God is with us.
Holy God, this season always combines celebration and heartache. Oppression in families and communities moves in and out of familiar rituals. You know how hard it is to believe that you made a difference to the world as Jesus; that you continue to make that difference in us and others. Give us courage to believe, courage to receive, power to celebrate and freedom to forgive. In the name of Jesus and in the power and presence of Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Rev’d Elizabeth Gray-King, Education & Learning Programme Officer, member St Columba’s Oxford
Sing Psalms (C) The Psalmody Committee, The Free Church of Scotland
If today’s Daily Devotion is not showing on your church’s website, this will have affected all church websites using this feed in the same way. Our volunteer technical team are probably aware of the issue and will be working to fix it as soon as they are able. Thank you.