Wednesday of Advent II – Psalm 85

1 Lord, you were favorable to your land;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
    you turned from your hot anger.

Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
    and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever?
    Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
    that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord,
    and grant us your salvation.

Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
    for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
    but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
    that glory may dwell in our land.

10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

In my New Testament classes, one of the required religion courses everyone had to take at Concordia, I always spent at least a day on Luke 15, the three parables of the lost sheep, lost coin, and lost sons. We carefully read together the story of the prodigal, noting many of the social and other realities of the first century audience. Jesus adroitly develops this young man into a sympathetic character for us, but especially for a young college crowd. Then, of course, the older brother shows up, rejecting him for his dissolute living and wild ways. If the class went well, we would talk about how the older brother could sometimes be like the life-long Christian who might look with disdain on the tattooed, pierced, and dissolute youth who slipped into an adjoining pew. Telling this to a group of modern college kids was a little like throwing red meat to the carnivores. Toward the end of class, after we had thoroughly discussed that older brother, I would usually say, “Don’t you just hate intolerant people?” By this point there was at least one rebellious, social-justice warrior type in the class ready to agree.

The silence in the room would usually take them back. Hating the intolerant…wait a minute, does that make me like the older brother? We are in a trap. Can you see it? The more righteous you are, the more at war with the unrighteous you are. But to be at war is fundamentally unrighteous at some level. Is there any escape from this conundrum? This is in fact much of the conundrum which afflicts us in the current spasms of social unrest. We imagine that we are taking the side of the oppressed and are far more tolerant, just, and righteous for having torn down a statue of some long-dead white guy. But the angry mob and the slave-owning patrician oppressor may have far more in common than either of them likes to admit. The psalmist gives hope to the one who prays with him, it is a hope which not only needs to be felt inside the church but outside of the ecclesial boundaries. Look again at vs. 10. Righteousness and peace kiss – you can be righteous and be at peace; they come together. How can that be? Expand your view of the psalm a few verses outside of vs 10. In vs. 8 the psalmist says, “Let me hear what the LORD will speak…” It starts by shutting our mouths and listening, quieting the ever-present news feed and the chatter of the blogosphere, and our own vain egos. Leave room for God to speak to us. In that silence God speaks to us of our own need for a savior and His gift of an anointed Savior who died for prodigals and elder brothers alike. God, not me, not someone else, God causes faithfulness to spring up from the ground and His righteousness looks down from above, not in judgment but like sunshine which draws the green shoot upward. God gives what is good. He makes righteousness to go before him and to create a path in his steps. But first in the Advent time, we need to listen. Let me hear what God has to say.

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