Wednesday of Pentecost 15 – Psalm 146

1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

It was not only Jewish people who were victims of Nazi terror in WWII. About 80% of Germany’s protestant clergy were killed by Hitler’s regime. Many were drafted and forced to the front lines in Russia. Others were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. In one of his circular letters sent to the students who had studied in his underground seminary before the war broke out, Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenged the idea that this was somehow a new situation. Bonhoeffer asserted that the war and the manifest horror of Hitler’s regime had simply exposed a reality which had been there all along. Humanity was fundamentally idolatrous. We had always trusted the wrong things. The current reality brought it into stark relief. 

I believe the last 18 months of pandemic and the recent political cycle have revealed the same thing about us. We have trusted in princes and the powers of mankind. The rhetoric which has come out of both sides of the recent political contests has been idolatrous. Neither Trump nor Biden are the help of Israel and they do not keep faith forever. Human medical knowledge and all our efforts to manage this pandemic are good tools, but that is all they are. They will eventually fail us and if we manage to escape this pandemic individually, we will each die of something else. I hate to break it to you, but the mortality rate for being a human being remains stubbornly locked at 100%. If you trust medical science to save you, it will let you down. 

The psalmist is not advocating for us to disengage from the world, become politically apathetic, or to deny medical advice. He simply says do not place your final trust in princes or the power of human beings. They cannot solve the real and eternal problems we face. Yes, vote for the best candidate, but do not expect him to bring about the kingdom of God. Study the diseases, ameliorate the pain, lessen human suffering by whatever means you can, but know that finally it is God who executes final justice for the oppressed and feeds the hungry that they never hunger again. God alone sets us free from the bondage of death and opens our eyes to see and live eternal life.  

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